How to Deliver that “Wow” Factor Every Time
There is no question that technology has been the revolutionary force transforming the business world over the last 15 years. Processes that used to take days or weeks now consume only seconds. Customer experiences have become streamlined as a result of automation and self-serve options. Big Data, from purchase patterns and the now ubiquitous customer feedback mechanisms, provide almost real-time insights into customer satisfaction. The transformation continues with the rapidly growing adoption of artificial intelligence (AI). But (there’s always a but...) all these advances have come at a price: customer loyalty and the “wow” factor.
The Digital Wall
The inexorable progression of technology also is creating a digital wall—an ever-increasing distance between organizations and customers. The human element is diminishing, creating an equally diminishing sense of connection. Customers are feeling they are no more than an account number, user name, and password to faceless and uncaring organizations. We’ve gotten good at connecting to customers, but are forgetting how to connect withcustomers.
WOW Is About People
“Wow” is a term that is commonly, yet loosely, used in reference to customer experience. But what exactly is a wow customer experience? Ask 20 people and you’re likely to get 20 different answers. In an effort to frame it in concrete and actionable terms, a 2015 study, The Science of Wow, defined it as: “A customer experience that is top-of-mind. It is an experience people will think of first when in a discussion about a customer experience, and one they feel will be interesting to others.”
The study identified that 92 percent of the time, wow experiences are created by people. While easier processes and more customer-friendly policies and practices are important, it is customer service that ultimately creates loyalty and positive memories. Companies that lose sight of this human connection, therefore, also are destined to lose the very holy grail they seek—unshakeable customer loyalty.
5 Things Every Company Should Be Doing
Technology isn’t going away, nor should it. Its impact on productivity and profit has been profound, and companies need to continue to embrace the exciting innovations coming down the pipe. But as they do, companies also need to actively compensate for the ever-increasing human-to-human gap that is stripping away any hope for customer loyalty and a wow customer experience.
To do this, we need to ensure that those moments when we actually do connect with customers are special. They need to know that behind the digital wall are genuine people who want the best for them. They need to know we care.
Here are five things every company should be focused on to create customer loyalty:
1. Focus on Individual Interactions Over Big Data
Many companies rely on Big Data to measure and direct customer service efforts. While popular metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES) are useful, they don’t provide many actionable insights into the visceral connection between customer and company. The only way to do that is by talking with your customers. Being one of your customers. I have seen far too many senior executives who never leave the confines of their offices and have little interest in the opinions of a single customer. Take a day—a week even—and learn what it’s like to be one of your customers.
2. Invest in Customer Service Training
Customer service training used to be a nice-to-have. Now it’s a need-to-have, and it has to be good. Set aside e-learning for this and bring back the classroom. It’s an investment that offers the greatest returns. To be effective, customer service trainers need to be alive and passionate—able to create the same connection with learners that you expect learners to create with customers. Focus on core behaviours, attitudes, and skills. Do it right.
3. Prioritize Relentless Service Leadership
The effectiveness of customer service training is directly tied to the focus of managers and supervisors. Without relentless support at this level, you won’t gain enough traction. You need this traction to achieve the high level of consistency required to be a truly customer-focused organization.
Service leadership isn’t easy, and precious few leaders have the skill or mandate to practice it. Give them both training and the expectations. Forget the intervention-style “come into my office for a talk” coaching sessions. Bring back MBWA (management by walking around) in a big way. The old adage that “you can expect what you inspect” is true.
4. Train for Service Recovery
The Science of Wow research identified that 7 out of 10 wow experiences come from an initially negative situation being turned into a positive experience. This makes service recovery a must-have skill set for all employees. The better you deal with negative situations, the more wow moments you create.
Employees need specific language skills and emotional management strategies to deal with these stressful and uncomfortable situations in a positive manner. Just telling them, “Don’t take it personally,” isn’t good enough.
5. Support Customer Service from the Top Down
A customer service culture is only possible when it is consistently and actively championed by an organization’s senior leadership. Outstanding customer service needs to be non-negotiable. It needs to be embedded in a company’s DNA; reflected in policies, processes, bonus structures, job descriptions, and key performance indicators (KPIs). Senior leaders have to set the expectations, then provide the tools and resources for their teams to be successful.
Shaun Belding, author of “The Journey to WOW,” is CEO of The Belding Group of Companies, a business dedicated to leadership and customer service. Belding is a leading global expert on building positive workplaces, enhancing customer service, and spearheading service recovery.