3 things that all customers want


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The best principles of customer satisfaction transcend industry distinctions because, as I’ve said many times, customers are people, and people act and react in similar ways, no matter what the business experience is.

In the financial services sector, Bank of America has conducted their own research into what their customers are telling them. In a recent corporate article, they answered a basic question with some beneficial principles for all of us in the customer satisfaction business: “What Do Our Customers Want? Control, Choice and Clarity.” Here are some thoughts on each of those areas:

Control. Customers are increasingly desiring to have a sense control of their experience with companies. They have a desire to do business more “on their terms” and not when or where it is necessarily convenient for the business. If you want their patronage, you will have to find ways to accommodate this trend.

A key aspect of your business planning should include methods of providing choices for customers that still maintain a manageable range of options for your own efficiencies. The execution of this method is in having limited, but very specific, choices for customers to choose from, any of which are within an acceptable range of operation for you.

For example, you may only have three days a week where a certain service is available, however, you may present it as : “Our next available appointments are on Monday or Wednesday; will 9 am, noon, or 3 pm work better for you?” You have now provided a concise range of legitimate choices for a customer to think through and assert some control of their own schedule. This is a necessary psychological exercise on the path to customer satisfaction, and should be incorporated into your customer experience as much as possible.

Of course, you will always have the individuals who reply that none of those options work for them. You can either provide a “second-tier” level of choices (still within your acceptable range of operation) or you can provide a concession to your standard practice in order to satisfy the customer. The key is to be thoughtful and intentional with these interactions so that you are not at the mercy of every unusual customer request that you encounter.

Choice. While making choices is common to human nature in general, I believe a large measure of this mentality is due to the level of choices that are available in online and digital products and services, which is now transferring outwardly into real-world experiences.

For example, you can customize any digital product just about any way you want: from cell phone ring-tones to browser preferences, to website templates to music and media personalization. I believe this will have an increasing effect in the marketplace overall, as the newer, highly digital generation continues to seek similar experiences across all industries and company interactions. Customization of customer experience is, and will continue to be, the norm for attaining customer satisfaction. Learning to incorporate customization methods into your business is critical.

Most of these customizations can be incorporated into your digital offerings, such as website and shopping preferences. Amazon.com is the poster child for this level of customization, as choices for new shopping selections are consistently offered based on past purchases. This provides extremely personalized interest-based shopping experiences for their customers.

Clarity. Sometimes, however, the choices and variations in a customer experience can be overwhelming, and as a customer, I simply want to use a service without having to choose how many updates I want, or which view I prefer; just give me the information or service I want, and make it simple and clear!

In a real world example, I recently stopped by a Subway restaurant with my family on the way home from a trip to the coast. While I enjoy their offerings on a personal basis, when we encountered the range of options available for all of the children’s meals, the ordering process turned into a huge Q and A session of what precisely each child wanted: which type of bread, what condiments to add, which type of dessert. Then we went through the “can I add this” or “what about this” questions. Invariably, we were reduced to making simple choices available to the kids (even though there were wider options available on their meal purchase).

This is where listening to customer feedback and simplifying your systems becomes a very finely tuned balancing act. You will need to be able to provide choices for your discerning customers, but also provide the “easy” button for the customers like me who many times just want to get in and get out. Clarity is derived from balance.

By thoughtfully focusing on the customer experience and intentionally providing more opportunities for customer control and choice, along with clarifying your offerings to ensure the essentials can be readily accessed, you will be creating a stronger and more loyal customer base who will be better informed and more comfortable in carrying on repeat business with you.

Just for fun…

“The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong, is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong, it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.” – Douglas Adams

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Martorano
Steve has been on the front lines with customers for over 25 years. He is currently Director of Customer Services for Polygon Northwest, a real estate developer in both the Seattle and Portland markets. Steve is also the creator of ThinkCustomerSatisfaction.com, an online resource designed to provide insights and training to customer professionals across many industries.


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