In 2013, an Ipsos study projected that in 2020 customer experience would overtake price and product as the primary competitive advantage. Well here we are and that prediction has proven to be quite accurate.
In fact, a 2018 report by PwC (based on 15,000 global respondents) found that 73% of consumers say a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties; 60% would stop doing business with a company if they experienced unfriendly service; 32% would walk away from a brand they “LOVE” after just one bad experience.
So, yeah… customer experience should definitely be a priority and establishing a solid customer experience strategy is a great way to kick off the New Year.
When developing a CX Strategy, it’s wise to make informed decisions based on fact and data-driven insights. Luckily you have both of these in endless supply within the hearts and minds of your customers. Even better news… they can’t wait to hand it all over when given the chance.
Yep, you guessed it, the name of the game is customer feedback and I’m here to wipe the dust off this longstanding – often misunderstood – brand development asset.
Let’s start by taking a few steps back to look past our preconceived notions about customer feedback and revisit the foundational element – feedback.
According to Google, feedback is “information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.” From an objective, literal standpoint, the purpose of feedback is to aid improvement. Contrary to popular belief, it is not solely a channel for complaints, whining and/or trash-talking. While at times it may feel that way, the underlying truth is that customer feedback is meant to facilitate progress and growth. This is important to remember when considering how customer feedback fits into your overall brand development strategy because too often it is held in a negative light which casts shadows over all its potential and positive results.
Many of us already believe in the power and value of customer feedback, others are on the fence and some need convincing. Regardless of where you currently stand it’s beneficial to review some of the wide-reaching benefits of customer feedback. So here we go…
- Maintain and strengthen relationships
A common mistake is to perceive customer feedback as a one-way channel where a brand opens itself up to criticism and gets nothing but bad news and hurt feelings. While those things may happen, there’s an often overlooked aspect of customer feedback that benefits the brand every single time; relevance. Brands want to stay relevant within the minds of consumers, but consumers don’t want to be overwhelmed by branded marketing content or follow-up sales communication.
By asking customers for their input, a brand engages customers in a way that offers THEM an opportunity to interact with the brand without attaching strings of underhanded sales tactics. Finding ways to communicate with customers without the standard sales or marketing angle is a refreshing way to stay relevant and top-of-mind.
- Make customers feel involved with your brand and show you value their opinion
Personalization is a key component of appealing to modern consumers and personalization depends on knowing the individual. If a brand say it offers personalized experiences yet customers have no voice regarding their experiences then a clear disconnect exists between brand messaging and brand practice.
The first step toward offering personalized customer experiences is finding out what the individual customers want. Beyond that, asking customers for their feedback helps them feel involved with brand development. Inclusion is a powerful and effective way to foster loyalty because customers will feel personally invested in the brand and more than just a customer.
- Uncover customer experience blind-spots and new areas for improvement
Intended brand perception and actual brand perception need to be approached as two separate realities. Where marketing messages communicate the intended perception on behalf of the brand, the actual perception is based on the opinions and experiences of the customer. When both of these perceptions align, there is brand harmony and life is good. When these perceptions are not aligned, then something is happening outside the brand’s perspective and the quickest way to address the misalignment is to have the issues pointed out.
Regularly gathering and analyzing customer feedback will shine a light on existing blind-spots and highlight areas in need of improvement that are currently flying under the radar. Individual customers are much more attentive and attuned to the subtle nuances of their experience because they’re hyper focused on their own. The brand itself is considering the experiences of the entire customer base, so there will invariably be missed opportunities. By maintaining open communication with customers, brands will have the chance to quickly identify and address their blind-spot issues.
- Add detail to your customer journey map
If you don’t already have a customer journey map, that is something to consider as a short-term objective. Physically mapping out your customer’s path-to-purchase will not only be enlightening from a sales and marketing standpoint, it will provide a central framework that all departments can use as a point of reference for planning and benchmarking progress. Starting with a blank slate, customer feedback will provide the details needed to establish the most common ways customers interact with your brand. Then, by mapping out what is currently being done from a marketing standpoint, you’ll see the gaps in communication and bolster marketing strategies to fill those gaps.
For those who do have a customer journey map, whether established or in progress, direct feedback can help refine the touchpoints and confirm-or-deny any presumptions made about the most impactful engagement channels. Your customers are likely interacting with your brand in ways you haven’t considered and identifying these touchpoints will provide new opportunities to strengthen customer relationships and extend the reach of marketing content.
- Product and service development
It’s easy to slip into the world of presumptions and opinions without realizing. We all do it; especially when we’re immersed in a particular environment for a long time. A reminder of this for me is when I chat with my two young daughters and realize how quickly their world changes. From the shows they watch to their school lunch preferences, if I don’t keep my eyes and ears open I easily find myself acting on outdated information. I make choices presuming I know what they want based on what I remember they wanted in the past. Luckily in these situations I can easily change the channel or the lunch menu, but for my business it’s a much bigger deal.
The modern consumer market changes rapidly, as do trends and preferences. Taking an agile approach to product and service development is certainly a competitive advantage, however to effectively execute this approach a brand must have a firm understanding of their customers’ wants and needs at any given moment. Better yet, having an understanding of what customers will want in the future can help stay ahead of the curve and lead the way into market trends rather than reacting to changes. Regular communication with customers will ensure communication channels are open and asking the right questions will provide insight needed to stay ahead of the game.
- Supports fact-based decision making
Nobody is perfect, so the most successful brands make enough good decisions to overcome the bad ones. This is not a matter of luck or good fortune; it is the result of sound planning and strategic execution.
In the highly competitive worlds of B2C and B2B commerce, the probability of success is much higher when making decisions based on information as opposed to opinion. It’s surprisingly easy to get the two mixed up, so including customer feedback and market research as key components of brand strategy will at best validate presumptions and at worst prevent major issues due to regrettable decisions.
If you’re ready to supercharge your market research strategy and get the most out of customer feedback, give us a shout!
For the past 35 years we’ve been empowering brands to strengthen relationships with their customers leading to stellar customer experiences and increased brand loyalty.