Customer loyalty - no longer a given, but can still be achieved
We are living in the age of the customer, where poor customer service can cause a business' reputation to dwindle faster than ever before - especially given the popularity of using social media to post about any dissatisfaction experienced with a brand.
However, it is something that can be managed and even taken advantage of; the companies that are focusing on the customer, as both the centre of their operational strategy and as a critical success factor to bolster the bottom line, will reap great rewards and attain their goals.
"It is the customer who determines the success or failure of a business operating today," says Nicolette de Wit, CEO at South African-owned integrated solutions specialist, Intuate Group. She adds that businesses must also realise this "customer-centric world" is moving ahead at a great pace - in parallel with digital innovation. "Businesses can certainly not procrastinate on the issue any longer. They need to move with both speed and agility, and embrace new technology and customer tools immediately."
Looking at customer experience predictions for 2016, Forrester states: "Leaders will further distance themselves by learning to operate at the speed of disruptors, shedding cumbersome annual processes for agile ones."
The analyst company points out: "Savvy customer experience pros will get on-board, opting for faster and more practical methods for customer research, measurement, and innovation that won't break the bank. In 2016, we expect to see:
"* Crowdsourcing fuelling customer experience innovation efforts. Intensified competition from upstarts, coupled with customers' rapidly rising expectations and compressed cycle times, places growing pressure on incumbents to innovate or risk being left behind; and
"* New customer experience measurement tools complementing surveys' shortcomings. To complement their slow and costly survey programmes, this year we'll see companies invest in tools that promise to deliver faster, deeper customer insights. And with the proliferation of mobile apps, we expect to see more companies investing in location-aware in-app feedback to boost their customer experience insights."
"Analysing the unique attributes of a customer provides companies with a solid tool to provide a more personalised experience and creates repeat customers. Customers want you to know who they are!" emphasises De Wit.
Richard Shapiro, in his Customer Experience Trends for 2016, reinforces this message: "Technology to enhance the customer experience is not sufficient unless it is predictive and personalised. Consumers are pleased when they call a company for an order status and the company's systems recognise who is calling and can anticipate their inquiry. However, erase the mindset that using technology to force self-service is a positive outcome. Employing technology to make the customer experience easier and faster will become the new norm. Smart technology saves time and enhances the journey."
Investing in predictive apps and technology that will lead to a personalised service is thus no longer just a nice-to-have option.
"In the era of the customer, it is now a must-have. Businesses must look at the overall technology trends that are shaping businesses, such as big data, mobility and the cloud, and acknowledge that the same technology trends affect their customer care technology. Legacy systems could seriously place your businesses on the back foot this year - it is the year to be smart, in terms of both strategy and innovation.
"In addition, the millennial generation is growing exponentially, and this demographic is the new customer. They value their smartphones and self-service, and will quickly jump ship if treated poorly. That said, all generations value good customer service. Focus on the customer now and reap the rewards," concludes De Wit.