Consumers today want to feel connected to the companies they interact with. Creating unforgettable customer experiences is how forward-thinking companies have managed to build their market share and stay profitable through difficult financial times. Here’s how you can do it too.
Differentiate yourself from the competition
Customer experience is what will set your business apart from your competitors. It is one of the most valuable ways to differentiate your business, and although it requires an investment in terms of attitude and approach, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean a big expense.
Unforgettable customer experiences are not done through advertising, lofty promises or gimmicks. They take place through interactions that are engaging and meaningful to your target market.
The challenge is to synchronise the various functions within your business (eg. human resources, marketing, operations) so that every individual in every department subscribes to your business ethos and is willing and able to convey that to your customers. Remember, your brand sells a promise and it is up to your people to keep the promise.
- Test out what it would feel like to be your own customer – from the first point of contact right through to after sales service.
- Identify the service superheroes within your organisation and realise what a valuable asset they are. Nurture them, promote them, and place them in positions where their service ethos can rub off on others.
- Dont hire staff just because they can do the job – hire for attitude!
Retain your customers
To win customer loyalty, you need to offer a customer experience that resonates with your customer’s values, beliefs and emotions.
The best way to do this is to learn more about your customers, so collect and analyse all the customer feedback you can get your hands on. And with negative feedback, it is crucial to fix the problem as quickly as possible through personal contact (eg a phone call or email).
- Check and respond to complaints on websites such as Hello Peter (www.hellopeter.com) and Get Closure (www.getclosure.co.za).
- If you have “erred”, admit it. Being honest and transparent with your customers will gain you their trust and loyalty in the long run.
- Create a social media presence for your brand. Many businesses shy away from social media because they’re afraid of negative feedback. But social media allows you to receive feedback through a platform you can keep track of and respond to, which is far better than having customers bad-mouth your brand without you knowing about it or having the opportunity to fix mistakes.
- Remember that when a customer complains it gives you an opportunity to really connect with them, fix the error, and make a lasting impression.
Build your business through word of mouth
Building a relationship with customers does not happen overnight. It takes time to earn trust and loyalty, but by consistently meeting their needs over time, you will eventually turn every customer into an advocate for your business – and that’s the most powerful form of marketing there is! Rave reviews from customers will do more for your business over time than any television advert or marketing gimmick will ever do.
- Focus on every individual your business crosses paths with and ensure they’ve enjoyed the experience. Remember, losing market share generally happens one unhappy customer at a time.
- Never write off any customer as less important because they’re ‘small fry’. You never know who will be where and doing what in five years time.
- Don’t use service providers that don’t have the same values or customer service drive as your business – they will end up letting you and your customers down.
Want To Become A Supplier To A Big Company? Consider This First
A giant customer can be highly profitable or cost you your business. Have you considered all the angles?
“How do I get into the big corporates or Government?” Business owners visualise huge sales and profits by becoming a supplier to a giant, and that is often the case. For a big organisation with billions to spend, a trivial expenditure to them may be a large fortune to you. Do not let the number of zeros dazzle you, riches are not guaranteed; many entrepreneurs have suffered losses or businesses collapse from such dealings.
You must understand the motivations of managers of large organisations, and the risks they face. They are KPI-driven and risk serious damage to their careers if something goes badly wrong. Compared to these issues, your profitability, work hours and ego are minor considerations. You may believe that you only have to perform in terms of your agreement, but in reality, you need to make your contacts look good. Aim for a zero fail rate; deliveries that are late, faulty or incorrect may cause a disproportionate explosion because that means your contact has let someone down. If you are smart, you can help your contacts get a reputation for superior internal service.
Understand the risks that big customers pose to your business
There are risks in any unequal buyer/seller relationship. The biggest risk is if the giant stops buying. Large customers can be extremely demanding; they see you as an extension of their business and can be intolerant of your need to service other customers. Many small suppliers will be familiar with a peremptory summons to an immediate meeting and occasional rudeness. A supply contract inevitably favours the big guy, and this means pricing and other terms of trade are vital. You must protect your ability to make a reasonable margin even if circumstances like inflation, exchange rates or sector wage agreements change.
Large organisations care about meeting their budgets, not about your profitability, and many suppliers have failed because they were bound to supply goods at an unsustainable price. Managers move around, and if your champion is promoted, the replacement manager may prefer their favourite suppliers, so out you go. Broaden your range of contacts in the organisation to avoid this risk. Large organisations are huge bureaucracies; decisions may take time and payments may be delayed, especially if your paperwork is not perfect.
There are opportunities — but evaluate them carefully
The major opportunity is significant growth. They will buy if you supply a product or service that suits their needs and budget at service levels that make the managers look good. It is entirely possible to make your company almost indispensable by solving problems and offering them innovative new ways of exceeding their KPIs at reduced cost. There are opportunities to supply other parts of the giant, as well as their supply chains. Be careful with growth. Your primary contact will be used to your full attention and if he or she senses that this is no longer happening because you have grown, they can seek alternative suppliers. Never let growth reduce your customer service level.
A very large and prestigious customer gives your company credibility, allows you to attract the brightest staff, makes selling to other giants easier and gives you funds to develop new markets and new products.
Is it worth it?
Is it worth the big money? Yes, if you can manage the risks, chief of which is becoming too dependent on one customer. However, dealing with the big gorillas is not the same as having a more balanced supplier/buyer relationship. It works if you use your ability to be nimble and flexible to solve their problems. It helps if you are innovative and can use your creativity to respond rapidly in ways that big corporations cannot. It works if you can give very personal service, even if that means you, the owner, are the primary interface. By doing these things you can become an indispensable cog in a huge machine.
You need a champion in your client’s organisation, but ensure you have other contacts too. What happens if they leave or are promoted? Is your contract safe?
Accurately Predict Future Sales With These Two Things
Being able to predict your sales for next month and those to come, is a result of a combination of two things.
As someone responsible for sales in a growing business, you would love to be able to predict your sales accurately, month after month – but this can be a difficult process. Fortunately, it’s not impossible. With some initial effort and careful monitoring, you can predict whether the team will have positive sales results in the future, and where you can see trouble looming, you can take advance action to avoid problems.
Being able to predict your sales for next month and those to come, is a result of a combination of two things:
1. Developing a sales process
As ‘boring” as it might sound for many entrepreneurs, it is extremely useful to understand the benefits of working to a process in business. This applies to any part of the business, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, is very applicable to sales.
Think about it this way:
- If you do the same task a different way every time, you can expect a different outcome every time. It becomes difficult to predict whether the outcome will be good or bad.
- But if you do the same task the same way every time, the outcome becomes very predictable, and you’ve laid a platform for systematic improvement. By making one small tweak to how you do the task, you can see if you get a better, or a worse, outcome. You can then keep all the tweaks that improve your outcome and drop the tweaks that make it worse.
2. Developing sales systems
A superior quality sales management capability necessitates that you have a Sales System on a best of breed technology platform, to help manage the sales function in the business.
A good sales system helps you capture your sales process. Good sales management practices drive home the discipline needed to implement the sales process, and in turn, predict sales results.
Take the first step in your journey towards accurately predicting sales by developing a sound sales process.
Next in this series: HOW TO DEVELOP A SALES PROCESS THAT WORKS LIKE A CHARM
Why Customers Don’t Respond To Disruption
You’ve got chatbots running your customer service, interactive screens across your stores and you’ve just appointed a chief digital officer. Why aren’t you seeing sales going through the roof?
PwC partner Quinton Pienaar says there could be many reasons for this. But the short answer is probably that in your understandable rush to stay relevant and keep up with the latest technology trends and developments, you lost sight of your number one priority. You’re just not that into your customers – and they know it.
It’s fairly easy to get dazzled by the array of technologies out there. But the trap that you’ve got to guard against is that you start seeing the world through a technology lens, rather than a customer one. Remember, technology is a tool, not an outcome. It’s the means to the end, not the end itself.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be transforming your business digitally. You absolutely should. But there’s a big difference between investing in technology to keep up with the Joneses, and investing in technology that’s going to drive specific business outcomes and improve the customer experience.
Related: Reimagine The Use Of Technology
In fact, it would be downright dangerous to ignore the game-changing benefits that the current wave of emerging technologies brings to the table. To understand what they can do for your business, you have to know what they are. We at PwC talk about the ‘essential eight’:
- The Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the building blocks for the next generation of digital work.
- Robotics, drones, and 3-D printing are all about machines that extend the reach of computing power into the material world.
- Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) merge the physical and digital realms, and offer incredible advances in customer experience.
- Blockchain rethinks our approach to commercial transactions by allowing participants to exchange value, and verify ownership of something, without a third party.
Some of these technologies are verging on science fiction. So how do we use them in a way that supports customer obsession? The starting point of any successful customer transformation is a customer-focused design that brings together three essential elements – business strategy, customer experience and technology – into a coherent, fully-fledged digital strategy.
In other words, today’s most successful companies have a strategy that is focused around a simple and regularly-updated list of priorities. They incorporate the new generation of technologies like IoT, blockchain and AI. But they keep their people, and their customers at the core of their business by designing strategies that directly address customers’ underlying needs and desired outcomes.
This sounds dead obvious. But what we find is that many companies we talk to are focused on growing their revenues, or making improvements to their products and services, rather than creating better customer experiences. Or they have the strategy, but are battling to execute it effectively.
Of course, to underpin this customer transformation journey, you’re going to need some data and the foundational technologies on which today’s innovations depend – data mining and analytics, mobile, and cloud. You may also need to rethink your processes to manage, enrich and maintain data, and operationalise it throughout your business.
So you have all of that in place? Good. Now stop. Breathe. Ask yourself whether your technology and data are truly supporting an unwavering focus on the customer. Because if you take one message from this article, let it be this: in today’s marketplace, putting your customer at the centre of your business is imperative to driving growth and profitability, winning market share and unlocking the value of your technology investments.
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