The business world has been through an enormous change over the last 10 years with regards to customer service and what a customer expects from its suppliers. At a time when we are spoilt for choice in terms of the selection of organisations that can provide the same or similar services, it’s now more important than ever to focus on the small gains where suppliers can add value to win and retain business.
We have all seen examples of firms who have lost their way from being stuck in the past, who have not predicted the pace of digital change and the changing appetite of customers. But are we now finding ourselves in a situation where too many businesses are getting ‘stuck in the present’? They deliver a product or a service well, but is that good enough anymore?
The mindset of a customer is now generally more forward-thinking. Digital transformation and the era of big (and little) data means that your customers are becoming more adept at managing the present themselves. We can communicate far wider than we have ever done before. Our customers expect many different touch points with their suppliers, such as personal contact, social media, video, web, email and chat. They will communicate with each other and share experiences, knowledge and feedback. As suppliers, we need to focus on how we deliver those services and support messages by finding the channels and methods of delivery that work for our customers and that ensure a consistent customer experience that reflects the supplier brand and messages.
Suppliers need to be more open to data analytics and market research. Talking to customers, learning their workings and understanding their trends allows the supplier to start pre-empting a customer’s future needs and allows them to deliver higher levels of customer service and trust to help both parties plan for and avoid the future problems and changes in the market.
RWA’s own approach is to focus our time on planning ahead for the future. Future thinking can take a number of forms, such as horizon scanning, data analysis and research and development; often this means advising our clients on solutions that are not yet needed in the present, but which we know our customers will need in the short to long term future. Our people understand our customers and as such our support is becoming more and more customer centric, individualised and aligned with a greater perception of value.
Collecting reams of data and increasing levels of analysis will not deliver better customer service outcomes on its own. Where the more successful organisations are beginning to make a real difference is in the areas of customer engagement. Firms that have a greater customer focus and who have individuals that exist to drive customer experience and advocacy will see a more long-term sustainable business model begin to develop; one that is focused on customer behaviours and future requirements.
It is no secret that the more someone is engaged with your business the more they will spend on your products and services – for a longer period of time too. Customers can be lost for many reasons, but the real heartache is when a customer is lost, and you do not know why. This suggests that the customer has not valued the relationship and has already found their future elsewhere. By then it is too late.
Next time you sit down with a supplier ask them the question, “Tell me something that I don’t already know,” and see what their response is. You will know very quickly if they have your best long term interests at heart.