If customers have a great experience, then no love is lost – right? Not necessarily so.
Relationships only survive – and grow – if you put work into them. Even if you’ve invested time, energy, and resources, it can all change in an instant. It’s the same with customer relationships. Companies can either elect to continue investing in their customer relationships or they can let them fall by the wayside – and watch as a competitor swoops them away into the sunset.
I’m being dramatic. But, really, how many times have we had BAD experiences as customers and we’ve tried, time-after-time to say, “This isn’t working” or “Can you communicate with me this way?” and a company let it fall on deaf ears, or worse, criticized us for it. (Don’t even get me started on a mobile carrier that told me it was my fault for failing to read the fine print, and that “unlimited data” didn’t mean “unlimited speed” in a “Gotcha!” tone that reeked of hubris. I was sure they were smiling as they said it, which made it feel worse.) It makes you not want to do business with said company.
Coming out of cloud computing company Salesforce.com’s #SalesforceLive event in New York City last week – something of a cross between a pep rally and a political convention… just more intimate – it was clear that the company had moved from touting the power of the cloud and the social enterprise to its new mantra: Be a customer company.
As Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff shared, there are eight questions to ask in order to become “a customer company” as Salesforce.com sees it. 1. How do you listen to every customer? 2. How do you engage on every channel? 3. How do you sell as a team? 4. How do you service customers everywhere? 5. How do you create communities? 6. How do you connect your partners? 7. How do you connect your products? 8. How do you deliver apps everywhere?
But why do I need to think about apps and partner communities if I’m not a software company, one might think. Because that is what consumers demand. Plain and simple. Mobile apps are not going away, so – retailer, bank, or government – it’s becoming more of a necessity to have a trusted network of partners to get you, technologically, to the point of talking to and servicing customers in their preferred channel.
“Technology is absolutely essential to becoming a customer company, but technology is just the enabler,” Eric Berridge, CEO of global strategic consulting firm Bluewolf, wrote to me in email. “To be successful at customer engagement, you also need the human component in place. Being a customer company means you’re the default choice for the buyer – that they’re loyal, that they’re advocates for you. Technology alone doesn’t drive those kinds of relationships. People do. Customers are truly engaged when they feel known.”
I recently received a study called “Why Your Customers Stay or Stray” from workforce development firm AchieveGlobal. It was all about how emotion is at the heart of effective customer service. When that mobile carrier was texting me incessantly like an overzealous ex-boyfriend, it dawned on me – I wasn’t as upset about the fine print of my unlimited plan or heck, even being charged more, as I was about feeling like they were toying with my emotions.
The major finding from the study was that human connection played a dominant role in continued customer loyalty and willingness to purchase in the future. “While slashed prices and special promotions may get consumers in the door, an inability to connect on an emotional and human level while delivering service will hamper any business’ customer engagement efforts,” according to AchieveGlobal CEO Sharon Daniels.
According to the study, half of consumer-respondents said they would try out a competitor after a single bad experience. After three or four bad experiences, it shoots up to 93 percent of respondents. One in three respondents preferred to be “treated well” over even having their issue immediately resolved. One of the pillars of being a “Customer Company,” in Salesforce.com’s eyes, is trust. This tells me they “get” what a customer company should and can be. But, strategy doesn’t automatically equal execution, so let’s see how this plays out.