Traditionally, businesses have held all the power in the relationship with their customers.
They were able to carefully curate and dictate the messages that went out to the public. Businesses controlled information on price, features, and where consumers could access their product or service.
As a result, most consumers were restricted to purchasing from a business nearby that they were already familiar with.
But all that changed once the Internet reached a critical mass. Now consumers have seemingly limitless access to information about both you and your competitors.
No longer are consumers beholden to the frequent businesses in their city or region. Improvements in shipping, distribution and logistics made it possible to make purchases from businesses, hundreds, if not thousands of miles away.
In addition to having access to all this information, consumers now have a powerful voice in the form of social networks and online review platforms like Google and Facebook.
Losing control of your message can be a scary proposition for any business owner, so what can you do to wrest a little control back?
One way is by getting your happiest customers to share your message for you. This is accomplished by creating brand/business advocates through top-notch customer service. You might be thinking to yourself, “But I already focus on customer service.”
And I’m sure you do, but to really stand out from the competition you need to make customer experience your key point of differentiation. Doing so will improve your business in the following ways: increase loyalty.
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This point may seem too obvious, but if your customer feels that you don’t care about service or providing a good experience, they won’t stick around for long. In fact, a recent survey by Accenture noted that 66 percent of customers will switch companies due to poor customer service. We all know how difficult and costly it is to attract a customer, so keeping them happy is key.
The cool thing is if you go out of your way to help them, they will be more than likely willing to help spread the word about their good experience. One of the things that motivates individuals to review businesses online is to provide helpful information. And this can be a good or a bad thing depending on the type of service your business provides.
To increase advocacy, businesses should eliminate as many barriers as possible that are inhibiting your advocates from spreading your message. This can be accomplished by implementing an online review management platform that streamlines the process of collecting and managing reviews.
It's important to stay engaged with your customer base. This will allow you to stay abreast of what's important to your customers. In the past, businesses controlled the messages that went out to their customers, so there was no need to engage in a two-way dialogue.
Now with the proliferation of social media platforms and online review sites like Google and Facebook, businesses that talk "at" their customers instead of "with" them run the risk of alienating them.
Now that you're engaged in a two-way conversation with your customers, it is important that you take what they say to heart. Customer feedback can be a valuable resource to help you improve not only employee performance but also your overall business operations.
But if you fail to take that feedback seriously and actively use it to improve the overall customer experience, you customers could become frustrated and seek out other options.
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Providing a good customer experience will do more for your business than improve your public perception. It will also help to jumpstart growth in your business. It might surprise you to find out that businesses that invest in customer experience are quickly seeing returns.
A study by Watermark Consulting found that during a time when the S&P 500 was stagnant, businesses that were considered "leaders" in customer experience saw their stock price grow by 22.5 percent while businesses who were considered "laggards" in customer experience saw their stock price fall by 46.3 percent.
Additionally, customers who feel like they have received a good customer service will spend more, and not just a little more. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that customers who had a good experience spend 140 percent more than customers who had a bad experience.
Making your customers happy can also affect your bottom line by reducing support costs as happy customers are less likely to need to use customer support on a regular basis.
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The argument businesses often make when not investing in customer experience are that the costs wouldn’t outweigh the benefits. But the opposite is true. Businesses that fail to make customer experience a priority not only tarnish their reputation but also drive customers to the competition.
If you want your business to truly stand out from the competition you should:
- Cultivate a culture of advocacy with your customers
- Engage in meaningful conversations
- Work tirelessly to provide top-notch customer service
Businesses that do this will have happy and loyal customers that will buy more product and give you praise online.