By Koketso Mamabolo
No-one knows more about shaping the customer’s experience than world-renowned CX expert Nathalie Schooling. A strategist with almost three decades of experience, in 2021 the nlightencx CEO was featured in the international CX hall of fame and recognised as one of the top 50 Global CX Influencers.
Nathalie answers eight questions about experience, including how customer experience can be improved, whether the customer always comes first and how your business can encourage sustainable consumption.
Is there a difference between customer service and customer experience?
Service/ to serve is a verb – it’s an action. When we talk about experience – it’s about the human emotions that drive behaviour and choice. Essentially, customer service is just one part of the customer journey. It delivers on the customers’ needs or addresses a specific issue, and it speaks to exactly what the customer expects. The customer experience on the other hand is what the customer discovers when interacting with your brand from point A – Z, either positive or negative. It’s the customer’s emotional response to your brand. Good service is transactional whereas focusing on your customer’s emotional state and how you make your various customer/client segments feel at their various touchpoints with your product or service, is more complex to achieve.
How can customer service be improved?
This is a big question because it depends on just how much effort a company is willing to make to ensure they are offering a seamless customer experience. The most important thing is to set the correct expectation for your customer upfront. Never overpromise and under-deliver. Ensure your employees understand their role in creating consistently good customer service. Remember it’s not just the customer facing staff that are responsible for the service that your customer experiences. A truly customer focused business realises that all staff are involved in either supporting or executing consistently good customer experiences.
How do you know your customers are having a good experience?
To put it simply, you ASK them. Gathering customer feedback is crucial, so much so that without it you’ll find it near impossible to grow and improve on your offering. Companies are at an advantage today because they can utilise social listening which refers to scanning their social media pages and other online portals for customer reviews and recommendations. However, it’s important to note that gathering feedback is one thing, but knowing what to do with the feedback is where the real CX magic lies. You will also know when your customers or clients are happy because they will do more business with you/ spend more.
How do you retain customers?
You need to have a long-term relationship mentality when it comes to your customers/clients and a big part of this is to make them feel valued. As the popular saying goes “we don’t do business with companies, we do business with people.” To retain a loyal client base, you need to be crystal clear about why they should do business with you. This includes knowing how to articulate your unique value proposition and identifying how you want a customer to FEEL about doing business with you. Then make sure that every person in the organisation understands what is required of them to achieve this common goal. It’s critical to make your customer’s/client’s life easier. Being super responsive and understanding, and acting on your customer’s pain points, will go a long way to customer/client retention.
Why is it important to be a sustainable consumer?
You just have to look at the world around you to know that we can’t go on adopting the same behaviour and attitudes as we have in the past. We are armed with the information now. We are aware of how much we consume and waste, and the impact this has on the planet. It’s going to become vital for not only consumers but also businesses to think differently as to how we can play our part in having a much gentler foot-print.
How can businesses encourage customers to consume sustainably?
If it’s a part of your value proposition, then make sure that it is well advertised and that your customer or clients are rewarded for aligning in the effort to change our buying behaviour to contribute to sustainable living. Business need to educate their customers/clients as to what they are doing in terms of Environmental, Social and Corporate governance and should inform their consumers as to what role they can play in the sustainability of our planet.
Does the customer always come first?
Your “ideal” customer absolutely always comes first, but it’s not always that simple. Remember that customer perception is their reality. Even in instances where you feel the customer is in fact incorrect, for them, it’s their truth. This is why it’s important for company leaders that have adopted CX as a business differentiator, to have great EQ (empathy), and to always try and understand the customer’s viewpoint.
What is your experience using a Single Customer View?
Easier said than done sadly, but vital to strive for to ensure customer satisfaction and derive bottom-line value from existing customers. It will certainly maximise the upsell and cross-sell opportunities that are relevant to your customer. It also means that if you are able to transition from the traditional siloed view of your client/customer, it’s way easier for your customer to do business with you, which is key in terms of retention.