Rockin’ our customer’s experience online
Posted by Becky Carroll on May 9, 2007
The online experience, especially for customer service and support, is a key factor that drives customer satisfaction and loyalty. How can we create an online experience that really rocks? This post focuses on the customer experience for service and support; note that many aspects of this post apply to other online experiences as well!
The online experience rocks when there is alignment in these five key areas:
- Customer strategy
- Customer expectations
- Customer needs
- Optimized service and support capabilities
- The use of top practices that ROCK!
Today, I will discuss the first two areas, customer strategy and customer expectations. I covered optimized capabilities last week. Tomorrow, I will continue this topic by looking at customer needs and best practices for online customer experiences.
Does your organization have a customer strategy? Most companies have a product strategy and a marketing strategy. Customer-centric organizations also have a customer strategy. Put simply, a customer strategy is a proactive plan for how we want to acquire, retain, and grow our customers! Too many organizations leave it to chance when it comes to retention and growth of customers, focusing most of their resources on customer acquisition. Why would we want to leave the management of our most valuable asset, our customers, to chance?
In order to align our customer experience with our customer strategy, we need to consider how we have created that strategy. A strong customer strategy is built around the interactions we have with our customers, and we are able to maximize the value of every customer touch. In other words, we make each impression with the customer count. Customer service and support may have several opportunities to make customer impressions, and it is often where the rubber meets the road. How do we handle our customers when there is a problem or a question? The goal of all these interactions is to increase customer retention and loyalty, which ultimately leads to repeat business and referrals. Done right, a customer strategy will also build customer trust, strengthen the relationship, and add value to both the customer and the company.
Understanding customer expectations of service and support is the second key to creating an online experience that rocks. Unless we understand the expectations, we cannot begin to know if we have met, much less exceeded those expectations. Research (Gartner) shows there are five expectations of service and support which are consistent with many online customers with an issue to resolve. First and foremost, customers prefer not to have a service or support experience at all! It would be better if we could prevent the problem from taking place. Assuming there will be some problems that need resolving, here are the other four expectations:
- Customers want to have quick response times
- Customers want to have their problem fixed, ideally the first time
- Customers want to feel that someone cares about them and their problem
- Customers need to feel using online service and support is as easy, if not easier, than calling on the phone for assistance
In addition to understanding customer expectations, we need to understand our organization’s goals for online service and support. How does the customer’s goal differ from the company’s goal? Do customers want to use the web for technical support? Some companies push customers to use online channels in order to reduce their own costs. Is your company’s goal to reduce costs, or is it to serve customers the way they want to be served?
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Analyze what your online service and support experience looks like from their perspective. Then, look at the online experiences of your competitors (which customers may also be using!). Which experiences are better at meeting customer expectations? Which ones ROCK?
While you are at it, analyze other websites your customers may be using. Sites such as iTunes and Amazon have great customer experiences that set expectations for how we use the web. Even B2B customers are consumers in their off-hour, and their online service and support expectations are affected by these types of sites. A great resource for understanding how customers view their online experiences in various industries is the Customer Respect Group. See their industry reports for summaries and rankings of large companies by industry. One can learn a lot by seeing who is doing it well and who is not from the customer’s perspective.
Check back here tomorrow for the rest of the story!
(Excerpted from my presentation yesterday at the SSPA Best Practices conference, San Diego, CA)
(Photo credit: ErickN)