Customer experience is the sum of every interaction customers have with your brand; whether it’s talking to an employee in-store, or purchasing a product online. But delivering an authentic customer experience means realising there is no ‘one size fits all’ customer service.
Every element of their experience is important for building up those long-term business-customer relationships, and the more authentic these are to begin with, the deeper and stronger these relationships are likely to be.
It is up to your reps to tailor this based on individual customer attitudes and the circumstances in which they experience your brand. Your customer should be made to feel valued and important, and not simply another task waiting on a conveyor belt of processes.
Here are five steps to bringing authenticity into your customer experience.
1. Design & Perfect Your Customer Experience
Some may think that if an interaction is designed or ‘staged’, it cannot be considered authentic. This is not the case however, as even the best and most natural actors need practice. It is helpful to know exactly what you wish your customer experience to be like so you can set up the ideal conditions in which to make this happen.
Be sure of your company’s overall purpose – what is it you are trying to achieve? Ensure your practices and services align visibly with your brand values, and make them known through your marketing, methods and social interaction.
2. Understand Your Customers’ Subconscious
Who your customers choose to do business with is not just based on rational factors such as delivery times, price or availability of products. It is actually very often based on subconscious desires, such as how much a brand reflects their own attitudes, lifestyle and principles, and (probably most importantly) how it makes them feel.
Use market research to firstly identify your main customer demographic or target audience (if a new company) and secondly, to find out what makes these people tick (besides your products, of course!) This can be done using surveys, polls, search volumes, page traffic, popular purchases, social media feeds, online forums, and the data you may collect from loyalty scheme sign-ups.
You can then begin to find patterns and draw assumptions regarding location, age, career, hobbies, lifestyle, circumstances and even preferences, such as favourite foods or movies. Once you have a distinct idea of what your customers are craving from life, you’ll be able to tailor your services to better suit these desires; from the products you provide to how you communicate with them.
3. Encourage Emotional Intelligence
A mantra of authenticity shouldn’t simply be part of a document detailing your company’s general customer service approach. Rather, it should be ingrained in the training of each and every new rep you welcome into your team. That said, it is perhaps more appropriate to hire people who already seem to have a promising capability for detecting emotional changes in your customers, and nurturing this with extra tools and resources.
More companies are now realising the value of emotional intelligence training in customer service reps, enabling them to share a closer, more natural relationship with customers and cater more acutely to their needs. Your customers should be able to monitor customer emotions on a grand scale using platforms mentioned in #1, and be able to evoke feelings of excitement, intrigue, comfort and value.
4. Build Genuine Relationships
Brand authenticity is undoubtedly built on the foundations of genuineness, transparency, humanity, empathy and honesty. Customers want to interact with a real person, not a machine. Strip away the business environment and you’ve simply got one individual helping and serving another individual. That is how true, real-life customer relationships are formed and strengthened.
First name basis between reps and customers should be encouraged, and reps should be able to inject their personality into every interaction. Favour humour, opinion and anecdotal advice over ‘suggested responses’ or a link to a FAQ. During their spare time, reps should also take an active interest in customers via social media, maybe even offering tips and resources on unrelated topics to show that being helpful is simply in your brand’s nature.
5. Think About The Little Things.
Many make the mistake of thinking that customer experience is all about the bigger picture – acting on a grand scale. This is not true, however; it is in fact those small, seemingly insignificant gestures that contribute to a customer’s overall impression of your brand. These are called ‘microinteractions’, and refer to every individual interaction between a customer and one of your company’s ‘touchpoints’.
Microineractions are often incredibly simple, but are nevertheless things we all probably wish for in day to day life. Things like placing the hotel shampoo in the shower instead of by the sink; offering plastic cutlery next to picnic food in a supermarket, or providing cocktail stick tasters by the olive counter in a deli, are all basic examples of microinteractions that immediately trigger a positive response in the customer.
Microinteractions are ways of showing your customers that you care and have stepped into their mindset by considering their point of view. Just one positive microinteraction has the ability to send a ripple across your customer’s social circle (read: your next customers).
Remember your brand promise.
Tell your reps (and yourself) to look at your customer as an individual human being.
As the little ways you can help them come to you, your churn rate will diminish and more customers will develop an affinity with your brand.