All things being equal (as they often are), customer experience (CX) becomes the great differentiator in a crowded marketplace. In addition to reducing churn, happy customers go on to become vocal champions and brand advocates. This advocacy results in a serious amplification of the brand message: consumers are 3X as likely to consider the voice of another consumer as authentic and valuable.
But how do happy customers happen?
Brands are pouring trillions of dollars into advanced technologies like AI and digital tech that reduce friction and save time. This is great news, as busy consumers want self-service options and intuitive interfaces, but fans and brand advocates are not won over by intelligent algorithms and elegant UX alone. And who does that technology serve—the customer or the company?
In the end, these technologies work best when they facilitate what is at the heart of customer experience, meaningful and effective human-to-human connections.
The human touch
Customers want a personal, human experience. The hearts and minds of consumers are not won only by a great product that solves their problems, but in how the problems are solved: in a way that really surprises and delights. This usually involves an innovation or tool that simplifies things, but it also very often intersects with meaningful engagement. This might occur online, in social media, on chat, over the phone, or in person. However it happens, this creates a sense that you’ve just met and made a cool new friend.
Great CX boils down to a very simple, human dynamic:
“I like you. I know who you are.”
“You like me. You understand me.”
“Our exchange is mutually beneficial!”
We know each other, we like each other, we help each other.
Otherwise, why do business?
This logic is at the heart of all successful CX. Brands who grow an organic audience that follows and loves them have mastered it. They know who they are, they know who their customer is. This relationship, a mutual trust, is at the heart of all they do. Other things will change, but this remains constant. This foundation enables them to provide great value, and to adapt to changing conditions without ever losing touch with what really matters.
They listen carefully and give their customers a voice. They understand that the problem of one vocal customer is always a bigger problem. Generally speaking, if one person has an issue, they are probably not alone. This is why the common response, “We’ve never heard this before,” doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened. Perhaps it truly is an anomaly, but statistically, that's pretty rare.
While big companies might struggle with the sheer scale of personalization, smaller companies are uniquely positioned to do things that can cultivate a strong audience base. They are able to easily take advantage of the advice: “Do things that don’t scale.”
It’s these small, personal human things that can’t be discretely measured. Brand interactions that don’t deliver a hard ROI actually create a brand identity/voice that will win over a solid base of supporters. Although traditional metrics can’t support these tactics, they are eventually affirmed in customer testimonials, social shares, referrals, and repeat business.
How can you begin to grow (and own) your audience while delighting your customers and turning them into loyal fans?
Talk to your customers
It’s amazing how many companies seem to go out of their way to avoid talking to their customers, even using tech that’s designed to facilitate communication to avoid it. The art of conversation has perhaps gotten a bit lost in the last decade of text-heavy interfaces, visual media and asynchronous communication, which allows us to heavily edit and censor our thoughts. In contrast, IRL communication, face-to-face or over the phone encourages spontaneity and forces us to be more real, more human.
What do your customers care about? What problems do they face? Who are they? Your customers are willing to share, they want to tell you, just talk to them!
Empower your customers
A customer who is empowered to solve their own problem thanks to you will never, ever forget it. The drive for self-sufficiency and agency is one of the strongest human instincts and giving customers options and tools to create their own solutions will eliminate frustrations in addition to easing the strain on your organizational resources.
Respect your customers
Respect is integral to “we know each other, we like each other, we help each other.” However, when it is time-consuming, frustrating, and ultimately non-productive to reach out to a company, the respect just isn’t there. It might not be intentional, but it definitely feels like it when you’re on the receiving end.
What does it mean to respect your customer?
- Value their time (make it easy for them to solve their problems and get help)
- Get to know them (Listen and watch)
- Be honest (we screwed up; we can’t do this)
Just following the last three principles is enough to set any company high above the rest, as in practice most businesses do not follow these standards.
It really all boils down to culture: a true culture of transparency, honesty, and communication will foster this kind of attitude towards customers.
Empowering employees to solve problems and make decisions on the front line implies trust and makes it easy for them to make magic for customers.
Another simple equation that solves for CX might be:
Happy employees = Happy customers
Making it easy to talk to one another and solve problems is often just as simple as picking up the phone.
Let’s just talk!