By Ishwar Chugani
People are always talking about customer service, whether it’s to praise, criticise or demand. But what really defines effective customer service and what does this mean to our bottom line?
In the textbook sense, customer service is defined as the delivery system of a product or service, and the manner in which the customer is treated upon entering a store. It includes the employees and the policies, practices and procedures they put to use. However, there is no guidebook on delivering the best in customer service; rather it is an instinct, which continues to evolve even today.
We are in the customer experience business where a future purchase is directly impacted by how customers feel about doing business with you, rather than what they think about your product or service. Experiences are what consumers’ value most. Hence, businesses must be finely tuned to what customers think and feel, as well as observe what they do in order to anticipate the customer’s needs and desires.
You should never lose sight of your customers; strive to understand their needs and buying patterns. In order to build and sustain customer insight a company must maintain constant contact through customer surveys, product reviews, regular telephone contact, and feedback cards.
When an entire organisation is imbued with this kind of empathy for customers, employees are more likely to anticipate and respond to customers in a consistent and reinforcing manner.
The total customer experience is affected by signals, which leave a lasting impression on shoppers. These signals may be rational or emotional, each carrying a message, suggesting something to the customer. Sensitising your people to recognise and evaluate customer signals is an essential part of experience management. The goal is always the same: eliminate negative signals; overhaul neutral ones to enhance a positive impact; and insert a variety of positive signals that encourage brand loyalty.
Customers will consciously or unconsciously tally every signal they encounter as they experience your business, product or service. Designing a carefully crafted experience ensures that every signal is tailored and targeted to register or reinforce a specific take-away impression and never detract from it.
Experience management systems are designed from the perspective of the customer. The experience signals are synchronised with customer desires at each step of the experience from learning and selecting a product or service; to purchasing and ultimately using it.
By consciously managing the signals your business emits, you can establish a template for the experiential expression of your brand. These are your tangible brand ‘edges’. Customers value experience so highly that even a slight improvement can contribute to building greater customer loyalty.
The desired goal is to create a broad experiential ribbon for the customer by creating signals that tie back to the specific targeted customer impression. In this process the business can leverage the full preference-building powers of experience. Remember, customers expect your core service to be good, or they wouldn’t use your product or service in the first place – can you exceed their expectations?
Welcome to the experience economy, where what you sell is less important than how you sell it. Forget about product differentiation, retail today is in short supply of distinct experiences. Create one, and you will establish a long-term relationship with your customers. Your competitors may be able to match your products and services feature for feature, but the experiences you create are yours alone; this is your true competitive advantage.
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