Customers are loyal to their favorite brands. But what makes those well-known brands a favorite? In many cases that loyalty is built on customer expectations of quality, service and results. Today, with brands coexisting online and in brick-and-mortar stores, customers continue to expect more from brand names wherever they find them—or else they pick new favorites. The secret to staying on that coveted “favorites” list is in how you create the best possible customer experience. The glue that holds this experience together is made up of the systems and processes that support your business.
The internet has democratized a lot of things, but I’d argue its impact on consumers’ ability to take action is the greatest. If you don’t like or couldn’t find something at your local store, then a better or cheaper option is likely available to you online. If a rude salesperson ruins your shopping experience, it’s easier than ever to simply walk out and buy something from another vendor, either online or in-person. Consumers have lots of choices, and they make them every day.
It’s not just a question of “in-store or online?” either. In fact, now the question is: “in-store or online here or online there or there?” The stakes are high. Online or in stores, what really matters to people is the customer experience—everything from ease of shopping and transactions to customer support. In a recent survey we here at Redwood undertook with OnePoll (see infographic above), we saw that more than half of U.S. shoppers would rather find a new service provider or store than continue to put up with the failings of the old one. It’s serious business.
So, what can you do to keep your customers—and keep them happy?
1. Provide a Seamless Experience
Let customers check your in-store inventory from home, on your website. Enable salespeople to access inventory of other stores to determine availability of another item. Keep prices consistent across locations and platforms. If your customers know they can expect the same efficient and high-quality service regardless of where they’re shopping, they’ll stay much more loyal to your brand. And it’s not hard for your company to implement this seamless experience across all physical and online locations. If you implement smart, automated solutions, it’s easy to track real-time availability, manage inventory and provide information to employees and customers alike. With the right automated systems, your customers will never have to wait at a cash register for fifteen minutes while someone goes to check if an item that was supposed to be on the floor can be found in the stock room.
2. Update Your Returns Protocol
When we did our research with OnePoll, one of the things we found was that the returns process ruffled a lot of feathers—so much so that some people simply don’t make returns at all. While this is good for your bottom-line, it’s bad for your reputation. Real customer service isn’t just about the sale. It’s about everything that comes after. So instead of celebrating the few extra dollars in your pocket because a customer didn’t return unwanted goods, make sure that returns may be made easily in store or online. Also, make sure that customers can track the status of their return, including when the return was received and when their accounts are credited. These two gripes affected 38% and 52% of surveyed shoppers—big numbers for any business. As with inventory, there are software solutions that can automate this process, sending notifications to customers every step of the way.
3. Acknowledge the Impact of Experience
One bad experience might not send your customer fleeing to a competitor. But then again, it might. On an internal, process level, take a close look at what keeps your business running every day. If these processes aren’t managed efficiently, they’re costing you time, money, accuracy—and customers. Are there repetitive tasks (inventory checks, transaction reconciliation) that you could automate? If so, moving towards automated processes would save staff time and provide better, faster customer service. Automation eliminates costly wasted time on manual tasks. It will also improve the precision and consistency of processes you run every day. There’s no faster route to a better enterprise.
4. Keep Improving, Not Re-Doing
New customer-facing platforms and channels emerge all the time, and so do new ways for a business and a customer to connect. Make sure you’re prepared on both the front end—where you talk to your customers—and the back,, where you handle the outcome or goings-on of those interactions. Putting a system in place that addresses your needs now doesn’t mean that it will address them five years, or even five months, from now. If you’re going to invest in customer satisfaction, you need to do it for the long term, adopting an agile solution that can easily adapt to the changing landscape of the consumer space. Make sure that whatever automation provider you choose, you go with one that requires as little effort as possible to maintain and update. Your IT department might not mind taking weeks or months to undertake a big upgrade. But while they’re busy retooling everything from scratch, your customers might move elsewhere. Though there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, plenty of options exist that will allow you to customize and modernize flexibly. In fact, there are cloud solutions available now that can provide automation wherever you need it, whenever you need faster and simpler than ever before.
More Business articles from Business 2 Community:
- Mobile Is Here – Are You Ready for Mobile Marketing?
- Small Business Internet Marketing – 7 Things Decision Makers Should Know
- The Secret to Content Optimization for People and Search
- Job Hunting? Do You Need a Project Management Certification?
- Celebrate Customer Loyalty Month: Top 5 Customer Loyalty Tips