No matter what organization we work for or what our individual jobs might be, all of us are customers. Most large economies across the globe are based on the concept of a competitive array of suppliers seeking to create and serve a customer. Growing the customer base is almost always the key to organizational success. What’s the corresponding key to winning and keeping those customers? Sure, price is important, but there’s another element at work here that’s even more important: customer quality of experience, or QoE.
The great truth here is that many customers will forgo obtaining the best possible price in exchange for receiving higher quality of service, which is almost always the
most important contributor to quality of the customer experience in retail. And the role of QoE in purely service-based transactions--like banking and other financial services, sports and entertainment venues, healthcare, hospitality, and many more--cannot be underestimated. Great food in a restaurant might be what gets us in the door, but great service is what keeps us coming back.
No matter what the product or service might be, Web-based shopping is clearly the single largest evolutionary change in consumer commerce since mail order--and that goes back more than 70 years! Many Web-based retailers today offer such remarkable and almost frictionless convenience that they’ve in fact placed an existential challenge at the doorsteps of many traditional real-world retailers. Amazon is the most obvious example here. But note that even Amazon is also now venturing into that real world, with the Whole Foods acquisition as perhaps the most notable example.
It’s thus become common for traditional storefront businesses to have a “clicks ‘n’ bricks” marketing strategy, which includes online catalogs, order-online/pick-up-locally convenience, and a variety of help and customer-support capabilities. Why? Because the real world is all about mobility: Customers usually like to see what they’re buying, and, of course, mobility is always an essential element in service-based experiences.
An essential component of this fundamental evolution of commerce is a shift from the browser-based shopping interfaces traditional on PCs to apps on mobile devices. Indeed, with fundamentally--and essentially--mobile tablets and particularly handsets poised to become the devices of choice for just about everyone for personal (and also most business) activities, the customer-facing app is now an essential element in realizing the best possible QoE and thus in growing a long-term customer relationship.
So what should businesses living in the contemporary mobile-centric world be focusing on to provide the best possible QoE? Here are a few tips to accomplish exactly that:
- First, set quantifiable customer service goals. Always remember that time-to-solution is critical. Customers who are out and about are especially sensitive to having their time respected. App quality, range of function and ease of use can go a long way toward minimizing a given customer’s need to contact support or a rep via phone, which almost always has a negative impact on customer relationships.
- If customers do need to contact live service or support, a helpful and caring attitude is essential. Again, time is of the essence for mobile users, so avoid putting users on hold. And learn from experience: Keep detailed records of specific issues, and the 80/20 rule will almost certainly point the way forward--as in, 20% of problems requiring attention will likely consume 80% of your service and support effort. Fix these, and both your customers and your bottom line will thank you.
- And, as has always been the case, call your customer-support line every once in a while to experience your customer service, performance, availability and QoE firsthand. If you’re unhappy with this experience, your customers likely will be, too. Have your IT and customer-service staff do this as well for maximum benefit.
Most important, though, is making sure that organizational IT and especially organizational networks have the capacity (as measured by throughput, time-bounded performance and consistency) to ensure a frictionless customer experience. Indeed, some network equipment vendors already grasp the importance of QoE and have enhanced their product lines to help their customers offer the best possible experience to their customers. Bob Nilsson, Director of Solutions Marketing at Extreme Networks, told us that “we’ve studied this opportunity extensively, and, as a result, we’ve optimized features of our product lines to help our customers deliver the best possible mobile experience to their users and customers."
Product differentiation, of course, will always be important, along, certainly, with pricing. But differentiation based on service that provides a demonstrably better customer QoE
is much more likely to make the difference in growing and retaining customers going forward.