What companies get right (and wrong) with their customer experience
Tara Hunt from Truly Social shares advice on how to deliver an amazing experience that engages customers and keeps them coming back
The Rogers Business Forum had the pleasure of interviewing Tara Hunt, CEO and Partner of Truly Social Inc., a Toronto-based agency that specializes in data-driven human-centric strategies that help businesses connect with, rather than talk at, customers. Hunt has spoken at over 150 conferences and was named one of 2013's Entrepreneurial Women to Watch by Entrepreneur Magazine and one of the Most Influential Women in Technology in Fast Company.
Here is what Hunt had to say about delivering an experience that engages customers and keeps them coming back:
In recent years, what changes have you seen in how customers interact with brands?
As customers get more social, mobile and digital, they have become empowered to make demands of the brands they interact with. According to Hunt, the new generation of customers want more than a product or a service; they expect companies to deliver on-demand and provide a great, personalized experience.
"80 percent of business buyers expect real-time support."
What do customers expect from businesses?
First, they want to receive support when they need it—not just during 9-5 office hours. Salesforce recently polled 7,000 customers on their service expectations and found that “64 percent of consumers and 80 percent of business buyers expect companies to respond to and interact with them in real time.” A majority of these customers also want businesses to be "mind readers" that anticipate their needs and can solve issues without much effort.
But Hunt says that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the customer experience, as it only applies to solving service inquiries. Large swaths of customers will never reach out directly but will still expect great service. These customers often search for content that will enhance their experience or help them make a decision. If they can’t find this content easily, the brand could lose a customer and never know. As the Salesforce study states, "Customer loyalty—and attrition—is determined by every experience." That's a tough demand to keep up with.
How are companies responding to these changes in customer demands?
According to Hunt, brands that understand the growing importance of service are investing in 24/7 support across multiple channels, such as social media, chat, text, phone and in-person.
“It’s important to offer support through a variety of channels, as a growing number of people have an aversion to talking on the phone. I'm one of them,” says Hunt. “If I have the choice between reaching out through Twitter/chatbot or phoning customer service, I'll use Twitter or the chatbot. And if I have the choice between two companies—one that has a chatbot support option and one that only provides phone support—I'll go with the company that offers the chatbot.”
The aversion to phone support is based on conditioning over the years. Hunt says that she’s been left on hold for long periods of time and dealt with customer service reps who either weren’t helpful or couldn’t understand her.
According to a recent survey, just 25 percent of respondents solved their problems during the first call. Meanwhile, 19 percent of customers had to call seven or more times before they received a resolution.
Hunt believes chatbots offer faster, more efficient resolutions while providing a full record of the conversation. For introverts, chatbots are also less daunting than seeking in-person or phone support.
What are customer-centric companies doing right?
“Companies that thrive see omni-channel support, social listening, chatbots and educational content as a collective marketing move, not a cost centre,” says Hunt. “The difference between a bad and great experience could mean significant numbers of referrals.”
Studies have also confirmed that word-of-mouth is a powerful form of advertising. According to a Nielsen Harris Poll survey, 82 percent of consumers seek recommendations from friends and family before they make a purchase. With the proliferation of social media platforms and users, this number will likely rise.
What do companies get wrong when it comes the customer experience?
According to Hunt, many companies pour millions of dollars into outbound marketing and ignore their enormous inbound channels. They spend so much time worried about brand-building and awareness they forget about their most important brand channel—the customer experience.
What else should companies know about providing an amazing customer experience?
Customer expectations have changed and the competition is fierce. This makes a great customer experience a “must-have” rather than an optional "nice-to-have."
Since improving the customer experience can be a daunting task, Hunt offered a tip on how to get started.
“The first step to improving your customer experience is to invest more in listening,” says Hunt. “It seems so basic and simple, but it is the most effective way to improve your service.”
Hunt also stated that you shouldn’t just listen when customers are mentioning you. Listen as often and as deeply as possible.
“Many customers post their hopes, dreams, fears and frustrations online,” says Hunt. “They are practically jumping up and down waving their arms to get you to listen. Listening is inexpensive, effective and involves zero risk. So, it’s a great way to connect with customers.”
To learn more about how to provide an amazing customer experience, check out Three ways to make your B2B customer experience stand out.
You can also learn more about Tara Hunt and Truly Social at www.trulysocial.ca.