The digital revolution has been good to consumers. The rise and rise of social media means that there’s nowhere left to hide for businesses offering poor experiences. With potential customers able to gather reviews and recommendations, or warnings, with ease, businesses and organisations across all sectors have had to raise their game. Today consumers expect fast delivery and frictionless services to be the norm, not the exception, and the power is in their hands.

What this means for businesses is that creating stand-out has never been so challenging. How can companies not only meet sky-high expectations but go beyond them? There’s no simple answer, but there are some areas where companies can do better, and where dedicating resources is likely to pay dividends in the long run.  

Get a holistic view of customer experience

Businesses like to think they’re customer-centric, but plenty of research shows a reality gap between what they think they provide and how they’re actually perceived by customers. Why is this? There are many different factors at play, from confirmation bias to too much reliance on quantitative measurements of customer experience like Net Promotor Scores. Qualitative research may be slower and more resource-heavy, but it can provide a far deeper and more rounded understanding of how customers feel. In times of trouble it may seem like an unnecessary expense but in reality, it couldn’t be more important. The insights gained can be put to work across every aspect of the business, changing and building on the customer experience in a way that is meaningful and raises the bar across the sector. 

Make technology human

Technology has brought a level of convenience that customers increasingly take for granted. Making it seem human is what will make the difference now. 84% of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business, and 59% of consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience. The processes may be powered by technology, but experiences can still appeal to the emotions, just as chatbots may be automated but they can still ‘feel’ like they have personality. It’s worth remembering though that while people are happy to engage with technology most of the time, the ability to speak to a real person if there’s a complex problem is still highly valued. 

Offer genuine, no-quibble customer service

A recent survey found that 33% of British customers would switch companies after just one bad experience, And there are still niggles, from deliberately well-hidden or non-existent customer service phone numbers to live chat staff who spend valuable time answering the wrong question only to eventually refer you somewhere else because they can’t help you with what you want to know. People want instant, accurate responses, whether it comes from a chatbot, a well-filtered help page or a human. Many companies still have work to do to find the sweet spot in efficiently dealing with queries at scale while keeping costs down to manageable levels. Those that do and can provide instant responses to even quite taxing questions will be valued by customers. 

Create trust and make it personal

Whether B2B or B2C, customers only develop lasting relationships with businesses they trust. This allows them to ignore all the other ‘noise’ in the market and decreases their own mental load when looking for goods and services. It’s probably the single most important factor in their decision-making. Every single interaction with the business either increases or decreases trust, from fast communication to consistent experiences. And when customers trust a business. they’re far more willing to share data, which will in turn allow that business to provide a level of personalisation that results in a unique, nuanced and very human experience. 

Work hard to make customers feel special

Now that customers can so easily switch suppliers, loyalty has become a precious commodity, but it’s extremely hard to come by. In one study, 95% of UK customers said they wanted brands to seek new ways to reward them for their business. Another shows that only just over a third of customers in the US and UK believe they are being rewarded for sticking around. From this it’s clear that companies who start new initiatives to make customers feel appreciated can give themselves standout in the market. Publicised loyalty schemes – for instance collecting points and knowingly working towards rewards – can be appealing, but it’s also worth remembering that moments of surprise and delight create an emotional response that may well anchor that feeling of loyalty even more strongly. 

Build a community

Successful online communities can become a highly valued resource for customers and an important element of the brand experience. This could comprise forums and blogs, social media chat and even physical events when things get back to normal. In an era when high levels of automation are essential to provide frictionless services and competitive prices, communities are the opposite – they’re emotive, sometimes messy, but very human. Just make sure not to rely on them too much to solve customers’ problems – the best forums not only have the necessary moderators but have expert customer service operatives who can swoop in to offer genuine help. 

Meeting, and then going beyond, the high expectations of today’s customers is challenging, but it’s also a great opportunity. Those businesses that see it as such, take positive action and work hard to create new, authentic experiences will give themselves standout in the market and set themselves up for success in the months and years to come. 

At BIO we design exceptional experiences based on real human behaviour to drive real business impact. To find out how we can help nudge your audience into positive desired behaviours contact us here.

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