Some companies might view customer service as an afterthought. They might realize it’s important to provide decent customer service at the bare minimum, as long as their products and prices remain competitive because success is ultimately determined by the bottom line.
However, a lot has changed since I entered the contact center and customer service industry more than 15 years ago. Recently there has been a fundamental shift in terms of the emphasis that is placed on customer service operations. Customer service is now rarely an afterthought because we live in a world where the customer has the power to make or break a business – and customers expect businesses to know exactly how to keep them happy. On top of that, customers have numerous ways to reach out to companies so keeping up with them is critical.
Today many executives would describe customer service as a key differentiator, in addition to necessary components like product cost and quality. According to a recent study conducted by Walker Information and Chief Executive magazine, 39 percent of chief executives view customer experience as the most effective method for creating a competitive advantage. The study also found that customer experience ranked well ahead of other elements like talent (20 percent), product (15 percent), and efficiency (7 percent) for its potential to create a competitive edge.
It should not be surprising that executives are now realizing the value of the customer experience. Not only do customers dictate their success, customers also expect to get an above-and-beyond experience. People want treatment that makes them feel unique – they crave a truly personalized experience. Features like store and product appearance; employee friendliness and attentiveness; and the ability to purchase anytime, anywhere are all part of what makes a top-notch customer experience.
Since we exist in a time where business outcomes are determined by how customers feel, there is no room for error when it comes to managing the customer experience – or shaping the customer journey. As customer expectations evolve, so must the methodology that companies use to track and maintain the customer journey.
If you are unfamiliar, customer journey mapping is a way that companies can track – from the beginning to the end and beyond – the process their customers go through, which can include a series of activities. For example:
- initially researching a product online;
- visiting a brick-and-mortar store to view the product in-person;
- purchasing the product online;
- requesting support or submitting inquires after purchase; and
- providing praise or criticism (via social media, for example) following the entire journey.
As customers move along their journey, they tend to interact with a company through a variety of communication channels like chat, email, or social media, and it is equally important for customer service representatives to be aware of each channel and stage of that customer’s journey.
It might seem like a lot of information to track for just one person, but there can be severe consequences if customers do not feel their entire experience was up to par. Fragmented and disconnected moments create a negative impression that presents the risk of a customer feeling dissatisfied, which can deter them from returning.
As the customer experience continues to evolve, ask the question: Is my company keeping up with our customers’ needs? If not, it is time to identify a new way to follow along with your customers to create and maintain a better experience. Because as consumer expectations get tougher, so must your customer service operations to keep your business competitive and your happy customers returning for more.
If the concept of evolving customer service interests you, you can learn more during a session on the same topic at ITEXPO in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, which is taking place Feb. 8-10.
Edited by Alicia Young