Henry Ford knew what customers want. “Order your Model A in any color you want,” Ford is said to have declared, “as long as it’s black.”
Remember Trump Vodka? Trump Airlines? Trump Mortgage? You’re not alone. These are but a few examples of The Donald failing to understand what customers want.
“We want our music portable, on a pocket-sized device, and we don’t want to pay more than 99 cents per song,” consumers told Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Wait. What? In fact, it was Jobs who, with the invention of the iPod, told customers what they wanted even before they knew they wanted it.
Do customers know what they want or do you have to tell them? Knowing what customers want, what customers need, is a tricky business. But if you look at the research, you’ll see certain attributes common to effectively managing the customer experience no matter what business you’re in.
Studies show that customers care about 5 things in their customer service experience no matter the product or service:
Quality, Not Seconds, Count
Yes, customers don’t like having their time squandered when dealing with a problem with a product or service they purchased. But what customers really care about is a great customer service experience – even if it takes a little longer.
RightNow’s Customer Experience Impact Report (2010) demonstrates the point. 85 percent of respondents to their survey said they would pay as much as 25 percent more to ensure a superior customer service experience. Some 40 percent of consumers switched to a competitor’s product because of its reputation for great customer service. Very few people, if any, said something like, “The customer service sucked but I was taken care of quickly.”
It’s All About the Attitude
Employee attitudes are often key to giving customers what they want. A Gallup study showed that “lasting (“loyal”) relationships result from the culmination of regular contacts between customers and companies – and the net result of these ongoing interactions is an emotional connection that represents the bond between the customer and the company.”
What customers want is a great customer service experience – even if it takes a little longer or costs a little more. “The speed of an individual interaction is far less relevant than its ability to cement the emotional attachment that the customer feels to the company,” Gallup’s research shows.
What’s in Your Loyalty Program?
In their research into loyalty programs, Joseph C. Nunes and Xavier Drèze discovered what they called the Endowed Progress Effect or ‘artificial advancement.’ In short, if you give your customers a head start in your loyalty program, they will be more loyal.
The study tested two loyalty programs: one where eight stamps were needed to get a free car wash; and another where 10 stamps were needed to get a free wash BUT customers were given two free stamps toward the goal. Either way, a free car wash required eight visits but, by a margin of nearly two to one (34 percent vs. 19 percent) customers completed their cards if they got the two stamp bonus.
The other factor affecting customer loyalty is ‘status.’ It’s great to be a gold or platinum member of a loyalty program but, Nunes and Drèze discovered, it’s just as important that your ranking infer that your status is above others in the program. In other words, precious metal status is relatively meaningless unless there’s some copper or bronze bonehead beneath you.
You want customer loyalty, your customers want ease and status.
Goodwill, AKA the Wow Factor
Social psychologists sometimes refer to reciprocity: When a person is the benefactor of a small, unexpected act of kindness they often respond in kind and then some.
If your employees exceed your customer expectations with a simple, random act of kindness – a “frugal wow,” the goodwill it generates can improve your bottom line in spades. It doesn’t take much, something as simple as a can of Coca-Cola can make your customers raving fans.
Can a mint—and we’re talking breath freshener here, not the place they make coins—increase revenues by nearly 25 percent? Yes, when it demonstrates how personalized you make your customers’ experiences. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology proves the point.
Customers don’t just love a personalized customer service experience, they adore it and they will reward it with increased revenues. Hint: It’s not the mints. It’s the way they were presented to diners in the study. It’s the way this small gesture (made twice in this case) says, ‘I really care about your customer service experience.’
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