Keeping Up with Expectations: Buyer Satisfaction and the Customer Experience
There used to be saying in business that the customer is always right and anything or everything should be done to make the customer happy, even if it includes throwing someone under a bus. On the other hand, some professionals in sales and service would contend that keeping the company mission in mind and fairly representing the company side of things is a better way even if the customer goes away mad. Realistically, both mentalities have some merit, and it is the challenge of finding balance between making customers happy and doing what is right for the business that makes things difficult. What many businesses fail to recognize is that they are no longer directly responsible for setting the customer expectation, so they must understand and adapt to the environment and influences impacting the buyer in order offer a customer experience that satisfies.
A customer experience is not simply what happens after someone buys. The customer experience is composed of the entire life cycle of interactions between the company and the buyer, including any “impressions” the buyer may have experienced through social venues, personal interactions and in media. Creating and managing the customer experience doesn’t mean simply tracking interactions like sales calls and emails, as with a customer relationship management or sales force solution. Crafting a customer experience embodies all aspects of the business – from the outside face shown to the public and market to the internal mechanisms that help get work done, the attitudes of the people involved, and the influences of others.
Businesses used to have more sway over how their customer experience flowed, and a great bunch of people providing quality services would generally be a “win” with the buyer. In today’s market, the table has turned and it is the consumer who dictates what, exactly, they want their customer experience to be. If the experience doesn’t meet with expectations, it is likely to be a failure regardless of how well the company executes on it. The exceptional difficulty introduced is that each and every buyer is different – has different motivations and priorities and agendas – and meeting all the expectations of a diverse audience is not easily accomplished.
It’s sort of like with those advertisements you see now, where prospective college students aren’t willing to accept the “old way” of getting an education. They want to have classes that interest them, they expect to get educated when and where it is right for them, and to get that education in a manner that fits better into the way of life they imagine. Everyone wants it “my way”, and they’re getting it because they have come to understand that technology and the Internet have made it possible.
Technology and information systems are the foundations of creating and delivering a customer experience and level of service which will keep customers engaged and coming back for more. Businesses have been trained to look to technology advances and identify opportunities to leverage new developments towards the defined business goal. In the market that has now developed, where social and mobile computing are the norms, it is the consumer rather than the technology which is driving change.
The individual experience – how the buyer perceives the solution to fit within their business and lifestyle, and how the buyer benefits from the interaction – has become the basis for measuring quality of service and delivery. Regardless of how technically perfect and flawless a product or service may be, the overall customer experience is the basis on which a stay or go decision is formed.
This shift in focus has changed how businesses view service delivery and support performance, and has introduced the concept that every department in the business should act a little bit like the marketing department – listening to and learning what the buyer deems important and adjusting the process or message based on the finding. By placing a focus on the buyer priorities and developing an approach that allows a buyer to guide their own experiences with the company, businesses are finding great success in engaging with increasingly demanding buyers and improving overall satisfaction with the experience.