Are Isle of Man Businesses Behind The Times with Customer Experience?
On the Isle of Man, where word-of-mouth and reputation counts for everything, businesses place a heavy emphasis on customer service.
But customer experience is a slightly different concept – and one which companies across the world are pouring resources into.
In fact, according to Forbes, many companies expect to compete on customer experience more than on price or quality over the coming years.
So, what is customer experience, how is it different to customer service and are Isle of Man businesses looking to it?
What Is Customer Experience?
“The customer is always right”. “The customer is king”. “Customer service is not a department – it’s an attitude”.
In business, there are many adages that assert the importance of a customer-centric approach. You’ve undoubtedly heard many of these before. And where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Indeed, the sheer number of customer service-related sayings highlights the fact that customer service is really important.
Today, one of the most popular customer-related buzzwords is “customer experience”. If we look at the Google Trends results for “customer experience” in the UK, we can see a huge increase in interest between 2004 and 2019.
On the Isle of Man, however, it seems people are not searching the term all that much… In fact, there’s not even enough data for Google to compile the relevant stats.
This indicates that Isle of Man businesses are either behind the times on customer experience, or that the population is simply too small for enough relevant searches to be made.
Either way, it’s likely that factoring in customer experience could be a great way to boost your Isle of Man business and give you a competitive edge.
Before we jump into exactly what customer experience is, it’s helpful to have a few other terms under our belts.
Customer service – The goal of customer service is to enable customers to interact with your business as smoothly as possible. As such, this usually takes the form of being easily approachable and answering questions, helping customers choose the right product and trouble-shooting any post-purchase issues. In short, customer service refers to the actions your business takes to ensure your customers are looked after properly.
Customer care – This term is used less frequently than customer service and refers to the quality of your business’s customer interactions. The focus here is on how customer service is carried out. As such, customer care involves listening to customers, building connections and moving away from mechanical and scripted interactions.
Customer journey – This refers to the path followed by a customer via so-called touchpoints – or points of contact between a customer and brand at any time before, during or after a purchase. Customers usually don’t decide to purchase an item the first time that they become aware of it and keeping track of customer journeys gives businesses crucial insights into how consumers interact with their brand. A good customer journey makes this process as straight-forward as possible.
Customer experience refers to the overarching impression you make on your customers. As such, customer experience subsumes customer service, customer care and the customer journey – since these all contribute to the overall impact you have on your customers. Another way to think about customer experience is as the sum of all contact a customer has with your brand. As such, it can be measured in terms of how a customer thinks about your brand, including the emotional and psychological connection customers have with your business.
Why Is Customer Experience Important?
Customer experience is an important concept to add to your business arsenal. More than anything, customer experience represents a new way to think about your business’s relationship with its customers. This means that, even if your business doesn’t have millions to spend on a new, fancy customer experience strategy, simply shifting your mindset may be enough for you to see results.
The growing popularity of a focus on customer experience is proof that, for many businesses, it’s an approach that works.
Fifty-four percent of UK consumers feel more loyal towards brands that show a deeper understanding of their preferences and priorities. Underpinning stats such as these is the fact that customers which receive exceptional customer experiences are far more likely to make repeat purchases, spend more and explore other products. And this is borne out by the stats, too.
How to Improve Customer Experience
By focusing on customer experience, you can help your business increase its customer base, reduce customer churn and drive up revenue. But it’s important to note that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to improving customer experience. Your customer base is unique, and likely has very specific needs and requirements. The key to improving customer experience is identifying these and taking the necessary action to rectify them.
That said, there are some general steps you can take to improving customer experience.
Create a Clear Customer Experience Vision
When you first begin thinking about customer experience, it’s important you define your vision. This means working out what success will look like – whether that’s better feedback, increased brand loyalty, more repeat customers or higher revenue.
By understanding your objectives, you will be better placed to identify and implement strategies that will help you achieve your goals. If you don’t do this, how will you know if what you’ve done has worked?
Understand Your Customers
If you want to improve customer experience, you need to know who your customers are. One way to do this is to build customer personas. These are stereotypical, fictional constructs which represent your average customer or customers. For example, your average customer may be 35 years old, female and tech-savvy. A full-blown, all bells-and-whistles website with complex navigation, graphics and interactive features may be may suitable this persona. Or your average customer may be 65 years old, male and not so tech-savvy. In this case, a straight-forward design with a simple navigation system may be more suitable.
In short, understanding your average customer allows you to make changes to your service which resonate with that demographic.
Create Emotional Connections
Up to 95 percent of purchasing decisions are driven by emotions rather than reason. As brands increasingly come to understand this, the battle for hearts (as well as minds) has really begun heating up – with the biggest companies using all sorts of tools to target our subconscious desires.
A good place to start is by aligning your business with a certain lifestyle or a feeling. By making your company stand for something bigger than its products, customers will feel more in tune with your brand and its ethos. This doesn’t need to be – and shouldn’t be – disingenuous. In fact, often this simply means making your own beliefs more visible. As a business owner, you will have principles and opinions of your own. By wearing these on your sleeve, you can build emotional connections with customers who feel similarly to you.
Capture Ongoing, Real-Time Feedback
No matter what actions you take to improve customer experience – whether that’s redesigning your website, improving call scripts, integrating automation, updating you FAQs, or whatever else – you want to know that what you’re doing is working.
In addition to analysing data, one of the best ways to find out is to speak directly with those affected – your customers. You can do this by soliciting feedback. There are many ways you can achieve this – including calling customers directly, emailing a feedback form at certain points in the customer journey, using feedback browser popups or sending out questionnaires.
However you choose to do it, receiving feedback is a crucial element in figuring out if your strategy is working and refining any changes that haven’t quite hit the mark.
Getting feedback shouldn’t be too difficult. But you will want to tailor your approach to your customer base. Asking too often, making unwanted calls or using annoying popups may put some customers off.
Develop a Customer-Centric Culture
At the end of the day, a business is its people. And this means everyone has a role to play in improving customer experience.
Ultimately, its your customers who keep your business going and pay your and your employees’ bills. Even so, currently, the CMO council reports that only 14 percent of business owners say that customer-centricity is a hallmark of their company.
This is bad news for customers. But it’s great news for businesses which are placing an emphasis on improving customer experience – since it means, if you get it right, you’ll be standing out from the majority.
However, creating a customer-centric culture is no small task. It often involves hiring for customer orientation, democratising customer insights, facilitating direct interaction with customers, linking corporate culture to customer outcomes and even tying customer experience with compensation.
Although this may sound like a lot of work – and it is – carrying it out could be what makes your company stand out from your competitors.
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