Getting to grips with change

How can you keep up with the changing customer expectations?

The film Catch Me If You Can tells the story of Frank Abagnale Jr, a master impersonator who was pursued by the FBI for over five years. Just when the FBI believe they have caught Frank he manages to elude them again, always just slipping through their fingers.

Many business owners who are trying to satisfy customers expectations and demands would empathise with this scenario. Trying to keep up with the ever-evolving expectations of customers is often like a game of cat and mouse – when it’s almost within your grasp, it can elude you once more. It can be hard to catch up, and even harder to stay one step ahead.

Customers now expect much more than just reasonable pricing and service. Rapid and disruptive technological change has meant the modern customer has increasingly high and rapidly expanding expectations. They want personalised interactions, immediate response, proactive recommendations and connected experiences. In today’s always-on, 24-hour digital marketplace, anything that is not instantly responded to and treated as a top priority is unacceptable.

So how do we meet these customer expectations? Here are three ways.

Treat customers like VIPs – not a number

A recent study found that 72 per cent of consumers expect organisations to understand their needs and expectations, while 66 per cent of consumers are likely to switch brands if they feel treated like a number rather than as a person. With customer loyalty at an all-time low, those companies that deliver a more personalised and human experience will reap the benefits.

“Four out of five consumers report that immediate responses to enquiries strongly influence their brand loyalty.”

Today’s consumers are looking for differentiated experiences based on trust. As Zig Ziglar famously said, “If people like you they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.” Businesses should strive to be likeable and build trust, and start by making all of their customers feel valued and heard. Bespoke gestures like calling the customer by their preferred name, identifying them instantly via their personal account information to

resolve any issues, and making proactive suggestions based on their previous history all go a long way to building their trust and demonstrating you have their best interests at heart.

Give immediate, responsive service

We now live in a world where we can be connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As a result, consumers now expect businesses to interact with them in real-time, rather than the next business day. Four out of five consumers report that immediate responses to enquiries strongly influence their brand loyalty. Businesses can address this by having systems in place to respond quickly and effectively to customer queries. Give contact centre staff access to the best and most up-to-date customer information via dynamic digital telephony systems so they can be effective in capturing information and resolving enquiries.

Be consistent

Three-quarters of consumers now expect a consistent experience across all customer channels and 73 per cent will consider changing brands if they don’t receive consistency of experience. Organisations must have strategies in place to meet this “omnichannel” expectation. Training all frontline staff to deal with every customer enquiry with the same speed, professionalism and commitment to problem-solving will help to achieve this.

Over two-thirds of customers state that connected processes are very important when it comes to winning their business. Businesses need to use the customer information they gather to simplify and personalise the experience, so it is much more than a transaction.

Change is inevitable. As technology continues to evolve so will the expectations and needs of our customers. However, by listening to your customers and treating them like valued individuals, your business will be in the best position to meet their expectations. Doing this fosters loyalty and keeps them from slipping through your fingers.

Charles Heunemann, Managing Director and VP Asia Pacific, Natterbox

This story first appeared in issue 26 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine.

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