Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Brands that fail to think about and act on customer service and customer experience in today’s competitive market will lose out to someone who is doing so. That said, there’s a difference between the two: while customer service relates to an action and is more transactional, customer experience is about the emotion created every time a consumer interacts with a brand; which makes customer service just one element of the entire customer experience.

Like any other part of the business strategy, great customer experiences are not incidental, they are planned for and executed. Designing customer experiences requires a thorough understanding of customers and what is important to them. This is where big data, if mined correctly, proves hugely valuable by predicting and personalising customer experiences with creative and innovative execution on insights.

There are three crucial factors to consider when designing compelling customer experiences – golden rules, if you will. The first is consistency. Great experiences must be seamless, from start to finish. Remember, it only works if it works every time. Second, eat your own lunch. Make sure that you know what it’s like to do business with your own organisation. Without real first-person insight, you cannot create meaningful customer experiences. And finally, never be happy with the status quo. There is always a better way, find it!

While every organisation’s golden rules may differ, there are certain essential common elements to creating memorable customer experiences. For example, the business’s vision and purpose must be clearly articulated to the team, and where customer experience fits into this must be defined. Once the big picture is clear, develop an end-to-end customer journey map with relevant enablers such as customer relationship management interfaces and loyalty programmes.

The big take-out

Customer experience is the one thing that will create an emotional connection between brand and consumer, which is why putting customers at the forefront of every decision is so vital.

Metrics and measures should be clarified, as well as how ongoing client research will be conducted, closing the loop to individual performance measures.

Finally, ensure that staff recruitment and development initiatives line up with the client experiences you hope to deliver. Consideration needs to be given to the people employed, new staff inductions, how staff engagement is sustained and how performance is managed. Everything – both internal and external – must align with the planned client experience. Ultimately, the best way to ensure success is to assign accountability for the outcome of measures and metrics to specific individuals or departments.

It’s not necessary to have a big budget and specialist teams to ensure great customer experiences. It has very little to do with money spent and everything to do with mindset and organisational culture. It’s about putting the customer first and hiring the right staff, as well as creating a hundred small ongoing initiatives that ensure the customer is at the centre of all decisions, and not just one big thing. 

Neglecting to engage with customers will have a direct long-term impact on your bottom line.

Nathalie Schooling is the CEO of nlighten