With more power placed in the hands of the consumer, businesses need to work smarter than ever to build deep and meaningful relationships with them in order to meet customer expectations.
It was obvious that to keep up in this new world, the most successful companies would be the ones who will focus on customer engagement by providing consistent, personalised experiences that reach customers just as they need them.
So how are businesses faring in adapting to the changing demands of the customer? Well, according to the recently published Ombudsman Services’ Consumer Action Monitor, not great. A total of 55 million complaints were made about products or services in 2016, up six per cent from last year (52 million).
More worryingly, consumers continue to become disillusioned with complaining, with 19 per cent not believing that companies listen to consumers.
All in all, this doesn’t paint a great picture but only when you study its impact on business does it put into context the size of the problem. The report finds that in 2016 more than a quarter of consumers spent less with a company or took their custom elsewhere after receiving poor service – at a cost of over £37bn to companies.
Clearly, the evolution of customer experience is not meeting the rate of evolution in customer expectations. Customers now demand a seamless and caring experience, and in an era of comparison and brand infidelity they’re likely to switch allegiances in search of the trust and resolution they’re pining for.
This shifting landscape is compelling, and prompts the obvious question: how can businesses step up their game to deliver the best experience possible to both retain the customer and solve any issues they may have?
A culture of immediacy has developed. Businesses are under increased scrutiny and pressure to adapt in order to meet the demands of customer expectations in a marketplace that is centred around technology, mobility and social media.
So, if a customer tweets or emails you, respond within hours (or minutes if you can). Businesses that ignore the needs of the modern consumer will lose customers and the bottom line suffers.
In today’s social media age, the dynamic has shifted and businesses need to do a lot of work on the back end to ensure they really know and understand their customers.
The findings of the report only highlight the importance of this, with social media overtaking the ombudsmen as the most popular third party for consumer complaints.
Customer relationship management technology is helping businesses keep up with these developments and interactions. By capturing information across multiple channels and platforms, customer-service teams can have all the information they need at their fingertips to build a complete picture about the situation surrounding the complaint.
When it comes to customer service, access to information is a life saver. Important details like what the customer has bought from you previously and what posts they have liked on your Facebook page empower customer service teams to respond and handle complaints effectively and efficiently.
In a Which? Report, 53 per cent of consumers cited friendly and helpful staff as a good example of good customer service. Simply put, human touchpoints matter: a recent McKinsey report notes that only 80 per cent of businesses rely on a combination of digital AND human touchpoints to conduct their business – people connecting with people is still very critical in delivering exceptional customer service.
Ultimately, people still want to talk to people. We just need human interaction that’s relevant. Connecting the digital and human touchpoints is what’s important, as well as giving customer service/sales reps context on what digital interaction customers have already had with your brand.
With an ever-more confident consumer demanding higher standards, meeting customer expectations with engagement is becoming the true differentiator in the business world.
Having the correct systems and processes in place to empower customer-facing staff to handle complaints effectively is fundamental to companies who want to keep customers happy and loyal to their business.
Larry Augustin is CEO at SugarCRM