There is no business without the customer, but too often, even organisations with the best intentions, spend too much time and energy looking internally rather than addressing their customer base’s wants and needs.
Get to Know Your Customer Day serves as a great reminder to encourage companies to remember the cornerstone of their business: the customer. The day falls every year on the third Thursday of January, April, July, and October. As January just gone marks the first of 2022, it’s a great time to consider what we can be doing this year to better engage with our customers and provide them with all-around better service.
It’s all about the service
When it comes to conducting business, exceptional customer service is no longer an option. “Exceptional service is part and parcel of what modern customers expect”, explains Terry Storrar, Managing Director, Leaseweb UK (https://www.leaseweb.com/). “Every interaction between themselves and any business in any industry is now a gauge of good service. Providing tailored, relevant and easy to navigate service resources are instrumental in delivering a great customer experience. And customers will increasingly drive and shape this.
“Businesses with a deep customer knowledge are well-prepared to give customers what they need, including choice and control through self-service. The pandemic has caused a huge change in what customers now expect from vendor services – whether this is consumer or business – and suppliers will have no choice but to adapt services and business models to suit the new demands”.
Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and founder of Aqilla (https://www.aqilla.com/), continues, “Genuine engagement with customers is key to knowing them and understanding what they need from their suppliers. For us, as a software provider, there are two parts to this. Knowing our customers personally and using the intelligent reporting functions within our solution to understand usage spikes, customer growth and requirements for integration with their wider IT infrastructure. This approach means that we know our customers as ‘people’, and we also understand in very practical, analytical terms how they’re using our software — and what they might need from us in the future”.
There’s no such thing as successfully phoning it in when it comes to customers, it takes time and energy to cultivate a successful partnership. Ian Thomas, COO at Node4 (https://www.node4.co.uk/), highlights, “In addition to spending time with, and getting to know your customer, there are a number of practical steps you can take to help facilitate this, including:
- Being ‘present’ with them and their teams in customer locations (not as easy as it was!) to ‘breathe’ in the environment and see, hear and watch your customers at work.
- Undertake ‘A Day in the Life’ activities that will give you a deeper understanding of what your customer does, what they use your services and solutions for – all of which help to ingrain a deeper insight into why they may get frustrated with a specific element of service, or aren’t quite as happy in another area as you had hoped. These are great opportunities for further understanding and empathy, which are critical to keeping that partnership going.
- Learn what is important to them – business outcomes, key dates in the year, cultural approaches, etc.
- Enter into a Partnership Charter with your customer – it’s a two-way street and the Charter is just consciously agreeing on how you’re going to work together and what you can expect from each other in your relationship.
- Ultimately, we all work better if there is harmony, and the best partnerships are harmonious. Gaining a better understanding by learning about what is important to your customer, and then helping them to achieve those outcomes, will all contribute to that objective”.
Joel Reid, UK&I VP/General Manager at Axway (https://www.axway.com/en), explains similar initiatives that they have put in place, “Open Everything keeps the customer at the centre of the equation. Initiatives like PSD2 Open Banking regulations in Europe or Australia’s Consumer Data Rights directed companies to prepare for consumer data portability and accessibility. Open Everything extends those principles to every vertical: it is a call for enterprises to make the first move and provide timely access to backend systems in a secure, controlled, and scalable way while maintaining visibility into both the systems and incoming transactions”.
Creating an open and honest dialogue with your customer base can be one of the most effective ways to provide good service. “Customers are the lifeline of the company, accelerating customers towards their success targets is core to mutual success”, explains Sharon Eilon, Chief Customer Officer at Aqua Security (https://www.aquasec.com/). “The cstomer office and specifically customer success and customer support are typically the ones getting direct feedback from users and serve the advocates on behalf of the customers.
“Providing customer feedback to the product team leads to new, innovative capabilities. Customer advocacy inside the company is key for both customer and company – while customer achieves value and company continues innovating”.
“It’s vital that service providers ask for and act on feedback from their customers regularly to ensure customer experience doesn’t drop”, furthers David Webb, Managing Director of Property and Facilities Management at Totalmobile (https://www.totalmobile.co.uk/). “One way that companies with mobile workers can improve customer experience is through the implementation of scheduling applications. These solutions not only benefit the workers themselves – helping keep employees up to date in real-time – but they also ensure customers receive visits from workers with the right skills and resources to complete the job at hand, reducing the number of repeat visits needed. This is particularly useful when an emergency job is required, and the application can ensure that changes are made to the schedule with the least disruption to customers with existing appointments”.
In the 21st century, one of the most vital pieces of equipment that companies can utilise to improve their services is modern technology. Rob Shaw, SVP Global Sales at Fluent Commerce (https://fluentcommerce.com/), emphasises, “in today’s digital world, customers are connected to and empowered by technology, and expect the same type of experience from the places they shop. In order to go the extra mile for their customers, retailers need to have an accurate understanding of who the customer is, and how they want to shop, even when they touch the brand through multiple channels. Capturing this information and mapping the interactions back to a single customer profile can help retailers enrich the customer experience through each stage of the buyer journey.
“Indeed, a large majority of customers will research and touch a brand via various channels before actually hitting the buy button. Retailers can optimise on these touches to learn everything about their customers – demographics, past purchase history and behaviour towards the brand. Learning from every exchange enables retailers to personalise each interaction, creating a unified experience complete with individualised recommendations.
“A Distributed Order Management System (OMS) also bolsters the customer experience, as it helps keep all systems and platforms unified. For example, if a customer adds items to their cart on the mobile app, and later finds some more items on the website, will both sets of items show up in their basket? Technology that allows for the recall of every session from your customer via any channel will help improve ease and experience.
“Retailers also need to ensure their systems and platforms are agile yet scalable. The clue’s in the name – ‘Get to Know Your Customer Day’. This flexibility will help ensure they operate with the best-in-breed industry-standard technologies while achieving the connection and personalisation their customers want and will return for.”
At Resistant.AI (https://resistant.ai/), Roger Walton, Chief Revenue Officer, details how they are using tech for a very different outcome, “We have a different take on getting to know your customer, by giving our clients the ability to quickly spot the difference between a real customer and a fraudster. In today’s digital world where financial crime is increasing exponentially and merging with cybercrime, our clients must be able to establish the trusted digital identity from the outset.
“Why is this important? Recent data gathered from our customer base showed that 17% of bank statements used to support lending applications, Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures and other identity-driven financial purposes worldwide are tampered with. Furthermore, 11% of UK payslips submitted as part of digital loan applications are altered or forged.
“This can be remedied by utilising sophisticated artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify anomalies early on in companies’ ‘get to know their customer’ processes. By filtering out the fraudulent, or fake customers, organisations can focus their time and resources on ensuring genuine customers are given the first-class treatment they deserve,” he concludes.