Every major industry was once a growth industry. But some that are now riding a wave of growth enthusiasm are very much in the shadow of decline. Others, which are thought of as seasoned growth industries, have actually stopped growing. In every case the reason growth is threatened, slowed, or stopped is not because the market is saturated. It is because there has been a failure of management.
Are you in the 'customer experience' business?
You can dramatically improve your business if you focus more on customer experiences. Many companies are already focusing on a number of key strategic factors relating to their customers - unmet needs, expectations and behaviour. But is this enough? Marketers are having a trying time and to survive, there are three sets of customer-focused activities that will assist you in succeeding in your business. Make your business fit with your customers.
One: Know your customer - conduct behavioral customer research regularly. This is the cornerstone of any successful business. Ensure that you include both tactical and strategic considerations, as it will influence your business and marketing strategies.
Two: Let your customer interact with your brand. A recent survey of the Customer Experience Council states that marketers agreed that "brand is primarily built by customer interaction, not visual perception."
Phil Terry from Creative Good Inc., says that direct marketers as a group tend to be more focused on the interaction. Also that while it is true that a brand is created through both experience and perception, experience is responsible for 80% of a strong brand. Phil tells us that your customer's experiences with your company are a way to improve your
understanding of the power of interaction in building a brand and a trust relationship with your customer.
Three: Build customer experiences team and create 'experiences' with your customers. Phil Terry recommends that to maintain long-term focus on customer experiences, create a cross-functional customer-experience team within your company and task them in running research, analyse metrics and improve the overall 'fit' of your business with that of the market place and customer needs as it evolves.
This team should also develop, implement, maintain and enhance the momentum of a customer-focused strategy to create the interactive experiences your customers will have with all touch-points in your company.
The way forward: Listening Labs for behavioral research
Listening labs were first launched at the 2002 Catalogue Conference in Chicago. These labs are one-on-one conversations between a customer - someone who interacts with your business via various mediums or personally - and a facilitator, joining the best aspect of traditional usability test and less directed focus groups. They are an open-ended qualitative environment that capture both strategic and tactical customer insights.
Listening labs will bring customer focus to your strategy. It will identify the key priorities for improvement and it will centre your business on customer needs.
Survival of the fittest
Building a customer-experience discipline is one of the most important investments you can make. From studies, it was found that a company could realise dramatic increases in ROI of improvements of 40 - 150% in key operating metrics and this discipline will bring significant competitive advantage to you.
Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart said: "Business is a competitive endeavour, and job security lasts only as long as the customer is satisfied."
These forgotten vendors, sometimes more correctly called 'providers,' often bear the brunt of a campaign planner's bad planning or miscommunication.
Audits are being done all the time within many companies across most departments to identify problems, opportunities and in some instances, the irresponsible or 'not accountable' behaviour of management and their staff.
We are often asked how we survive the hubbub of our every day business activities, the changing economy and building a balanced life. Simple! It is through our business model of 'collaboration' and support, building trusted partnerships with all our valuable customers, service providers, business colleagues, friends and family. And keeping an 'open door' policy - you never know who will walk in.
Companies now have to deal with many more Customer Contact Points (CCP's) and channels than they did just 5 years ago. While this creates more opportunities to reach your customers, it also makes it easier for them to defect, increasing the pressure on marketers to build relationships that last. It is important to know that each point of contact with your customer is a 'Moment of Truth.'