Every business has a customer, whether it’s a member of the public or another company, and whether the business is selling a product or offering a service. For a car manufacturer, they could be individual customers and car dealerships; for a bank, they may be personal account holders or business accounts. A hospital’s customers are its patients; an insurance company’s customers would include hospitals, and all organizations can be both customers and suppliers.
The customers make the business work, so thinking about how to get them, how to keep them, and how to make them happy is vital to the success of businesses in all sectors. The two most important questions to ask when establishing customer satisfaction are:
Who are the customers?
What does it take to satisfy them?
Businesses need to understand the voice of their customer rather than assume what they want. Tools such as customer surveys, polling, focus groups, and social media campaigns can all play a crucial role in finding, satisfying, and keeping customers.
Before considering ways to retain and expand on the number of existing customers, it is essential to focus on getting customers on board in the first instance. For new companies, persuading that very first person to sign up for a product or service or walk through a door to buy something will prove that the idea they had for the business in the first place was a good one.
Writing a business plan is the first step, followed by creating a profile for the ideal customer. Considering which demographic is most likely to be a customer and their needs are factors to consider. There are templates and tools that can be used to help with this, as well as thinking about specifics such as creating a buyer persona which is a fictional representation of the target buyer and a more detailed version of the customer profile. Identifying a target audience, which is a group rather than an individual, is also vital. Target markets represent regions and industries where a product might sell well. Researching trends and news within a given field or what potential customers might read, watch, or listen to is also essential.
It is a clever idea to start looking for clients using a network that an individual or business already has. Using the business plan and ideal customer profile, scrolling through social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram will help find connections who may fit that target audience or profile.
The next step could be asking for referrals from that network once the business has been introduced to it, so even if the members are not potential customers, they may know of others who could be. Social media can also be used effectively for market research. This could be done via posting on social channels, threads, and forums, with the goal of being seen in public places where individuals may see the business and then where potential customers could be interacted with.
Finding beta testers could also be considered with the aim of learning about prospective customers, how they have solved the problem the company could help with, and if they have started looking for potential solutions and taking the opportunity to share the solution the business could give them.
Outbound prospecting is the next step. Firstly, an outreach strategy should be created that targets prospects who fit the right profile and then connects with them via cold e-mailing, for example, cold outreach on LinkedIn by sending InMail messages or cold calling via phone.
Then, it’s time to make a marketing plan, which could include optimizing a website’s SEO, creating lead generation from the site, starting a blog, implementing a social media marketing strategy, and investing in a paid social media campaign or an organic campaign.
Improving and understanding customer satisfaction
Improving customer satisfaction is an important part of any organization, reflecting the degree to which it has provided a customer experience that meets and exceeds expectations.
Customer service satisfaction is measured by understanding how they interact with a brand and collecting feedback through using surveys on different channels and satisfaction metrics, including CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score), CES (Customer Effort Score), or NPS (Net Promoter Score. Acquiring new customers can cost more than retaining an existing customer, so it makes sense for businesses to work out how to enhance the current customer experience and gainw ones.
For example, when customer queries are resolved proactively by utilizing self-service options or real-time engagement tools, people are more satisfied, which reduces the loss of custom. Plus, a delighted new customer could turn into a loyal customer. Thus the business will have increased customer lifetime value (CLTV) – this can be helped by understanding the customer experience and measuring feedback. People often trust recommendations from friends and family more than other kinds of advertising, so happy existing customers could be the best kind of brand marketers by sharing their positive experiences by word of mouth.
How to meet and maintain customer expectations
According to a report by a global business services company, PWC, 73% of those surveyed said that customer experience is a crucial factor in their purchasing decisions. 43% said they would pay more for greater convenience, and 42% would pay for a more welcoming experience. 65% of US customers said a positive experience with a brand was more influential than advertising. Add to this the finding that almost 80% of American consumers claim speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service as the most important parts of a positive customer experience, then the requirement to invest thought, time, and money in this element of a business is crucial.
Understanding customer expectations is crucial to developing strategies to retain their business. At the beginning of the marketing of any organization or product, a picture of who the target customers are is usually drawn up. This should continue as the company develops, looking into the customers’ needs, interests, and outside factors that influence their buying decisions. Once again, market research is an excellent tool to discover why and how both established and new customers found the product or service, why it was chosen over similar offerings, and the problems customers are trying to solve by purchasing what a company has on offer. These answers will help to develop a clear understanding of what the audience is looking for so that their needs are met.
Expanding the research by analyzing the existing customer base will then help to provide information on why customers carry out repeat purchases, which of the customer base tends to become loyal customers, and how best to identify an unhappy customer at the earliest opportunity. The data compiled will help managers develop an accurate picture of who marketing and customer retention efforts should be focused on.
Finding new ways to meet the needs of valuable customers is also crucial, so if they are buying goods, considering whether there should be adjustments made to websites and social media to make their experience easier and faster could be useful. Once adjustments have been made, getting feedback from the customers on how the changes have affected them will make them feel valued and more likely to continue to use the company’s services.
Ensuring customer service teams have clear and tangible standards will also enable a manager to monitor interactions and what they achieve. Good customer support is a crucial investment for any company as they will be the main point of contact for customers. However, it should be done by more than just the support teams. By encouraging all teams within the business to keep customers at the center of each decision, everything that is done will organically keep the end user in mind and therefore is more likely to meet those users’ expectations.
Collecting customer feedback regularly is also important to measure and improve satisfaction levels. Asking questions about how easy it is for them to find the information they need, for example, will help to design customer-facing tools for the better.
Evaluating competitors is also important as customers may have used them in the past. They will compare their experience with them and use that as a basis to formulate their expectations of a new company. So, learning about those offering comparable products will help companies understand what others are doing well, what their customers like about their brand, and if they are doing anything well that could be learned from.
Social media and analytics
Technology and social media have had an enormous impact on customers’ expectations of all kinds, with the ability to contact organizations now available 24 hours a day, whether they can respond to queries or not. By utilizing social media platforms effectively, businesses can strengthen their relationship with their customers throughout their journey.
Social media can be used to give feedback, whether good or bad, with exposure to more than just an audience of a customer service expert. So, harnessing the power of the right platforms is a hugely effective way of connecting positively with customers and developing a brand image that leads to keeping customers with and improving their experience.
Customer Experience Management (CEM) refers to the processes used to oversee customer engagements and manage their relationship with a business. It can be done via offering customer support services, for example. And with regards to social media, there are many platforms, such as visual platforms like YouTube and Instagram, and networking-based models like Facebook and LinkedIn, for which using the right tool to manage customer care on each one collectively is essential.
Tracking engagement levels of individual posts within the target audience is important and investing in regular social media marketing campaigns is key, too, to keep connected and visible. Strategies to consider include using a mix of content forms such as interactive quizzes on a blog, engaging interviews used as customer testimonials, or sharing exciting news. Finding a way to create a personality for a brand can find new customers and build loyalty with current ones.
Getting the right qualifications
The business world is vast and ever-growing, with customer retention and engagement just one element of what any leader needs some knowledge of. Lifelong learning and development are essential to navigate the ever-changing and developing landscape, with technology and changing customer expectations and attitudes evolving constantly. The online MBA programs at Aston University include a personal and professional development program based on the latest thinking on behavioral science, which will also help to understand customer behavior.
With the Creating and Delivering Customer Value module, students can develop the skills and knowledge necessary to analyze marketing options and critically contribute to marketing decisions. Other modules include Measuring and Enhancing Financial Performance, Crafting Organizational Strategy, The Global Economic Environment, Designing and Managing Operations, Systems and Processes, and Leading Complex Organizations.The ability to complete the qualification online will mean students from all over the world can access this UK-based learning. With six intakes per year, candidates can be flexible about when they begin their studies.
For more information, download an online guide or talk to a dedicated admissions advisor.