Q&A: How to understand your customers better 

Customer experience and customer service are inextricably linked, so what can organisations do to enhance both? Leigh Whiting, experience design lead at Decision Inc, provides the answers.

When we focus on understanding our customers, we can focus on delivering experiences that make them feel valued and recognised, which reduces churn, increases revenue, and ultimately leads to higher profits, says Leigh Whiting, experience design lead at Decision Inc. Customer experience and customer service are inextricably linked, so what can organisations do to enhance both?

How do you get to understand your customers’ needs?

On the service side, organisations can assimilate how best to meet the needs of their customers by embracing more advanced data analytics. This goal requires the business to move past the ‘first call resolution’ metric and truly empower customer service staff to resolve the actual problem that the customer is facing, with access to the right information at their fingertips. In many ways, customer retention comes down to understanding the needs and requirements of customers and responding to those as quickly as possible. The subscription economy means that, more than ever before, consumers have a wealth of options available to them. It is therefore imperative for companies to really listen to what it is that the customer wants, deliver on it, and differentiate the company from its competitors.

But, can customer experience be measured?

Measuring customer experience entails putting a method in place that delivers continuous feedback. Implementing metrics that are a fair measure of improved customer experience becomes critical. In this environment, reduced support requests are a better indicator of improved experience than the resolution of support items or Net Promoter Scores – something that many business leaders tend to forget. A single view of the customer that provides oversight of their entire journey is a critical enabler to achieving these insights.

How do companies obtain that ‘single customer view’?

Those companies which lack in this department have a huge impediment in their ability to ensure a positive customer experience. An aggregated view across legacy systems is the best way for companies to overcome this challenge in the short term. But the end goal should be a fully integrated omnichannel experience for customers that enriches the data available to drive hyper-personalisation. I believe that when companies leverage this single view correctly, there will be massive benefits for both the company and the customer. For instance, a customer receiving a relevant offer with a discount voucher at the right time means they feel understood and rewarded. Simultaneously the company will increase sales, loyalty, and advocacy. It is imperative that the customer journey must always be mutually beneficial to help strengthen this sense of loyalty and return. The best way to do this is by fully integrating data-driven insights into the customer experience process.

What is the definition of a sustainable customer? 

Sustainable consumers are often confused with those who care about the environment and that are eco-friendly. This is not necessarily who sustainable consumers are. From a business perspective, a sustainable consumer holds brands accountable across multiple practices. For example, to respect human rights and ethical workplace practices. Sustainable consumers are vital as they support brands which are open about their values, and this encourages brands to operate sustainably. The organisation, in turn, can also encourage its customers to consume sustainably by simply switching from printed receipts to emailing them. I think that even if we look at multiple factors that have impacted the supply chain in the last two years: from COVID-19; the container ship stuck in the Suez Canal; or more recently, the Ukrainian war, we can see that we do not have ready access to as many resources like we had previously. This lack of resources means that companies should reconsider the opulence that consumers previously had. They need to re-evaluate what sustainability means, not only from an environmental perspective, but holistically. Plans should be implemented to sparingly use materials available until supply chain issues are resolved.

Explain what the customer-centric view means to you?

The ‘customer first’ is a method for companies to make sure that the customer is at the heart of every decision a company makes, more than products or internal business structures. This customer-centric view is achieved by proactively seeking ways to deliver a positive experience, and consistently design and deliver with the customer in mind. Contrary to popular opinion, I personally do not think that the customer always comes first. While this might seem in stark contrast to the focus on customer centricity, customers must also be held accountable for their actions, interactions, and behaviours. From a business perspective, the company must seriously consider whether aligning itself with a customer who is in direct conflict with its own values will be in its long-term best interests. I am not saying that a ‘customer first’ lens of always listening and responding to their needs should be discarded. Instead, I believe that this level of customer care makes people feel valued, which results in loyalty to a company. It also means that a journey is designed with the customer in mind, meaning that their overall experience is positive. However, I do believe that there are needs to be balanced and that it is okay to part ways with customers who are not part of the mutually beneficial journey.



Main image credit: Unsplash.


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