What really is the secret to customer satisfaction?
Brands have long been concerned with boosting their performance at every touchpoint—the in-store sales experience, phone customer support, online interactions via various channels, and many others. Most of them compartmentalize these tasks, and it’s easy to see why. Managing individual touchpoints is much simpler. It’s more organized and readily quantifiable. You can measure success at every communication platform using the metrics you prioritize. And from looking at the numbers alone, you can quickly identify where you’re failing and succeeding.
But this compartmentalized approach, though easy to implement, leads to a siloed view of the customer experience. Silos are created when organizations are unable to create ways to freely share, transfer, and retrieve information from one department to another. When you treat each touchpoint as separate units, instead of complementary and integrated ones, what you get is a fragmented view of how customers engage with your brand.
As a result, you miss the bigger picture: the customer’s end-to-end experience.
Understanding the customer journey
A customer goes through several steps before, during, and after purchasing a product or signing up for a service. These are collectively called the customer journey. Examples of activities involved are onboarding a new customer, resolving technical issues, or upgrading to a new product or service. Each may last several days, months, or even years (especially if the customer is a long-time, loyal one). Often, it involves several touchpoints and interactions.
You can only understand the entire consumer journey if you’re willing to look at the brand experience from a customer’s eyes. Furthermore, you have to look at the contexts that affect every stage of the consumer’s journey. By doing so, you can provide them the best customer service from the very start of their experience.
Consider the case of a customer who’s interested in signing up for an insurance account. In the process of onboarding this customer, it might take several emails and phone calls, three or more personal meetings, and a number of document exchanges. Different factors can delay the process. For example, a customer may lack some documents you require or they may want to change their account details at the last minute before they sign a contract.
In these cases, how can you make the customer experience a smooth and hassle-free one despite the external factors that may be out of your control?
You need to abandon your silo-driven mentality and look at people’s experiences as a continuous, rather than a disjunct, process. In doing so, keep in mind the following guidelines:
• Understand how your products and service fit into people’s lives. A customer call is never just about a product issue or a query. Each situation has an underlying context. You have to look into these contexts and think of ways to make things easier for the customer, given their unique circumstances.
• Understand how customers use multiple touchpoints and navigate between them.
The key here is to understand customers’ behavior and be able to anticipate when they’re likely to switch to a different channel. Also, having a sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) tool can help you facilitate cross-device conversations while retaining information from previous transactions.
• Always try to fix the root cause of an issue, rather than its immediate manifestations.
It’s customer support agents’ task to investigate the root cause of every problem, regardless of where it originated and which departments are concerned. That way, you can put a stop to recurring problems and ensure a better customer experience.