It’s never too late to lock down those New Year’s Resolutions that will help guide your customer experience strategy throughout the year. And with 2020 finally in the rear-view mirror, it’s a great time to take the learnings from last year and integrate them into this year’s priorities.
While the global pandemic was incredibly difficult on individuals and companies alike, it did have one major positive: a much-needed focus on customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX). Expectations have never been higher, as both customers and employees looked at how companies treated them during times of crisis, and re-evaluated which ones to continue giving their loyalty. As the world slowly returns to normalcy, companies will feel the after-effects of their decisions and behaviors during the pandemic.
It is with this lens that we look at 5 New Year’s Resolutions that every company should commit to in 2021:
RESOLUTION #1: LISTEN AND RESPOND TO ALL CUSTOMERS
If you take the time to listen to your customers, you will be amazed at what you can learn. By paying attention to what people are saying on social media, in online reviews, in chat transcripts, and in customer service phone calls, you'll learn what you are doing well (and then do more of it!) and also what you need to do better. You may even discover a new product or service idea, like phone case manufacturer OtterBox did when it noticed people talking on social media about bringing their phones into the shower to listen to music. The company subsequently developed its first waterproof case to address that customer need.
Today’s customers want to have a relationship with companies, but that relationship must go both ways. Customers want to feel that they are being heard, even if you can’t resolve their issue or satisfy their request every single time. Listen, engage, and respond – every time.
RESOLUTION #2: FIX CUSTOMER PAIN POINTS
According to Harvard Business Review, the number-one most important factor in a customer’s loyalty is reducing customer effort. But as Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge so aptly pointed out a few years ago, “everything is too complicated.” It’s still true today.
Think about how you can make your customers’ lives easier every day in 2021. Help them; don’t make them have to figure things out for themselves. Eliminate pain points as soon as you identify them. Do that, and you will create loyalty.
Remember that small pain points add up and can cause major frustration for customers. Often these pain points are numerous but not particularly difficult to fix. Try combining a bunch of pain points into a single technology project, or ask to “borrow” a programmer for a week to focus solely on eliminating pain points. Your customer satisfaction scores will rise almost immediately.
RESOLUTION #3: MAKE YOUR EMPLOYEES AND CUSTOMERS FEEL SAFE
Safety has long been considered a core human need, and with rampant fears about the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, safety once again returned to the forefront of people’s minds in 2020. It will likely remain so for a long time, so you must consider it an important part of the customer experience and employee experience going forward.
In 1943, American psychologist Abraham Maslow unveiled his now-famous hierarchy of needs, the psychological theory comprising a five-tier pyramid of human needs, ranked from physiological at the bottom (the most basic needs) to self-actualization at the top (the needs most difficult to attain).
“Safety needs,” which include safety and security, are considered basic needs, ranked just above “physiological needs” such as food, water, warmth, and rest. Safety needs can also include physical safety, psychological safety, and emotional safety.
Safety is likely going to be a lasting theme long after the pandemic is over. As with most things CX-related, it starts with employees. If your employees don’t feel safe coming to work – physically, emotionally, or otherwise – then they can’t be expected to make customers feel safe. And customers will continue to choose businesses that protect their physical safety and keep their private data secure over businesses that don’t.
RESOLUTION #4: BECOME A CUSTOMER OF YOUR OWN COMPANY
Though it’s one of the easiest and most basic steps in a customer experience strategy, but many executives aren’t customers of their own companies. Or worse: their accounts are tagged as “VIP” so they get special treatment that no regular customer ever gets.
If you become a customer of your own company, you better understand the customer experience. Too often, companies design experiences based on what they think customers want, or even what they themselves want. That’s because they don’t really know what it feels like to be a customer.
If it’s not possible for you to become a customer of your own company, then you should ask an existing customer to be a surrogate and have them regularly share with you what it’s like to do business with your company.
RESOLUTION #5: MAKE CX YOUR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
Competing on price is a loser’s game – just ask the gas station that’s across the street from a competitor. Each time one of them lowers the price of gas by a penny, the other one follows suit. Eventually they’re both giving the gas away for free.
It’s also getting harder and harder to compete on product, as those same gas station owners will attest, but also look at the ridesharing or meal delivery industries where multiple competitors offer nearly identical services.
What’s left? Competing on customer experience. And the good news is that your customer experience is delivered by your employees, making it unique by definition. Once it’s also better than the competition, it can lead to a sustainable competitive advantage.
Dan Gingiss is a customer experience speaker and coach, and author of the upcoming book, The Experience Maker: How To Create Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait To Share. He can be found at www.dangingiss.com.