Industry Update
Opinion Article18 December 2018

Simple Ways to Exceed Customer Expectations in 2019

By Robert Reitknecht, Hospitality Leader and Guest Experience Expert

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A new year is upon us, and with it the expectation to further improve customer experience (CX). A new study from Salesforce shows that 67% of customers' standard for "good experiences" is now higher than ever, as is their impatience for companies that fail to deliver. In 2019, it's estimated that 57% will stop buying from a company because a competitor will provide a better experience.

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Companies are aggressively working to transform, but are their efforts in alignment with customer expectations? Research suggests companies should refocus on the core principles of customer experience. I couldn't agree more. Companies cannot overlook the basics of a great experience as they work to appear sleeker and smarter:

1. Trust:

Fifty-four percent of customers today don't believe companies have their best interests in mind. An assured reliance on a company's character, ability, and strength is needed to confidently do business with and advocate for it. Be real, authentic and sincere. Work to establish genuine customer relationships and connect on a human level. Kristin Smaby, author of "Being Human is Good Business," puts it perfectly: "Get to know your customers. Humanize them. Humanize yourself. It's worth it."

2. Speed:

Seventy-five percent of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent. Basic telephony features like call forwarding and simultaneous ring can improve wait times, as well as a more advanced solution like chat bot technology (research shows more than 50% of customers prefer chat bots for quick answers to simple questions and getting 24-hour service). There are plenty of easily-deployable and affordable solutions for not only improving average speed to answer, but other key service metrics like time in queue and abandonment rate.

3. Positive attitude:

About 70% of customers say that a pleasant representative is key to a positive service experience. This gets to the heart of not just customer service but human interaction; we all want to feel recognized, appreciated and cared for. A pleasant attitude can involve the simplest of actions. Consider this quote from industry influencer and author, Alan Weiss: "Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don't view them as part of the problem." A positive attitude translates into a positive experience, the kind that drives 77% of customers to recommend a company and increase spend.

4. Resourcefulness/knowledge:

A representative's knowledge or resourcefulness is crucial to a positive service experience for 62% of customers. The key is to have the right information at the right time to come to more informed conclusions faster, delivering better overall value. This requires a certain level of data visibility. You might want to consider integrating key software systems (for example, your contact center software and CRM platform) or implementing a chat bot for self-service interactions. On average, companies rate the usefulness of their chatbot content to customers a six on a scale of one to 10. Not bad, considering the technology will improve as it matures.

5. Personalization:

Personalization is huge, even before a purchase is made. Consider Salesforce's findings: 59% of customers say tailored engagement based on past interactions is "very important" for winning their business. This is a challenge, however, with customers being increasingly hesitant to share data for fear of it being compromised. Give customers more control over what information is collected and used (92% of customers say this makes them more likely to trust a company). Or, simply focus on the basics of personalization (see this article I recently wrote for HospitalityNet on how to keep personalization efforts simple).

According to Gartner, only 22% of organizations believe their CX efforts exceed customer expectations. At the end of the day, enhanced CX means smarter, faster and more sincere service that leaves customers feeling accomplished and appreciated. This doesn't always have to mean sprawling technology investments or structural upheaval. All it requires is a desire to do better, be kinder and work harder. I guarantee doing so will leave customers wanting to trust, rely on, and advocate for your brand.

If you're in hospitality, I recommend these industry-specific resources for enhancing CX in 2019:

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Robert Reitknecht

A veteran customer loyalty professional and guest experience expert for over two decades, Robert has provided service- focused insights to a number of Fortune 100/500 companies while holding positions as General Manager, Director of Operations, Regional Human Resources Manager, and Director of Fitness Operations to name a few.

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