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For years, customer experience experts everywhere called for businesses to empower their employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to properly take care of customers. That, of course, is still a necessary part of creating a top-notch customer experience. It’s not the last word on the subject, though.
Today’s customers aren’t the same as they were years ago. They now have access to a wealth of information via the internet that previous generations did not. They now approach purchase decisions by factoring in an array of information ranging from manufacturer-provided product data to real-world customer reviews and are often more knowledgeable than any sales representative could hope to be.
The key to providing them with the kind of customer experience they want is to be an ally of sorts, working to empower them to make informed purchases without a hard-sell approach. Here are three ways that today’s businesses can empower their customers and create a customer experience that increases retention, sales, and ensures long-term success.
Focus on Providing Useful, Unique Information
The most valuable thing any business can provide for their customers is knowledge. The trouble is, the internet provides them with myriad ways to get it. Many businesses fall into the trap of trying to compete with all other information sources that customers have at their disposal, but that’s the wrong approach. For example, no matter how hard most companies work to build a library of customer product reviews, most people are still going to turn to Amazon for end-user information. Instead, focus on providing richly detailed product information that would be hard to find anywhere else. Online retailer ThinkGeek is an excellent example of this tactic. Many of the products they sell include videos of actual staff members demonstrating the item. That gives customers a real-world feel for what they’re ordering that’s unique in the market.
Deal in Facts, Not Marketing-Speak
One of the quickest ways to alienate customers is to give them the impression that they’re being “led” towards a purchase. When businesses create content that extolls the virtues of a product but does little to provide hard factual information, it will always ring hollow – and informed customers will punish them for it. To avoid that issue, embrace transparency by letting customers know everything there is to know about a product, even if that information may dissuade certain customers from making a purchase. In the end, businesses that do this will end up with more satisfied customers who will appreciate the direct honesty the business has shown. It will even enhance the business’s reputation and engender the trust of customers who decided not to make a purchase, which will help bring them back when they do want to buy another item.
Help Make the Customer an Expert
As the old axiom goes, the customer is always right. Unfortunately, this is often only true in a figurative sense. Today, though, it’s easy to remedy that. In the current sales environment, there’s no more room for things like trade secrets (except to protect patents and the like) or insider knowledge. The more information a business can give to customers, the more likely it will be that they’ll feel valued. For example, if you’re selling beauty products, it isn’t worth it to hide things like precise formulations or keep ingredients a secret. The reality is, sharing such information will not only empower consumers to make smarter decisions, but it will also enable them to evangelize the product with the specificity of an expert. Some kinds of insider knowledge can even enhance customer trust. Consider, for example, this guide on how to spot a fake diamond. It provides specific actions consumers can take to protect themselves from fraud, and it’s exactly the kind of information an unscrupulous business would never want in the hands of its customers.
Stay Receptive to Customer Desires
The most important part of customer empowerment is a willingness by a business to continually adapt to the needs of their customers. While this may sound like an obvious and old-school approach, it is often overlooked, especially in the faced-paced digital space. That makes a customer feedback engine the real all-star of customer empowerment. Consider starting an “ask us anything” forum or an online suggestion box to encourage customers to take control of their own experiences. That is a business’s best source of intelligence regarding shifts in customer tastes and desires. If there’s something the customer feels that a business should be providing, but isn’t, they’ll speak up. Responding to those direct requests is the ultimate form of customer empowerment – and the best way to give customers exactly the experience they want.