Looking at the Customer Journey and Deeper Customer-Centric Thinking
We trade our best products and services to lure customers to do business with us. They get great products, and in exchange, we get their hard-earned cash. But when should we consider a customer, a customer? And when should we start managing their perception of our business? Where does the customer experience come into play?
Traditionally, we would consider someone who has purchased our products as a customer. If someone is browsing or still considering a purchase, that would fall under marketing and sales. In terms of customer relationship management, we would provide customer support. Customer support is for people who brought our products and found a problem which needs additional services. As a business, we provide a set of practices and procedures that assist customers after a sale.
Customer support could be for technical issues, questions about quality, help with usability, etc. It plays a big role in keeping customers satisfied with their purchases and increases their likelihood of returning. For example, let us say a customer finds an issue with the product, such as a computer not turning on. The customer has tried everything they could, and the computer is still not working. The Harvard Business Review found that 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative. After their efforts fail, the customer has many channels, including in-person, phone, email, live chat, and social media, to reach out to the business for support.
Taking On Customer Service
Does our relationship with our customers start and end at customer support then? A lot is going on, from someone becoming interested in a product to buying it and then using it. Many businesses include all direct one-on-one interaction between a customer making a purchase and a representative of the business as part of the customer relationship. This is called customer service. The idea of optimizing customer service is meant to help improve the interactions between a business and its customers, which is inclusive of customer support.
The provider of customer service is not just the customer support team within a business then. It starts with our marketers who make known to the customer that there are products and services available. Then, there is the sales team, who provides information, sells, and receives the orders. Lastly, the customer support agents provide after-sales support and services.
Customer service is more of a mission and training of employees to ensure they are customer-centric and not business-centric while dealing with customers. Any interactions between a business and its customers are an opportunity for the business to provide the best service it can. It could be things like remembering to greet the customer or double-checking if there is anything they missed.
Total Customer Satisfaction Thinking
Going beyond customer service, if we take the total of a customer’s perceptions and feelings resulting from interactions with a business’s products or services, we get the idea of customer experience (CX). Customer experience considers the lifetime relationship with customers and the business starting from before the purchase, usage, and beyond.
Some businesses take customer-centric thinking to new highs. Customer experience is not just one-on-one interaction but all interactions a business may have with a customer. Take the example of product packaging. Customer experience engineers would include optimizing how the customer holds the packaging at the store, how they interact with the packaging while opening it, and what they do with it afterward. For something like customer support, it would include planning how the customer locates customer support, their ease of contacting a representative, and how long they wait for replies.
Customer experience management (CEM) is the business trying to plan out and optimize all feelings and emotions a customer may have during any interaction they have with the business to be positive ones. Whether indirectly or directly, almost everyone in a company contributes to the customer experience. Sales and customer support have direct interactions with customers. Marketers, product designers, and logistics teams have more indirect roles.
The focus of customer experience optimization is to meet and exceed customer expectations. By providing excellent experiences, customers are more likely to be satisfied and loyal, thus increasing their lifetime value to the business. Many businesses use the customer experience they provide as a competitive advantage. Taking care of their customers ultimately helps businesses lure customers from their competitors. Brand loyalty is gained, and the customer experience-related activities become a long-term profit center.
Mapping the Journey To Excellent Customer Experiences
Getting a view of all customer interactions with a business starts with customer journey mapping. A customer journey map depicts customers’ stages when interacting with a business. From this map, everyone in the company can see where they fit, what customer experiences they are responsible for, and how they connect to those before and after them. The 360-degree view can help businesses see where their customer experience management excels, pinpoint weak areas, and locate gaps.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, for example Salesforce and HubSpot, have a portfolio of products that help businesses manage their customers from marketing, sales, and customer support. These CRMs are designed to help a business manage their customers throughout their customer journey.
Show Your Work For The Best Grades
Through continual measurement and improvement of the customer experience, some businesses have become famous for how they treat customers. Take, for example, Costco. They provide an amazing shopping experience with hand-picked items at great prices. While shopping there, you find food sampling and ultra-wide aisles. In terms of customer services, they are well known for their return policy and provide members with access to additional services like eye care, travel, car maintenance, insurance, and more.
On the tech side, we have businesses like Apple, Amazon, and Zappos defining what incredible customer experiences are like. Apple is obsessed that every product is designed with the customer in mind. For Amazon, their ease of ordering, fast delivery service, and relaxed return policy keeps customers hooked. As for Zappos, they pride themselves on being “powered by service” with a team rightly named Customer Loyalty Team (CLT), who keeps their customers happy and proud to do business with them. They earn their customers’ devotion by having their phone number on every page of their website, unlimited call times, and extra friendly representatives who talk to customers not from a script but like real people.
A Bigger View Of The Future
The businesses above stand out from others based on their commitment to their customers. They provide not only customer service and customer support but also look at the whole customer experience. In each instance where a customer interacts with a business, they find opportunities for greatness. Besides satisfying an obligation by providing a satisfactory product, they make sure the customers are happy and willing to come back over and over again.
Here at Viewabo, our visual support software helps businesses see and solve problems for customers. At any point in the customer journey where a business representative can not be physically present, Viewabo can offer remote visual support. Contact us to find out more.