Every day is a new opportunity to learn how disconnected businesses are with their customers. But it's also a chance to discover the secret to better experience is really quite simple. All you need to do is listen.
Consider this. I recently spent 63 minutes glued to my phone trying unsuccessfully to resolve a health insurance issue. Five phone calls. A dozen transfers. Multiple hang-ups. Inconsistent information. Contradictory advice.
Come on now, I wondered. Is this any way to treat a customer?
Fragmented Channels = Frustrating Experience
Of course not. But it’s just what happens when no one bothers to listen and customers are instead subjected to inconsistent information across channels.
It turns what should be a simple experience into a painful one. In this case, it added a layer of complication to a routine dental visit.
The office staff could not confirm my insurance eligibility because of conflicting information. On one channel, I'm an active subscriber. On another, I'm not.
The website said “no active coverage.” A contact center representative assured the office staff otherwise. But then she advised the caller to verify that information through the website — which of course says I am not covered.
This has to be easy to fix, right? I'll just explain the technical glitch to someone who will attentively listen and direct me to someone who can resolve the issue.
After more than an hour of trying, the problem persisted. And that’s in spite of the heroic efforts of one person in the customer service department, who stayed on the line with me when she transferred the call to technical support because I told her tech support had just hung up on me.
At least she confirmed I was telling the truth: Tech support hung up for a second time — with her on the call. "They don't seem to be listening. They're just dismissing the problem," she concluded, somewhat embarrassed.
In case you’re wondering, this disordered and mismanaged situation comes to you via one of the nation’s 36 independent and locally operated Blue Cross Blue Shield companies.
Building Better Bonds With Customers
“We’ve been talking about customer experience for nearly two decades now, and it doesn’t seem like we’re consistently or positively evolving customer relationships,” said Chris Spears, co-founder and Chief Marketing Technology Officer at Arke.
Today we have unparalleled ways to connect with customers. On the surface, that’s good because customers have never been more demanding, connected, or empowered. But success hinges on creating deep, meaningful relationships with customers.
That was abundantly clear during my long, annoying time on the phone today.
While I was on hold — to distract myself from the pedestrian jazz I was involuntary hearing — I scanned my inbox.
One of the messages was from a small store in the small town where I live. I opened it because the store’s marketing, which is conversational, clear, and honest, intrigues me.
The retailer, Sugar Belle, sells women’s clothing. Late last year, it made an impassioned plea: Shop local this year so stores like ours can keep our doors open. The email noted it had “overcome not one, but two hurricanes” which cost it the loss of nearly two months of revenue in less than eleven months.
It asked its customers to help it stay in business, and it worked.
Before the end of the year, Sugar Belle sent several more emails: one simply thanking customers for their business, another encouraging people to support a holiday gift drive for those in need.
Listening to Your Customers
Today the Sugar Belle team asked its customers a risky question. “Are we doing a good job?” The email asked:
- Do we provide a worthwhile service?
- Do our customers feel comfortable and appreciated?
- Do we contribute to our community in a positive way?
“Our customers are the very reason we open our doors. Your feedback is not only appreciated, but it’s needed,” the message continued.
As Arke VP of Strategy Margaret Wise recently explained, customers now control many moments of the customer journey, as well as much of the content that shapes how others shop.
The content they produce — from ratings and reviews to videos, blogs, discussion forum posts, digital images and audio files — is known as user-generated content (UGC). And it’s outperforming brand-produced content.
While analytics and data can provide all sorts of insights about what customers want, direct feedback lets businesses know exactly what they think. What’s more, it:
- Improves customer engagement
- Helps businesses proactively solve problems
- Shows what customers like, what they do not like, and what they would like you to offer
As Sugar Belle noted in its email, “we must listen to our customers, evaluate our performance and adjust accordingly. There are some things we simply can’t do, but if there is more we can do, we want to know.”
“We are listening.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could say that about every business?