Competitiveness in business is an elusive quality. Particularly given how fast the world changes. Not too long ago, your business may well have been able to gain and retain a good share of the available customers in your market simply by competing on price. But shrinking wallets and minimal profit margins have put paid to that advantage.
Then came the service edge, which saw companies with a focus on wowing their customers gaining the upper hand. However since, by definition, a differentiator has to be something you do ‘differently’ from your competitors, the greater the number of organisations that became aware of the need to deliver great service, the less doing so actually afforded them a winning edge.
So with price and competitive service out of the running, just how do you keep your business ahead of the pack by ensuring you win new customers and keep the old ones?
Making things easier
Increasingly, global businesses seem to think the answer lies in making sure it is as easy as possible for customers to do business with you. So serious are these businesses about this new customer retention paradigm, that many have replaced traditional customer satisfaction measurement with customer effort measures and indicators.
While throwing our price and service competitiveness is probably a somewhat over-zealous reaction to the growing challenge of winning and retaining customers, the concept of reducing the effort customers have to put in when they want to do business with you is definitely a sound one. And it’s not particularly difficult to achieve, provided you follow five basic rules:
- Search and destroy. It’s never going to be any easier for people to do business with you if you take a purely reactive approach. So, while it’s vital that you resolve all customer issues brought to your attention, you also need to proactively identify potential stumbling blocks to customer convenience.
- Act practically, but think emotionally. Ease of dealing with your business is about more than just the physical act of shopping or transacting. Customers are highly emotive, and if they get the sense that it isn’t going to be easy to do business with you, there’s a good chance you’ll never get the opportunity to prove them wrong. Be sure that the language used in your company – from your marketing material to the words used by your frontline staff – is positive, empowering and accessible. Ban negativity (whether real or perceived) today.
- Open all the channels. It’s important to try and ensure that your customers can do business with you in whatever way they prefer. But while having every possible service channel available is good, operating any of them in a sub-optimal way is not. So if, for example, you offer the option to deal with your business electronically, your customers should never have to pick up the phone halfway through the process.
- Embrace feedback. Learn to love customer complaints. Make it extremely easy for your customers to let off steam when they are unhappy. Then act on the feedback and let them know you have. You’ll be surprised how much an unhappy customer can teach you about the best ways to make other customers much happier.
- Empower your people. Arguably the most frustrating customer experience is having to deal with an employer who can’t do anything. On the other hand, if your customer-facing employees are empowered to make decisions, provide answers and act decisively, your customers will love dealing with them, and want to keep doing business with you.
While it would be unwise to replace your commitment to customer service entirely with a focus on customer convenience, following these basic rules and incorporating an effort measurement into your customer satisfaction mix could just be the magic ingredient that puts your business back in front of the competition. Just be sure to act quickly, because it’s only a matter of time before everyone is doing it!