Satisfaction is… exceeding expectations

Brands can protect their reputation by ensuring consumer experience matches expectations. New research shows which sectors are getting it right – and which have harsh lessons to learn.

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Aaron Chatterley,Marketing director, Feelunique.com

Online businesses cannot afford to give customers anything but a positive brand experience because word-of-mouth recommendation is the strongest form of marketing. It’s imperative that the service matches the customer expectation.

There should be little difference between in-store and online customer service experiences – good customer service starts with recognising the needs of the individual and offering them a personable “human” service.

You need to use customer insight to offer people a better service, whether that’s product recommendations or special offers. We find that people will try out samples of products offline and then shop online because they feel it’s more convenient, it’s better value for money and it’s away from the stress of the high street.

Online consumer spend is at its highest ever level, so as long as the customer experience is positive – and security is placed at the forefront of service – there should be little reason why this growth won’t continue.

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Joanna Elliott,head of brand marketing, Sage

Customer service is fundamental to brand perception. Proving you have the knowledge and expertise to support customers at every touchpoint is vital in maximising their experience. It will ultimately help foster longstanding and valuable relationships. Brands that ignore customer service are saying: “Once we have your money, we don’t care about you.”

The secret to customer service lies in improving intimacy and cultivating a highly personalised service that meets the needs of individual customers. Adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to free up time or resources has the potential to completely devalue a brand.

Consumers want personal contact and the reassurance that their needs will be met quickly and efficiently. Failing to match expectations on the phone, in person, online and through social media conversations can cause customers to feel dissatisfied and will eventually dilute brand loyalty.

Social media has increased the number of channels through which a brand can interact with customers; this provides new and innovative ways to tap into the customer psyche and respond to queries in real-time. 

Customer service remains essential for all brands. Those that ignore it might as well push their competitors’ offerings.

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James Farnham,managing consultant, Central Office of Information

In public sector marketing, the challenge of how to achieve customer satisfaction and how to measure it is quite different from the private sector. In public health, for example, the aim is often to persuade people to give up things they enjoy doing, such as binge drinking or eating unhealthy foods.

Some commentators suggest that measuring consumer satisfaction levels in these areas is irrelevant because people will never be “satisfied” in the same way that they might be with a new appliance or retail offer.

But COI believes customer satisfaction monitoring is just as important in the public sector, particularly to measure levels of satisfaction with service delivery from job centres or the ease of reporting crime.

 Monitoring customer satisfaction is especially powerful in health interventions because it can identify “opportunity windows” for other relevant interventions. For example, 70% of smokers want to quit and the majority will make more than ten attempts to give up smoking before they eventually succeed. Yet once smokers finally kick the habit, there is evidence that they feel empowered to address other health behaviours and feel they have newfound “self-efficacy” to tackle issues such as obesity and levels of alcohol consumption.

Paul Berney,

European managing director, Mobile Marketing Association

It’s absolutely crucial that brands are fully aware of their customer’s levels of satisfaction and to do so, they need a variety of channels to help them. Twitter and social networking forums, as well as more traditional CRM and face to face in-store methods are all good ways in which brands are able to monitor consumer satisfaction. But the mobile device is also emerging as a key channel for customer feedback – its instant, real-time feedback capability creating far more traction amongst consumers. A recent survey by Touchwork for example, demonstrated that consumers are far more likely to respond to satisfaction surveys via text than by email or post. Mobile truly offers brands an opportunity to build a relationship with their customer and to ask for direct feedback on a product or service via SMS. For a brand, the ability for it to use information gained from customer interactions is extremely valuable. For example, National Express offers a service, provided by MMA member Rapide Communications, which enables their train and coach customers to inform them of on-board problems such as heating or lighting not working simply via sending an SMS to a shortcode. Drivers can then straight away try to rectify the problem. A service such as this can help a company save time, improve the customer experience and even cut back on overheads. The personalization that mobile offers is also a key element to establishing a relationship based on engagement with the consumer – tailoring communications to the individual and ensuring that they receive only messages based on relevance and value. Measures such as these, along with the commitment to limiting mobile messaging campaigns to a reasonable number and not sharing consumer information with non-affiliated third-parties, will protect consumer privacy and ensure the efficacy and ROI that the mobile channel provides.

Top tips

1 Deploy appropriate tools

Avoid automated services that frustrate customers. Look for tools that help control costs and enhance the customer experience.

2 Empower your agents

First-call resolution is a vital issue. Your customer service agents should be empowered to solve customer problems. While this may mean shifting resource allocations within departments, early intervention will accrue benefits across the business.

3 Be transparent

Organisations must explain how they intend to use customer information. Consumers will be more trusting if they are reassured about how their data is used. Trust will take time to build – transaction by transaction – but can be destroyed with one poor experience.

4 Build a single view of the person

Use analytics to develop empathetic insight and build understanding of each customer. Treat them like an individual.

5 Provide channel choice

Individuals require a channel suitable for them at a specific time. Forcing them down one route – telephone, online etc – because of cost will only result in frustration. Each channel needs to be complementary, while the underlying customer experience needs to be consistent.

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