Why are we so obsessed with customer experience?

There’s no doubt in my mind that customer experience should be the number one consideration for any marketer or brand executive. In the retail, hospitality, commercial and service industries, we are rightly obsessed with making this integral to brand culture. The customer has always been King, but never more so than today, when their opinions can be shared far and wide on social media and online reviews have such a strong influence on future custom.    

A recent report puts the First Direct bank top of the pile in the UK for customer relations, with retailer John Lewis and cosmetics company Lush taking second and third spots. Emirates, Amazon, Richer Sounds, M&S Food, giffgaff, Nationwide Building Society and Apple Store were also in the top 10 – proving that customer experience has huge value in a wide range of industries, including travel, retail, technology and banking.   

The 'six pillars of customer experience excellence' that experts looked for were: personalisation, integrity, time and effort, expectations, empathy and resolution. The companies doing great things in these areas are those investing in going deeper than just understanding their market. They are seeking to truly understand their customers as well.    

Behind the customer-facing excellence, there is no doubt a huge operation underway, as they gather data about their customers, analyse it and take positive action based on the insights they gain. With information comes the ability to communicate with customers at the right time, in the right place, with an authentic, empathetic voice. These more thoughtful and valuable interactions do wonders to improve customer experience and boost loyalty. 

Bad news spreads 

The dangers of not putting all this legwork into optimising customer experience are huge. More than ever, customers expect to have good service. If they have a negative experience, it reportedly takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved bad experience.  

Word of mouth, which is gold dust with great experiences, becomes poison when a customer is rubbed up the wrong way. Research shows that news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience. Clearly, social media amplifies this, with disgruntled customers increasingly using an array of social platforms to vent about their frustrations to a wide audience.    

All of this sends shivers down the spines of leaders of businesses for whom reputation is everything. Customer obsession is worth it – and they know that. They recognise that to achieve their own goals, including increasing profit, the customer must always come first. 

Building relationships 

Every opportunity to score points with excellent customer experience, building an emotional connection and fostering trust, has the potential to increase revenue through repeat business and positive publicity. Thinking of every customer as a potential brand ambassador pays off.   

At Purple, we play a part in helping bricks and mortar businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, bars, shops and stadia to achieve those goals of customer experience excellence - personalisation, integrity, time and effort, expectations, empathy and resolution. We do this by enabling them to turn their physical spaces into intelligent spaces where data leads to learning and action.   

By offering free WiFi through social login – a big tick in itself – venues have an opportunity to build their social media following and increase engagement with customers. They can also gather intelligence about customers, including their age, interests and contact details. Depending on the hardware being used, venues might also be able to collect location data and presence analytics. 

Using data constructively 

This information can be used to segment visitors into highly targeted groups based on demographics, loyalty and their physical location in the venue. It also allows them to see the flow of footfall and understand where people are located within their space and how they move around.   

These insights make it easier to take the right steps to meet each individual customer’s needs. That might be redesigning the interior, repositioning signage, or displaying product differently. Or it could involve creating tailored marketing messages, with a tone of voice that rings true with the customer; and offers - accessed by login screens, emails, or SMS – that have real relevance and value to them.    

By using data constructively, it appears to the customer that the venue has understood what it is they want. Every detail is tailored to them, from the way the venue looks to the way it communicates with them before, during and after their visit. The effects on customer experience and loyalty are amazing. We live in challenging times, with the uncertain post-referendum economy weighing heavily on business owners’ minds. So we are right to obsess about customer experience, which can be a huge differentiator. 

As customers demand greater convenience, speed, value and engagement, we must devote ourselves to developing quality relationships with them. I believe this is critical to the success of all organisations, in public and private sectors alike.  

Image source: Shutterstock/Shutter_M
Gavin Wheeldon, CEO
Purple