10 Ways Customers are Driving Change in Your Business

team meeting to map customer journey on a whiteboard

Whether you recognise it, or not, your customers are driving change within your organisation in so many more ways than they were, even a few years ago. This is industry-wide and can mean the difference between companies who just survive the next few years, or those that thrive ahead of their competitors.

Here are just a few ways in which your customers are changing the way you are doing business. And if you’re not already, you might need to rethink sooner rather than later.

1. They are no longer listening. They are talking, texting, commenting, liking and reviewing.

Brands used to talk ‘at’ customers through traditional media and advertising channels, and customers chose to listen, or not. This has now been completely flipped on its head and customers are the proactive ones. They don’t wait around for a sales-focussed advertising campaign to catch their eyes; they are online and gathering information from their peers who have greater influence over their buying decisions than anything else.

92% of consumers around the world say that they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising.” ~Nielsen

2. They decide which channel to engage with you on.

Where brands used to be almost unattainable to customers, they now need to be open and available on more channels than ever before. Website, contact centre, Facebook chat, Twitter, SMS and live chat are all becoming the normal range of channels for customer interaction – and this list is only set to rise.

“In the UK, people spend more time on technology each day than they do sleeping.” ~Ofcom

3. They don’t (only) trust what you tell them.

Thanks to the Internet, customers are more empowered than ever before. They research, check out the competition and ask their online and offline communities for advice and reviews before even stepping foot inside your store or visiting your website. No longer can customers be confused with technical or sales jargon – if they don’t understand something, or they don’t believe you, they will find out for themselves from a trusted source. This is true for B2B as well as B2C customers.

“Today’s business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57 per cent of the purchase process is complete.” ~ Think with Google

4. Customer experience is everything.

Think having a great product or service is the only thing you need to worry about? Wrong! The product or service you are offering is, of course, vital; quality and value are still important factors for customers. But what will truly differentiate you from your competitor is the whole experience the customer receives when they choose to buy from you. Mapping your customer’s journey, providing meaningful engagement with them and being there for support when (and how) they need it is becoming even more important.

“70 per cent of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.” ~McKinsey

5. They don’t like your internal silos.

Customers don’t care how your business is structured internally; they want their experience to be seamless and consistent, no matter how they interact with you, and you need to make that happen.

Contact centre staff can’t see live inventory levels? Your in-store employees are unhelpful but your Facebook page promotes a fun image? These inconsistencies are no longer acceptable in today’s consumer-driven environment.

“GE Healthcare found ways to transcend internal silos in the interest of customer needs. Between 2000 and 2005, Best Buy’s stock price grew at an annual rate of almost 30%.” ~Harvard Business Review

6. They want to feel extra special.

Customers have become desensitised to the usual marketing gimmicks and sales tactics; they want to feel special and have meaningful and useful content from your brand. They want their preferences remembered, their shipping details recorded, special offers at the right time and customised interactions with your representatives; they don’t want to feel like another number on your customer database.

“By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.” ~Customers 2020 Report

7. They expect you to be open and available at all times.

While traditional brick and mortar shops can still get away with regular closing hours, if you plan on taking advantage of the online retail boom, then your support and service needs to be available at all times too. Customers needing help with their purchase, or those wanting to check on a delivery status expect to have their query answered pretty quickly. If you can’t respond, your competitor just might.

“When purchasing online, 71 per cent of visitors expect help within five minutes.” ~Fonolo

8. They want your customer service representatives to have more power.

There’s nothing more frustrating than having to repeat your problem to numerous customer service agents, only to be told that their supervisor is the only one that can authorise refunds or resolve your problem. Empower your frontline customer service agents with the skills and capabilities needed to resolve common customer issues. A tiered approach can work well here where the junior agents are given a limit up to a certain amount before having to involve a more senior person.

“Customers are increasingly frustrated with the level of services they experience: 91 per cent because they have to contact a company multiple times for the same reason, and 89 per cent by having to repeat their issue to multiple representatives.” ~Accenture

9. Your customer service is no longer private.

How well (or not) you handle your customers’ issues is now in the public domain for everyone to witness. Where your customer service number used to offer a 1:1 channel where complaints could be handled privately and quietly, customers can now take to any channel of their choice to voice their dissatisfaction with your product, service or brand. Even more concerning, they might use channels you don’t have visibility of, such as forums and online consumer communities.

Of course, the flip side of this behaviour is that when customers say great things about your company, it’s there for everyone else to see and provides extra leverage for engagement that previously did not exist.

“A typical business only hears from 4 per cent of its dissatisfied customers. The remaining 96 per cent air their dissatisfaction though other channels.” ~HelpScout

10. They want you to show that you learn from mistakes.

Empowered customers aren’t necessarily unforgiving ones. Everyone makes mistakes, even big brands. It’s how you handle those perceived mistakes in the public domain that matters to customers. And it’s how you take steps to prevent them from happening again that will keep customers coming back.

“Up to 95 per cent of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their complaint successfully and in a timely manner.” ~Jim Moran Institute

So if these insights have given you some food for thought on how your company needs to adapt to the changing times, but you’re not sure how to make customer engagement a top priority, contact the Astute Solutions team. Our range of customer interaction and engagement tools takes the hard work out of creating consistent and positive brand interactions and allows your frontline customer service staff to deliver those experiences that customers are now expecting.