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Building a Great Customer Experience Requires Listening to the Customer

January 29, 2014

By Tracey E. Schelmetic,
TMCnet Contributor

Today, every company knows that it should be spending a lot of time and energy on improving the customer experience. A mountain of evidence exists to support the idea that providing a poor customer experience is tantamount to putting up a “going out of business” sign. Customers are choosier and more demanding than ever: They have shorter fuses, they have higher expectations, they are willing to trumpet their displeasure with a bad experience to the world, and they’ll switch to a competitor in a New York minute if they don’t think they are being treated as they should.

But many companies approach building a good customer experience strategy as a one-way activity: an academic exercise that is accomplished by deciding what customers want and how it should be delivered. When everything is said and done, the company’s idea of what a customer really wants bears a startling resemblance to what the company really wants to give the customer.

It doesn’t work that way, no matter how much wishful thinking you engage in.

Colin Moore, managing director of outsourcing sales and marketing firm New York Client Solutions, says it’s an obvious step, but one that many companies skip because they may not want to hear the answers.

"First of all, it is crucial to listen to your customers, to really listen,” said Moore in a statement. "It is important to stay in the loop and recognize trends. We recommend firms to discuss those updates in management meetings. Customer service affects everyone, not just the front liners.”

There are some companies that take the time to process and discuss customer feedback on a daily basis. While many companies believe they simply do not have the time for this, it turns out they really don’t have the time NOT to do it. In addition, it’s not something that can be done from the top down. Every customer-facing department, and not just sales, marketing and the contact center, must be involved and informed.

“Business owners need to ask themselves if they have the right CX [customer experience]strategy in place and provide the right guidance, skills and tools for their employees,” said Moore.

There are many ways organizations can listen to customers: They can ask for feedback directly on the telephone, or route callers and Web site visitors into a short survey after a contact; they can monitor social media and interact with customers within that context; they can conduct focus groups either live or via video conferencing; they can analyze trends in how customers use self-service, the Web site or the interactive voice response (IVR) solution; they can hire an experienced third-party to measure customer opinion; and they can use analytics to study broader trends and examine how customer behavior changes each day and in response to certain actions.

Whatever route a company chooses, if it’s not down on the floor with customers on a daily basis, it has no hope of building a quality customer experience. 

Edited by Blaise McNamee