Most of us of an “advanced age” will remember the 1980s Head and Shoulders Shampoo commercials with the tagline, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. No, I am not going to blog about coping with a dry flaky scalp; I’m referring to the customer experience. The statement is so true in today’s world of highly empowered, connected customers that have more choices and service providers than ever before.
Companies are working extremely hard at maximizing customer lifetime value, creating loyal customers that make them their first choice when they need new or additional products and services, but too often companies are not meeting the customer’s expectations for a good interaction. Based on the fact they have been left wanting more, customers start their search over again each time they need something new. The pressure is never off, since companies have made it so easy to switch providers. In 2013, 62% of global consumers switched service providers due to poor customer service experiences, up 4% from the previous year, Accenture notes in a 2013 survey. Every touch must have the same quality as the first touch or in your customer’s eyes you have just become another indistinguishable face in the crowd. Here are three tips for creating a good first impression:
1. Be there for your customers/prospects when and where they need you.
Your organization needs to be armed with the advancements in predictive analytics and an improved ability to mine big data for useful context. It is easier than ever to predict where and when your customers need to be engaged – whether it is Google search results, your company website, ecommerce sites, on kiosks, embedded within mobile apps and beyond. Deliver targeted, useful information where your customers are looking, and ensure information is expressed in the customer’s terminology, not internal jargon.
2. Ensure your customers don’t perceive you are wasting their time.
Customer patience is in rapid decline. They will not tolerate being placed on hold, having to repeat themselves, waiting three deep in a store to talk to a service advisor, or being forced to wade through irrelevant information on their mobile device. They will walk out the door and go to a competitor. They might even skewer you on Twitter or Facebook in the process. Take advantage of intelligent automation to engage your customers in meaningful self-service experiences, frequently review your staffing trends to more closely align appropriately skilled employees to customer traffic. You need to listen and adapt to your customer’s feedback and be sure to empower your employees to take reasonable actions on the customer’s behalf, without the need for additional approvals.
3. Deliver on what you promise and proactively engage your customers.
Too often (and probably my own biggest source of aggravation) when signing up for a new service, changing an existing service or just getting help on a current service, customers have to expend too much effort following up on things that a company should just take care of. How often within your personal experiences have you had to call back to see when the service person will arrive at your house, when your new product will arrive, when your bill or claim will be updated. For companies to deliver a great first impression they should make sure they drive to their customers expected resolution, and if there are any changes or updates they should proactively address those needs and not force the customer to expend unnecessary energy to reschedule or “double check”. You need to break down internal silos and appear like one cohesive company.
When you make a great first impression on your customers and prospects, they will reward you with their business today, tell others about their good experience, and give you a head start in earning more of their business down the road.
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