(1) Align with customers’ business goals
Great service is something that should be tailored to each customer. You need to represent their culture as well as your own and treat them how they want to be treated, rather than how you think they should be treated. Showing empathy and asking yourself what the customer really wants is incredibly important. Engage with your customer early, especially the decision-makers. A great experience starts from the first engagement, then each touch point needs to be treated like your last opportunity to engage with them, whether on email, the phone, or in face-to-face meetings. (2) Show how your culture aligns with theirs
You shouldn’t only align yourself with their business goals, but show the customer you are aligning with their entire business. For example, at Rackspace we wouldn’t walk into a meeting with a bank in our normal casual attire, jeans and a t-shirt, we’d dress smartly and ensure that we respect their business culture. This works differently for each organisation we come into contact with – it can’t be treated as a simple box-ticking exercise. At the same time however, you shouldn’t lose the identity of your own company so there’s a delicate balance that needs to be reached. You should feel confident to be upfront with the customer from the start and ask them exactly what their expectations are.
Read more on customer experience: (3) Avoid over promising and under delivering – continuing beyond initial contract
A lot of businesses make the mistake of only engaging with the customer during the initial pursuit, but it’s critical to continue doing this throughout the relationship. That way, you can make more meaningful connections and build trust to support them beyond a contractual basis. This creates extra value for the customer and helps you to understand them on a personal level, so you can act to resolve any issues well before they have even thought about leaving, rather than waiting for them to tell you, by which time it’s too late. (4) Become customer-centric
We created a mentoring programme where we paired an employee from a non-customer-facing team with one of the heads of business from a leading customer. Not only have our employees been able to learn enormous amounts for their personal career development, but they now have a better understanding of each other’s business. As a result, we have been able to create a better customer experience that makes the customer more attached and their investment with us more emotional, going outside of what we are contractually obliged to do. Businesses need to take the opportunities they have to add value by creating a cultural change and becoming more customer-centric. This might be a more indirect value than that of the service or product you are offering, but one that is extremely important to customers. Especially in 2016 when customer experience is set to become a key competitive differentiator. Of course, when it comes to customer experience, the food industry is kept busy with a wide variety of customers, all of whom face marketing messages from numerous brands each day. Bookatable’s CEO Joe Steele explained just how Britain’s SME can learn from bustling restaurants and improve customer experience, with a view to maintain loyalty. Darren Norfolk is MD at cloud services firm Rackspace UK
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