don't lose a customer to a better version of yourself
While I typically like to share my thoughts specially about the industry that I know and love…. retail, I had a very poor experience in one of my formerly favorite restaurants this week in NYC which, after several declining visits, has now lost me for good. It has nothing to do with the food, which was still excellent, it still has a famous chef, still amazing location, it was the service experience. And as I watched the tables around me have a similar experience, I contemplated the comparison of service in a great restaurant to that of wanting to purchase a beautiful luxury leather good in a gorgeous store but feeling underappreciated and expecting it to be better.
But here is what everyone knows but chooses to ignore…. there is always somewhere else to buy that leather good, and there is always a new restaurant opening in NYC.
Each year, new data comes out that indicates customer service is more important than ever. According to Forrester, 72% of all businesses say that improving the customer experience is their top priority, and a new study from NewVoiceMedia indicates that companies lose more than $62 billion per year due to poor customer service. No company can afford to be a customer service laggard, yet so many still are.
So, what can we do as leaders in a service industry to ensure that we stay up to date, stay competitive, and stay relevant? The first thing is to pay close attention to what’s trending in the world of customer service and never assume that this doesn’t apply to you.
- Customer service is getting better, even if it doesn’t look like it. With the $62 billion statistic mentioned above, one might think that customer service is getting worse. I believe it is actually getting better. What’s happening is the best companies are setting the bar and creating a new, higher expectation. There is a new benchmark in every industry and other companies, even with their efforts to improve, are not able to keep up with customer’s new expectations and the customer has more choices, including e-commerce. From my point of view, I want to be the one setting the bar, not trying to catch up.
- Value and experience continue to beat price. Unless a company wants to be recognized as a low-cost provider, the value proposition of good customer service can make price less relevant. That’s how smaller independent retailers can compete against big-box stores. Think about how Ace Hardware stores compete against stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. Ace Hardware stores are typically fraction of the size and may not have the lowest price. Yet they have not only survived, they thrive because of the localized high tough level of service they provide. This concept is not limited to retail, it crosses into all types of businesses and industries
- Personalization creates a better customer experience. This is not about product personalization, a trend that came and died, it’s about a deep understanding of your customer. Technology has made it easier than ever to track customer preferences and history and now there is so much data available to track trends and insights with uncanny accuracy that there is no reason to notcreate a more personalized experience that caters to a customer’s individual needs. You should know who your top customers are and treat them with great care.
- Fast, faster and fastest! Customers expect a response to their feedback and their changing needs. Numerous surveys have revealed abysmal results for response times to customer comments, complaints and questions on support channels such as social media, email, etc. The good news is that new data is showing the response times are speeding up. And by the way, the company that responds faster than its competition will stand out and win.
- Convenience wins the day. This may be the ultimate customer service weapon and has nothing to do with price. How easy and convenient are you to do business with? How easy and convenient is checkout? Your staffing models? Your return policies and omni capabilities? Convenience is the price of admission. Your competitor is trying to outdo your customer service, so all things being equal, how can an organization tip the scale in its favor? Convenience.
There are dozens of other trends that I could have included here, but these are the ones that stand out to me today. Think about it as you strategize on how to remain competitive and relevant to your customers, make today the day that you don’t lose a customer to the new, better version of your business or your team.