The keys to any successful business are offering a service people need, at a price they are willing to pay and keeping customers happy. The first two can be challenging enough, but keeping customers happy is as tricky as it is essential. New research from the CMO Council shows some of the ways business owners are displeasing their customers without knowing it.
In a recent study titled "The Customer in Context", the CMO Council surveyed consumers in North America and Europe to see what their expectations are for customer service. The study also revealed how strongly consumers feel about these expectations being met.
Though it should come as little surprise, brand loyalty is not infinite. According to the CMO Council, nearly half (47 percent) of consumers will abandon a brand and take their money elsewhere if they continuously encounter a poor, impersonal or frustrating customer experience across channels of engagement. So unless a business is fine with half of their clientele leaving, maintaining a good customer experience is necessary.
The study reveals that consumers' expectations for a good customer experience are evolving along with technology. The first cash registers with electronic scanners came into supermarkets in 1974, and now, you won't find a major supermarket without one. Similarly, online shopping, social media marketing and digital channels for customers service may be relatively new, but businesses that forsake them do so at their own peril.
When the CMO Council asked consumers to outline the key aspects of an exceptional customer experience, 52 percent expected fast response times to needs, suggestions or issues, and 47 percent wanted knowledgeable staff ready to assist wherever and whenever needed. These desires will usually require technical solutions, such as a website with an information database for employees to lookup answers to any question quickly.
Though cited less often than the response times and fast information, consumers still considered shopping technology, like always-on assisted service (8 percent) and brand-developed social communities to connect consumers with other fans (9 percent) as part of a positive customer journey.
Most business owners know it's not wise to anger or upset customers, but it's easier to do than some would think. The CMO Council study asked consumers what frustrated them during a shopping experience and some of the answers were surprising. To start with the obvious, the most common frustration among consumers engaging with brands were price increases on products while failing to see added value or improvements to the products in question.
Pricing concerns are common everywhere, but it may surprise business owners that the second most common frustration (36 percent of respondents) is when consumers feel they are not treated like the loyal customers they are. This makes rewards programs for loyal customers or social media fans even more important than ever. These simple programs can boost sales and keep customers happy.
It's important to remember that unhappy customers won't always tell business owners. If they already feel that the business doesn't care about them, why would they waste the time to contact them?
This is supported by the study, while just one in three (32 percent) consumers would email the company to complain and a nearly equal portion (29 percent) would tell all family and friends. And the overwhelming reaction to frustration was to abandon the brand and spend their money elsewhere, and if they tell family and friends, these people may spend their money elsewhere too.
Finding a balance of providing good, personal customer service in the digital age without being overbearing can be challenging. But it's important for business owners to develop an understanding of their customers and learn when and how they want to be rewarded.
For more recent research about how to provide a personalized experience for consumers, read this article on how personalization benefits email marketing.