ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Make Customer Experience a Differentiator-- Regardless of What Business You're In

We’ve all had at least one bad customer experience in our lifetime. If you’ve only had one – you’re among one of the very lucky few. Most of us have experienced the frustrations of poor, disjointed or slow customer service more times than we can count. For some services, it starts to feel like the norm – but it doesn’t have to be.

Certain industries are notorious for their poor customer service, and on the flip side, there are a few companies that are memorable for providing an outstanding customer experience. Why? Because it’s a differentiator that attracts new customers, and retains existing ones. While delivering a great customer experience is a powerful competitive advantage, maintaining that edge requires a culture of continual improvement and innovation as competitors rush to catch up. The real winner in this scenario is the customer, who can choose where to take their business based on good customer experiences rather than bad ones. Whether customer service in your industry is known to be sub-par or excellent, all businesses can take steps to improve the customer experience and become more competitive in their market.

Customer experience is a competitive differentiator

Who is doing it right?

As I mentioned in a recent ICMI article, inContact recently released a study that identified customer satisfaction hits and misses across 10 different customer service channels and 20 industries. The results revealed that airlines, retailers and credit card companies provide the highest quality customer service, and are among the top-rated industries for both likelihood to recommend and continue.

We can learn from companies like Discover, who tout their great customer service through marketing and advertising efforts. Discover has taken customer connections to another level, seemingly with a mission to create a true experience across various platforms through live-agent interactions, their award-winning mobile app, and ‘very responsive’ rating on Facebook messenger. Their customer service is clearly an important differentiator, and with the credit card industry being such a crowded space with many different perks and points options, consumer-facing financial companies can't afford not to provide quality customer service 24/7. If a customer feels their credit card company's service isn't up to par, they can easily take their business elsewhere.

Who needs to improve?

According to inContact’s survey, the sectors that could use some improvement include fast food, Internet providers, and car rental companies. What are they all missing?

While scenarios vary per industry or service provided, each of these industries are failing to keep pace with increasing customer service expectations. They seem to be lagging when it comes to a seamless experience across channels, as well as personalization, which causes frustration with customers.

Learning from this, companies can take action to improve customer satisfaction – no matter the industry:

  • Improve cross-channel communication. Select a technology provider that can help create seamless interactions with customers, no matter where the conversation starts or ends. If a customer starts a conversation with your chatbot by asking simple questions and the conversation begins to get too complex for AI, ensure that the agent has the transcript and background from that conversation when they are connected. Or, if the chat is taking place with a live agent, that agent should be able continue the conversation via phone if needed. In fact, 71 percent of customers expect to continue talking with the same representative when switching channels.
  • Provide more personalization. There’s a reason IVR and email have the lowest customer service ratings – they are viewed as the least personalized and slowest channels, often not providing the most complete information. One way to provide more personalization is to power call routing with intelligent technology; that is, route the customer to the most effective channel for their specific situation. Customers are willing to go through a short IVR menu if it gets them to the right place, but it needs to be quick. According to the survey, “resolving my question or issue in the quickest way possible” is the top driver of channel performance and a priority area for improvement efforts for both Agent-Assisted and Self-Service interactions. In fact, 87 percent of customers expect companies to direct them to the method or channel that resolves their situation the quickest.

These industry-specific findings demonstrate the need to customize service channels based on users and on specific business needs. That said, businesses will be judged on customer experience compared to the best in the world – not just specific industries. Building a reputation for good customer experience is key to growing and retaining a customer base, especially since 70 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a product or service that has a good customer service reputation.

Food for thought (something I’ve mentioned before, but it warrants another mention): Eight out of ten customers say they would switch companies due to a bad customer experience. Thinking back to an instance where you had a bad experience with a company, did you continue to give them your business, or did you switch to a competitor?