A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all
– Michael LeBoeuf
Over the last several years of developing customer experience-centered technology platforms for our clients, we have learnt a few valuable lessons. Most important one is rather simple. Getting a clear alignment of objectives, strategy and execution is extremely important to maximize your investment dollars. And this has to start from the top.
Customer Experience Objectives
While objective is always primarily one of the three – to retain your existing customers, to entice new customers and to get higher share of the wallet from existing customers, the ways to go about achieving that can be very different from a strategic and execution standpoint.
So without further ado, let me ask a few pointed questions from a consumer viewpoint to illustrate:
- When you are definitely running late for your important business flight, do you want to talk to a virtual agent or a real human agent of the airlines to consider rescheduling options?
- If your net worth is more than the economy of Maldova, would you appreciate being put on hold by a call center agent?
- Do you like to do your own grocery shopping? Or would you prefer someone else did for you based on your list?
Do you want to learn the nuances of Forex trading or you are happy as long as you are getting more returns than the NASDAQ ?
- When you arrive at a hotel and they don’t have your reservation, do you prefer they gave you a refund or a room?
While different consumers may answer the above question, differently, the service provider has to be able to cater to those differing needs, especially when targeting a wide demographics of customers. And this is where having the right strategy starts to come in useful.
Customer Experience Strategies
While there are several strategies for approaching customer experience, you would find most consultants prescribing one over the other. ‘Personalization’ driven happens to be a hot favorite on the back of data analytics and its popularization in the eCommerce and Social Media worlds. However, that is not the only one and in some cases may not even be applicable or required. Let’s look at some of the obvious ones with their key application areas.
Personalized – This type of strategy tries to understand the unique consumption patterns and service requests of each and every customer giving targeted solutions. Kind of what Amazon does with its eCommerce recommendations. While getting maximum attention from businesses and management gurus, it is not suited (in some cases quite ill-suited) for all scenarios.
Personal – This type of strategy has greater emphasis on a personal touch. So while data, tools and analytics are important, the last mile delivery of the service is still with a human-touch. For e.g. In airlines and hotel industries, the final channel of delivery is the service crew, reception staff, check-in staff and the in-flight crew. Giving them the right information to help them give a personal touch to their service is important. Having a personal assistant who knows all the whims and fancies of your most important consumers is fabulous. Kind of like what Vegas does for its high-rollers. You may not choose to do it for all your customers but definitely the top 5% may deserve this.
Responsive – This type of strategy focuses on responding to a need, event, behavior or request from a customer. In this strategy, there is little or no emphasis on reaching out to the customer via marketing or pre-sales channels but maximum weightage on getting the response right once a certain demand has been made. For e.g. how TripAdvisor, UnderArmour, Spanx, Zara or Uber went from zero to millions of dollars in revenue without ever actually advertising what they did but just doing a fine job of responding to their customer needs. Responsive Customer Experience at its best!!
Proactive – This is the strategy where Precision Marketing and other well documented ways of proactively reaching out to the consumer are utilized. Using historical data, coupled with forward looking projections (and in some cases consumer profiling), businesses proactively try and reach out to their clients. A good non-marketing example of this would be Predictive Grocery Shopping. Here based on a historical track record of items and frequency of purchase, a predictive grocery shopping list can be created for the most valuable customers of a supermarket chain.
Objective-driven – This strategy tries and attempts to eliminate channels and touch-points in a consumer journey by focusing more on the end-goals of the consumer instead of the steps required for him to get there. For E.g.If a customer wants to buy a phone, do you recommend him an Apple or a Samsung phone or do you ask him what he intends to use his phone for?
Engagement – This strategy aims at continuously keeping the consumer engaged even when he is not buying anything from the business. For e.g. how Google keeps offering free email, YouTube, Hangouts and many other free services with the aim of keeping you engaged while trying to influence you to buy books, apps and games from its PlayStore and selling ads to businesses. Ideal for businesses with deep pockets.
In conclusion, I would like to say that my list above is purely illustrative. But it gives a sense of the various ways in which an organization can approach customer experience for its target customers. Depending on the target demographics and budgets available, a hybrid approach comprising a mix of one or more of the strategies from the list above can be used to meet your business objectives. So while things like persona definition and consumer journey mapping are important, it is equally important to understand the type of strategy that should be deployed. And based on the measurement of the success with each of the strategies, the mix can be tweaked until a winning formula, unique to your very own business is achieved.
All the best!!