Develor, an international consultant specializing in customer experience, and other experts who attended the firm’s annual CX conference, tell the Budapest Business Journal how companies can build loyalty and long-term business.
“People are highly emotional beings. We make decisions with our hearts and justify them with our heads,” Matt Bateson, the customer experience strategy director at Oracle in the United Kingdom, told the Budapest Business Journal. “Differentiation is not about price; it’s not even about function. It’s about how you make customers feel. This is why customer experience is the fundamental premise underpinning any business.”
Bateson came to Hungary to give a presentation at the March 9 International Customer Experience Conference, organized by Develor in the Budapest Hilton. Develor, an international consulting firm, has been holding this annual conference in Budapest for several years now. Based in Hungary, Develor has offices in 12 countries, and through their projects have a presence in more than 30 countries. The firm offers business training and consulting in a range of areas, including a variety of customer experience solutions.
Importance of customer experience
“Most companies in the relevant industries have already realized that they cannot fulfill constantly increasing client needs if they continue the old routines,” Develor CEO Csaba Szabó told the BBJ. “Our ‘International Customer Experience Survey’ proved that even the best customer service providers face a trend of decreasing satisfaction and missing loyalty from their customers. Customer experience is about emotional bonding and keeping clients engaged with a brand and a product – and about making them the voluntary ambassadors of a company.”
According to Develor’s “International Customer Experience Survey”, corporate decision makers said that 21% of total income loss takes place when a company fails to provide a positive and brand-consistent customer experience.
“Simply making clients satisfied will not provide the solution to the problem, as we cannot expect any long-term commitment from them, and satisfaction is just the basic level that must be reached,” Szabó explained. “The question today, and in the coming decade, is how to operate an entire organization, including the back-office, in a way that delivers constant high quality service and exceeds the clients’ expectations.”
A good customer experience does not have to mean that a customer never has a problem with a product. As Develor explains in its educational material, if a customer encounters problems with the services or products a company provides, but can find instant assistance and solutions from the company, the satisfaction of the customer actually grows. This can lead to loyalty and, in the long-term, advocacy for a product. A customer whose problems are solved in a satisfying manner will not only stay with a company but will also promote the company among their peers, according to Develor.
Felix A. Tena, chief executive front officer of Imaginarium, a Spanish firm specializing in toys and games, gave the keynote address at Develor’s conference. He told the BBJ: “Customer experience is everything. It is what determines the relationship a customer will have with your brand. It does not matter if it is a relationship of five seconds or 30 minutes. It will define the probability of purchase at that moment (conversion rate) as well as the probability of that same customer coming back (loyalty). Brands represent complex things in the minds of people. A well thought-out and executed customer experience will clarify the role of the brand in the customer’s mind.”
According to another conference participant, Igor Tóth, marketing director of O2 Slovakia, a strong customer experience is “essential if you want to build a long-term relationship and exchange value within it”. He added: “By developing customer experience, you can nurture the relationship.”
Challenges to tackle when planning CX
According to Toth, customers today demand fast services and easy solutions for any product-related concerns that may arise. For this reason, one of the biggest challenges to a good customer experience is “to stay simple and customer focused, with no compromise”, Toth said. “If a company wants to differentiate itself from others, it needs to stay above the rest with its unique values and clear strategy.”
Tena similarly recommended giving priority to customer focus as a way to stand out. He maintained that simply thinking about cutting costs and keeping prices low “is shortsighted and is not sustainable; it drives zero differentiation”.
Bateson recommended an old-fashioned customer-is-always-right approach. “Firms should leave their baggage and opinions at the door,” he said. “Decision makers must realize that their opinion is completely irrelevant. Customer behavior is the only source of truth – the rest is just noise.”
But giving customers what they want is not as easy as it sounds, according to Szabó, who pointed out that it is not easy to figure out what people really want.
“It’s a naive approach that we sit together for a half day and figure out what to change and how to deal with customers in the era of customer experience. Much more effort, creative energy and disruptive thinking is needed,” Szabó said. “This is where an external consultant comes in: Benchmarking is inevitable, ideas from other industries can work perfectly and professional guidance has key role in creating a really professional customer journey map, front-office behavior standards and a customer experience-aligned governance model for line managers.”
— Christian Keszthelyi, BBJ, Friday, April 8, 2016