At the end and beginning of each year, there is an inevitable flood of articles and blog posts on customer service and customer experience predictions. Sometimes I have written about these myself, other times I’ve been quoted on these topics, and on a few occasions my partner Jeannie Walters and I have discussed them on the Crack the Customer Code podcast.
To start off 2017, instead of looking at new technologies or predicting the next “big thing,” I thought it would be useful take a different tack — to help identify those areas in customer experience that tend to be overlooked, those areas where organizations can reap huge benefits from directing their focus but often do not.
Those three areas are prevention, emotion, and follow-up.
#1. Focus on Prevention
The best way to handle a customer service issue is to prevent it from happening in the first place. All too often organizations get caught up in the hamster wheel of current customer complaints, operational challenges, and good, old fashioned busyness, and they fail to focus on the areas that most impact the creation of incredible customer journeys — customer experience design and customer service training.
For small and medium-sized businesses, this dynamic often results from working in the business instead of on the business. For larger organizations, it tends to stem from resource scarcity or poor resource allocation.
Prevention is the antidote to many of the challenges organizations face in creating Hero-Class® customer experiences. Each unsatisfactory customer experience that is prevented saves time, protects employee morale, and, of course, creates happier, more satisfied customers.
When you’re putting out fires every day, prevention is often a difficult area to direct your focus towards.
However, if you can make a concerted effort to anticipate and prevent customer service issues, you can dramatically improve your customer experience performance.
#2. Focus on Emotion
The more we learn about psychology and particularly how it is applied through the relatively new discipline of Behavioral Economics, the more we understand how much customer experiences are defined by the customer’s emotional response.
If you’ve read much here on the Customers That Stick® blog or read Be Your Customer’s Hero, then you know that customers often behave irrationally and see the world through the filters of a variety of attribution biases, such as confirmation bias, negativity bias, and self-serving bias.
Customers respond to techniques like framing and priming, where simple word choice can impact their interpretation and reaction, and according to the Peak-End Rule, the parts of an experience they remember are the emotional peak (positive or negative) and the end.
In addition, customers care about seemingly minor aspects of the experience, a tendency not derived from logic.
As Colin Shaw and Ryan Hamilton say in The Intuitive Customer: “Research has proven that over 50% of the Customer Experience involves emotions, at both conscious and subconscious levels. In fact, most people buy emotionally and then use logic to justify their purchase.”
#3. Focus on Follow-Up
Closing the loop is the forgotten stepchild of customer experience. After all, the customer’s issue is complete. We’ve checked the “resolved” box and banked another win for our various metrics.
We are happy, and they are happy.
Or are they?
All too often, the customer’s issue is not fully resolved; we only think it is. Or the customer’s situational issue is resolved (the product problem, the billing issue, etc.), but the negative emotions that were produced by the experience are not.
By following up, you have the ability not only to ensure that issues were actually resolved but to demonstrate that your organization cares and to help resolve any lingering negative emotions from the experience.
Follow-up creates a number of opportunities to impact the customer’s experience for the positive and to add another layer of care upon an unsatisfactory experience.
Following up with customers is not an extra. It is not optional.
As you sprint into 2017 with the rush of post-holiday inboxes, new budgets, and new initiatives, make sure to take time to look at your customer experience and to see how you can use the above three focus areas to make massive improvements in your customer’s experiences this year.
Your customers and your team will thank you for it!