August 2016 - c3centricity | c3centricity

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What do Customers Really Want Today?

As a customer centricity champion, just like you, I spend a lot of my time researching what customers really want today. I’m always trying to understand exactly what customers want. My regular searches include customer service, customer satisfaction, customer care and similar topic areas. Google is my best friend!

However, I recently came across some surprising facts, which prompted this post. I believe they show a serious problem in the business of looking after our customers today. Read the article and then let me know whether or not you agree with my analysis.

 

Customer centricity

Wikipedia, another online friend of mine, doesn’t have a definition of customer centricity! If you look the term up, you get directed to customer satisfaction!  Try it for yourself and see.

My other go-to source for definitions is  businessdictionary.com which defines customer centric as:

“Creating a positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale.” 

It then goes on to say

 “A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience.”

Now although I find the definition limited, since it refers only to sales and post-sale activities, I do like the fact that it mentions three important elements of customer centricity:

  • a positive customer experience
  • adds value to a company
  • enables differentiation

This clearly identifies three huge benefits of becoming (more) customer centric:

  1. A positive customer experience has been shown to increase both loyalty and advocacy. (>>Tweet this<<) As we all know, it costs ten times if not even more, to acquire a new customer as it does to keep a current one. Therefore loyalty is a valuable benefit for a brand.
  2. Adding value to a company also increases the ROI of its marketing investments. This is something that marketing is challenged to prove today, with the risk of seeing their budgets cut. Luckily, what’s good for the customer is good for business. You can see many more facts and statistics in Forrester’s report “The Business Impact of Customer Experience”  HERE.
  3. The third benefit is just as important to the growth of a business. Enabling differentiation in this complex world is invaluable in standing out from the competition. (>>Tweet this<<) In so many industries today product performance and services are almost identical, so how can you stand out? By your customer care, that’s how and knowing what your customers really want . It has been shown that customers are willing to pay more for excellent customer service. You can read a summary of the American Express research that found that  HERE.

I would also add that what customers really want today is a seamless experience from pre to post purchase, as well as both on and offline. That’s how you deliver satisfaction and build loyalty.

 

The importance of customer satisfaction and understanding

There is no denying that customer centricity is important. However some companies are (too?) slow to adopt best practices in this area, which concerns me for a number of reasons:

  1. Changes are happening too slowly in most organisations. If it is important for the business, then what is stopping companies from adopting a more customer centric approach? The longer they wait, the more they risk being beaten by a more customer friendly competitor. It’s no longer (just) about product performance any more.
  2. Customers are complaining – a lot – about the way they are being treated. Why are companies not accepting these criticisms as the gifts they are? Acting promptly before the issue becomes a social media viral discussion is essential today.
  3. Customer service is confused with customer satisfaction. Companies are happy when their customers say they are satisfied, but they should be looking to delight them!

As mentioned before, the research that prompted this post was a google keyword investigation of terms related to customers. Having seen the strong positive trend for the word customer, I then wanted to understand what it was about customers that was of interest. I found that both customer service and customer care showed almost identical positive trends.

However, when I looked at customer satisfaction and customer understanding the trends were flat and worse, minimal. (You can see the trend graph below with service in green, care in blue, satisfaction in red and understanding in yellow)

 

These trends suggest to me that companies search how to improve their customer service and care, but not about how to understand their customers or increase their satisfaction!

How can this be? Surely an interest in customer service should come from an increased understanding of how to deliver customer satisfaction? Apparently not.

And this is when I realised that perhaps businesses are more interested in the process than the real benefit of customer connection. That is a serious flaw in their thinking in my opinion.

To confirm my hypothesis, I looked into customer satisfaction levels and their trends. After all, many more companies are interested in customer service these days. So you would think it should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

 

According to the latest report from  The Institute of Customer Service on customer satisfaction across Europe, retail, insurance and banking are the three best performing industries. This was a surprise to me because they used to be the most heavily criticised. However this suggests that they have taken action, albeit because they had little choice, but most other industries continue to ignore what their customers really want. You can see the full Infographic overview above; click on it to see the full-sized original.

I then went back to Google to find ways which were suggested for increasing customer satisfaction. I found more than  two million articles on how to do it, but very few on the results. Again, extremely worrying.

US Customer satisfaction
National ACSI Scores, 1994 to Q1 2016 (0-100 Scale) (PRNewsFoto/American Customer Satisfaction)

 

According to the US ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) June 2016 report, customer satisfaction has finally increased for the first time in over two years.

However, as Claes Fornell, Chairman  and founder of the ACSI says:

“By and large, the overall customer experience for goods and services purchased and consumed in the United States is getting worse.” 

In the UK, which leads Europe in terms of customer satisfaction, levels also rose for the first time in four years, reflecting a more positive economy. However, that was before the Brexit vote! I am looking forward to seeing whether the Brits’ optimism continues this year.

 

The Key Takeaways

So what does a business need to do to deliver what their customers really want today and increase their satisfaction? There are seven facts that become apparent from this analysis:

  1. Businesses should always provide a positive customer experience and do whatever it takes to satisfy, but ideally delight.
  2. Companies need to go beyond the mere process of customer centricity, to truly put their customers at the heart of the organisation.
  3. Customer centricity adds demonstrated value to a company; it should be a no-brainer.
  4. Customer centric improvements are happening too slowly in most industries, especially when customers are becoming increasingly dem anding.
  5. Providing customer service doesn’t guarantee customer satisfaction.
  6. A positive customer experience increases loyalty and advocacy.
  7. Excellent customer service enables differentiation and even higher prices.

In summary, people want businesses to listen and understand them. When a customer takes the time to contact a company because they are unhappy, they expect a satisfactory outcome as a minimum. Those organisations who go beyond, to deliver delight, will see their reputation improve, as well as an increase in their customers’ loyalty and advocacy. 

Customers also want companies to be open and transparent. They want answers to their questions and criticisms. They have a right to know the source of ingredients, the ingredients themselves, their country of origin, the charities the company supports, or the organisation’s policies on waste, water and sustainability. What customers really want today is to have their questions answered (almost) immediately, especially on social media. They expect things that go wrong to be put right – quickly, with an equally rapid explanation and apology.

So how are you doing? Are you living up to your customers’ expectations? Are you delivering what your customers really want? How have you made progress in this area in the past year or so? Please share your success stories below. 

You know you can no longer wait; you’re getting left behind by those organisations – and competitors – who are taking action today! If you need help in catalysing your organisation in customer centricity and aligning your business to what your customers really want today, C3Centricity provides 1-Day training on many relevant topics. See more about them and download the summary brochures HERE.

When Hospitality is Not Hospitable. 5 Learnings for Every Industry

I had lunch last week with one of my ex-colleagues. We decided to try a new restaurant close to where she works. It’s only been open a month, and it shows. This hospitality outlet certainly has a lot to learn about customer centricity!

I was able to share our “adventure” with the proprietor when his manager (naively?) asked us if we had enjoyed our lunch. I don’t think she expected all the comments we made. However, she quickly called the owner over, who was extremely interested in listening. He heard our detailed description of our time there with patience and encouragement, asking lots of questions as our tale unfolded.

I therefore, thought I’d share our experiences as they are useful lessons for anyone who wants to be more customer centric. Whether you are in hospitality or not, putting the customer first makes good business sense.

 

Restaurant arrival

Welcome your customersThe restaurant is situated in a new shopping precinct and therefore still has to increase its awareness and make a name for itself. This is important, as many of the issues we had should have been sorted out during the first month since they opened.

It was a warm, sunny day and the restaurant had two attractive terraces laid out for lunch. No-one was there to greet us, so we went inside and asked to be seated. I should mention that we were relatively early and only three other tables out of the more than 40 were occupied.

The Maitre d’ showed us to a small table for two, squashed between other larger tables. When I asked if we could have another table on the edge of the terrace, my request was met with disapproval. The restaurant was not full  and they obviously didn’t expect to be on this midweek lunchtime. Only about a half of the tables were laid out for lunch. I therefore, requested again that he accommodate our desire. He grudgingly accepted, adding that we’d have to move if someone else wanted the table! Of course we would!

 

Our order

As we sat down the maitre d’ asked if we would like an aperitive. We said no, but I ordered sparkling water and my friend still water. One of the waiters quickly came back but with a liter bottle of sparkling water. Being thirsty, my friend graciously accepted to drink the sparkling water. In fact, it was poured out before she could say anything.

I hadn’t seen my friend in many months, so we had a lot to discuss and catch up on. Therefore not surprisingly we took time to choose amongst the multitude of dishes, which were all new to us. Our final choice was not facilitated by the menu being on a tablet. It was already difficult to read outdoors. In addition reviewing and deciding amongst the many dishes involved multiple clicks. We had to skip back and forwards to make our choice amongst the many different and somewhat arbitrary subgroups.

Customer choiceIf only someone had thought about their clients’ needs, the menu would have been laid out far more logically. (>>Tweet this<<) For example, the subgroups included both main and starters displayed together and were based upon ingredients.

This meant going up and down each subgroup until one had an idea of what were the choices for starter or the main dish. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, there were also daily specials listed on a separate tab!

One of the advantages of using a digital menu is that it can be changed with the click of a button. There is therefore, no reason for this complex system – unless it was designed to ensure every client saw every dish.

From our perspective, it just made for a frustrating waste of time. Lunches are generally pretty time sensitive and we only have a limited window to eat out and return to work on time.

Our meal presentation

Customer satisfaction is primeAfter the mishap over the water, we were not really surprised when the wrong main course dishes were presented to us. Or rather mine was correct but my friend’s was not what she ordered. Instead of removing the two dishes, mine was left in the sun – a salad! – while hers was sent back to the kitchen. Ten minutes later her dish arrived and again was not what she had ordered!

By this time we had finished our starters and my salad was getting warm. So my friend pointed out the mistake but again graciously accepted the dish. (I should mention that she is a lovely lady and far more forgiving than I would have been!)

 

Our bill and payment

As the meal had taken rather longer than we had planned, we were keen to leave as soon as we had finished. We asked for the bill, twice, only to be presented ten minutes later with what looked like a credit card, but no explanation. Five minutes of h and-waving finally got someone to explain what to do with it.

Customers queueing to payThey apparently have a shop associated with the restaurant and therefore encourage people to visit it before paying. Thus no bill for just the meal! The idea of offering for sale everything we had just eaten might be a good one, time will tell, but it did not facilitate our departure.

Luckily one of the more experienced waitresses offered to show us where to pay – in the shop! This was neither expected nor obvious as it is hidden from the view of those in the restaurant.

I can only imagine the joy of queueing up behind shoppers after a meal! I certainly don’t want to st and in a queue to pay; I want someone to come to my table for this.

 

Our discussion with the owner

Listen to your customersAs I previously mentioned, we were lucky enough to get the chance to share all our experiences with the owner. He was most apologetic and gave us a hefty discount.

However, what I appreciated even more, was the chance to share our experiences, to help this new restaurant to quickly improve. He is a true professional and asked many questions about what had happened, to better identify where improvements could be made.

 

Underst anding the problem

The hospitality industry is both simple and complex for customer centricity improvements. Simple because you get direct feedback from your clients through their choices and comments. Complex because it is like a show and different people have differing perspectives and preferences. That is why restaurants have menus. But they need to be laid out for ease of choice rather than for ease of cooking or stock taking.

Where every business is similar, is in the fact that the customer has expectations which must be met to satisfy, and surpassed to delight. (>> Tweet this<<) Which do you aim to do?

In the case of this restaurant, I believe the main issue came from the staff who had been hired. They were clearly inexperienced or had not had explained to them the importance of the customer. Perhaps their previous jobs were in a local bistro, which might explain their lack of attention to detail. The restaurant is perhaps in rural  surroundings but the owner is definitely highly experienced and professional. He has a long learning curve to make with his staff for them to be at his level. He’d better make it happen sooner rather than later. Customers rarely go back to a restaurant – or br and for that matter – when there is so much choice today.

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group is famously quoted as saying:

“Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business”

This is certainly true for the hospitality industry, but less so for many other businesses in my opinion. For many companies, I believe that the customer has to come first. What do you think?

 

Learnings for everyone

  1. Hospitality needs to be hospitable, but so does any customer facing business. Everyone feels self-conscious when entering into a new environment. Make it easy for them to feel at home. Welcome your customer as a good friend or even family. (>>Tweet this>>) Apple and Walmart are outst anding in this, and both Samsung and Staples announced new ways of welcoming more people into their stores.
  2. When your customers speak, listen (>>Tweet this<<). In our restaurant experience, none of the staff really listened, let alone tried to underst and our situation. Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes – literally – is a great way to better underst and them.
  3. Make it as easy as possible for your customer to choose you. (>>Tweet this<<) Are your different line extensions easy to recognise? Can your customer quickly choose between the different variants? Do you have too many br and names and sub-br and differentiators? I know of some br ands that have five to seven on one pack! Three should be the absolute maximum. Brogan & Partners wrote a great piece on sub-br anding you can read HERE.
  4. Make it as easy to pay. Once a customer has made the choice to buy what you have to offer, payment shouldn’t be a further pain point. According to a Business Intelligence report over 70% of online carts are ab andoned. While you can’t walk out of a store without paying, you can leave without buying! (>>Tweet this<<)
  5. Welcome criticism and comments as the gifts they are. (>>Tweet this<<) The only way to learn and correct your mistakes is by knowing about them! Don’t manipulate satisfaction levels to meet your objectives. Attain them by truly satisfying and delighting your customers.

These are all obvious steps to being customer centric but sometimes we get so caught up in our br and that we forget about the customer. Which of these five is your weakest point and what are you doing about it?

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