In these times of fierce competition, diminishing margins, and blurred lines of product differentiation, one way to stand out against changes in the market is by listening to your customer and delivering a memorable customer experience.
When was the last time that you had a great customer experience? What aspect of it made it notable? Was it courtesy, responsiveness, ability to understand and address your need, or the personal connection made during the interaction?
Nobody enjoys being treated just as customer making a transaction. That dissatisfaction grows to frustration when dealing with a representative with subpar knowledge or a lack of understanding the customer's need or problem, whether technical or otherwise. When it comes down to it, successful customer service doesn’t have to be about knowing all the answers or solving the problem immediately. It is the approach, care, compassion, and follow-through to achieve a resolution that make a difference for a client.
While customer service entails responding to client requests and effectively addressing needs as they arise, customer experience takes this notion one step further by not only reacting to inquiries and situations but investing in a client relationship and being proactive in ensuring continuous satisfaction.
Customer experience includes all aspects of delivering client satisfaction. It starts with the initial contact for sales or point of purchase then continues to product delivery, service offering, or project implementation, and is capped off with support and ongoing care. It is important to realize that all customer touch points and communication contribute to the customer's experience. Some examples of touch points that shape customer experience include:
- Answering calls with a consistent warm greeting
- Responding to all correspondence in a timely, professional, and responsible manner
- Communicating status whether news is good or bad
- Providing clear, concise, and easily digestible proposals or contracts that put clients at ease knowing that they will get what they are paying for and expect
- Establishing agreed-upon expectations from the onset and checking in to ensure that what has been promised is what is being delivered
- Delivering on what was purchased, whether or not the project is goes as expected
- Determining what can be done to address clients’ needs or ease concerns beyond the requirements of the agreement
One of the keys to making customer experience truly effective is by understanding the specific individual or profile of people that are being served and crafting an approach that is tailored to their needs. This would include knowing their personality, preferences, comfort level with the product or service, tendencies, and expectations. In the end, what is most important is that a person is being served with needs, feelings, and desires. The client or customer is a person, just like you!
Putting yourself in the others person's shoes is always a great way to validate an approach. Since everyone has their share of customer experiences on a daily basis in both their personal and professional lives, we all have the opportunity to take the time to understand firsthand what makes one experience more memorable than another and note which ones deliver positive results. As is the case with many industries, each role in the AV industry has a client that they need to serve and customer experience that they are responsible for delivering.
Here are some general tips for delivering an effective and memorable customer experience:
- Be real and find a way to make a connection with the person who is being served. Clients will be easier to engage with the more comfortable they feel.
- Take the time to learn something personal with each client engagement and create a client profile that captures details from past interactions. This will not only build familiarity, but also demonstrate listening and interest.
- Avoid robotic responses or routine approaches when providing customer service. Canned or scripted replies are cold and off-putting, leaving clients feeling like they don’t matter.
- Try to fully understand the client’s situation before responding or reacting to requests. There may be background information that would help to interpret or understand their needs more effectively.
- Be prepared and plan ahead to see what can be done to lead to successful outcome without being prompted. The ability to predict what a client needs before it is asked often leads to increased satisfaction and a memorable experience.
- Always work to wow the client, whether or not you’ll be recognized.
Being treated as though a service provider doesn’t know you, doesn’t understand your particular needs, or can't relate to your situation doesn’t leave a client with a good, confident feeling. Rather, understanding the person you are serving and knowing how to be engaging provides the warm, appreciated impression that leads to a true connection, a memorable customer experience, and a lasting, valued relationship. Sometimes, it’s not about the specific product or service being provided, it’s about how the feeling the client has when working with a person or organization that can make a difference in choosing one solution over another.
Steve Greenblatt, CTS, is president and founder of Control Concepts, a provider of specialized software and services for the audiovisual industry.