Customer Experience Trends for 2014

Nigel Shanahan of Rapide2014 has got off to a stormy start with winds blasting the coasts and rain clouds a seemingly permanent feature on our skyline.

One thing that businesses shouldn’t want to get off to a rough start is their customer service. While January sales dominate the market and businesses, particularly retailers, struggle to cope with demand from customers keen on getting the best deal, it’s important to keep up with what’s new, take advantage of technology and really get to know your customers to ensure they are not only repeat buyers but ravers!

Here are what I predict will be the top trends in customer experience for the year ahead…

Businesses will take advantage of technology to find out what their customers really think

It’s important to remember that there are now over 6 billion mobile phones in the world – that’s more than there are computers, cars and even toilets! We look at our mobile on average 84 times a day and with some of us even suffering from Nomophobia – the fear of being without our mobiles, it’s clear they have fast become something we can’t live without!

I see brands capitalising on this by contacting their customers a lot more frequently than they did in the past. So, this could be by sending out reminder text messages to their clients’ mobile phones about appointments, or by asking for feedback straight after an interaction to find out what they did right – or wrong.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has said in their research that ‘mobile allows for a richer, deeper and more personal customer experience.’ Other research found that 61% of people say they have a better opinion of a brand when they have a good mobile experience – surely evidence that all businesses should be capitalising on the mobile band wagon to improve the customer experience.

Social media will continue to develop as a portal for customer experience.

Today if people have a problem with a product or brand, the first thing that many will do is jump on Twitter and rant about it. This is bad news for the company; not only will their rant be seen by their 400 or so followers but it will also show up whenever someone searches for the brand on Twitter.

This will undoubtedly increase in 2014 and the only way that brands can combat this is by giving their customers a way of sharing their feedback directly and making themselves available as and when they need to.

The Mystery Shopper will be long-gone

The Mystery Shopper has been a dying breed for a while now thanks to the ever-growing power of technology and I see many retailers putting this expensive, slow and rather convoluted method of gaining customer insight to bed.

Take West Bromwich Building Society, for example. In their busy call centre where they answer up to 1,500 calls a day, they had a mystery shopper system in place but felt it had grown staid and ineffective. They wanted to gather feedback and be able to respond to their genuine customers in real-time and sort out any problems they had so replaced their mystery shopper programme with Rant & Rave which puts every caller through to a feedback system where they can evaluate customer experience on a scale of 1 to 5 – concluding with a message as to why. If any low scores come up, the team are alerted right away so that they can respond within two hours and they can listen to the problem and find the solution, effectively turning any Ranters into Ravers. Much better than a fake customer who can, most likely be identified by staff as the elusive mystery shopper, being paid for giving their views!

Companies will not be restricted to one form of measurement

There are currently a number of forms of analysing how good your customer service is – Customer Effort Score, Net Promoter Score and ‘CSAT’ (Customer Satisfaction Index) are the most popular metrics. I foresee companies re-considering the way they evaluate because while these are all hugely helpful, none can be described as a magic bullet for measuring real satisfaction. Why? Because none can work in all situations – whether you’re shopping, eating, attending a class, buying a car – you can’t have one evaluation for every procedure and so I believe the bigwig brains of customer experience will be busy working on new ways to find out what people think. The key to this will be the simple question, WHY? An open-ended question, rarely asked, can give people the opportunity to express why a number has been selected and will raise things the company will never have heard before.

Things WILL get better

The great thing about living in a competitive marketplace is the fact that it brings out the best in us and as competition for customers heats up, the drive to improve their experience can only mean good things – adaptation, innovation and brands impressing like they never had before. It also means using technology to capture what your customers think and acting on those thoughts, going that one step further than they did last year to ensure their customers are happy.

People will moan

Rather a bizarre trend but one that I believe will only rise throughout 2014. We all know that us Brits like a moan and this is proved by research that found that consumers talk about a brand 64 times MORE than they talk to a brand. Now, as customer experience improves – and as money continues to remain tight for many – people will complain about something that they may not have done in other circumstances. For me the best thing that brands can do is to make it as easy as possible for customers to share their grumbles, and then ensure that they act on the feedback they gather. Often it’s the people who have had a negative experience and seen it turned around that can become a brand’s biggest advocates. The true test of a brand now is not how often they get the customer experience spot on, it’s how they respond when things go wrong.

Customer Experience Trends for 2014 was written by Nigel Shanahan, the Managing Director and founder of Rapide, one of the UK’s leading customer engagement specialiststhat provides real-time, voice of the customer solutions to over 250 global brands.

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