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Consumers today want to be heard: they share compliments and criticisms of brands they love and loathe on social media and what they say can carry tremendous weight. It’s easy to say that, as a brand, you want to listen to your customers and give them what they’re after, but putting those goals into practice can be more difficult than it seems. It involves rethinking how your entire brand interacts with customers digitally, and it involves reassessing what each member of your organization does with the information you learn.
Khoros commissioned Forrester Consulting to learn what customers think of brands throughout their entire journey. For the study, Forrester conducted two online surveys, one with marketing and care decision makers at B2C enterprises and another with consumers who interact digitally with the types of brands in the B2C study. (Find out more about who participated in the surveys in the full Forrester report).
The biggest take-away Forrester reported was that brands, “fundamentally misunderstand what their customers want and consistently misjudge the actions customers are willing to take when confronted with an unpleasant brand interaction.” While that mismatch is significant, working to close the gap between what your customers want and what your brand offers them can boost your bottom line: Forrester also found that 43% of consumers are likely to buy something from a brand after a positive care experience, and 41% are likely to make a purchase after a positive marketing experience. So, how to bridge the gap? We’ve identified 5 key steps brands can take to improve the customer experience today.
43% of consumers are likely to buy something from a brand after a positive care experience, and 41% are likely to make a purchase after a positive marketing experience.
Maintaining a strong digital presence and interacting efficiently with your customers is crucial, but simply being online and talking to consumers isn’t enough. Consumers aren’t just looking for an interaction in general, they’re looking for a satisfying interaction. Unfortunately, brands often miss this important detail. In fact, 29% of consumers say they regularly receive an unsatisfactory response to a question or complaint, but only 14% of brands think they regularly give unsatisfactory responses to their customers.
29% of consumers say they regularly receive an unsatisfactory response to a question or complaint.
Furthermore, it’s crucial to make sure your care and marketing teams coordinate: 26% of consumers say they regularly receive an ad or marketing email from a company while they still have an outstanding complaint with that company, yet only 16% of brands recognize that they regularly market to consumers before resolving their issues.
Failing to address these consumer realities can lead to a loss of sales, or perhaps worse, a public complaint. The last thing any brand wants to see on social is a complaint, and for good reason: brands work hard to craft and maintain their reputations, and there’s no escaping the realities of how much one negative comment has the potential to damage a brand. But brands can take back control of the narrative simply by engaging with customers making complaints. Forrester found that 83% of consumers say they are more loyal to brands that respond to and resolve their complaints. Consumers aren’t expecting flawless experiences, but they are expecting brands to care enough to make things right when they aren’t, and they’re highly likely to reward your brand with loyalty when you do.
When you talk to your customers (or potential customers) it’s important to sound like a real person, not an advertisement. When marketing was a one-way street (TV, radio, or print ads), brands communicated in a particular way — essentially brands talked at their consumers. But now, with social media, marketing is often a back-and-forth, and brands must adapt by speaking to their customers in an authentic way. Brands that can accomplish this are likely to find receptive customers: 75% of consumers value an authentic, human voice over a perfectly crafted message from a brand.
75% of consumers value an authentic, human voice over a perfectly crafted message from a brand.
Carry this relatable approach over to your care team as well, as this is something consumers report is sorely lacking. While 87% of brands are confident that they offer helpful and personable customer service over the phone, only 17% of consumers say they regularly experience this type of interaction.
Consumers don’t just expect helpful responses to their queries delivered in a personable way, they also expect brands to behave like holistic organizations. That is, consumers don’t want to repeat themselves: in their study, Forrester found that 77% of consumers expect a brand’s internal teams to collaborate so that they don’t need to repeat themselves or receive impersonal communications. But while more than three-quarters of consumers have these expectations of brands, 35% of consumers say they regularly have to repeat their issue or complaint to multiple customer care representatives. Unsurprisingly, just 19% of brands think customer repetition happens regularly. But, now that you know, you can do something about it — namely, break down silos within your organization and share customer details between teams.
Not only do consumers want brands to speak to them in a human, authentic way, they also want to been seen by brands as the individuals that they are, and brands that can treat each consumer as an individual are likely to find success. In fact, 68% of consumers are more likely to spend money with a brand who knows them and treats them like an individual.
68% of consumers are more likely to spend money with a brand who knows them and treats them like an individual.
There’s room for improvement: while 88% of brands are confident that they keep data about customers so that they can personalize their future interactions, only 18% of customers regularly experience personalized service.
Part of the appeal of social media for consumers is the sense that they’re in control: they can contact brands when they choose, on their time, and it’s important that brands have the ability to receive them. While just 18% of brands think consumers are regularly unable to connect to a brand through their preferred mode of contact, 27% of consumers say it regularly happens. Expectations are high: 62% of consumers expect brands to be available and open to communication in all of their favorite digital channels.
62% of consumers expect brands to be available and open to communication in all of their favorite digital channels.
Consumers want to be able to self-serve on digital channels, too, but they often run into trouble. Brands are largely unaware of this failure. While 31% of consumers say they are regularly unable to find the information or help they need on their own, just 17% of brands are aware of how regular of an occurrence this is for consumers. Make sure information that can help your customers is readily available in the form of FAQs, community postings, or blog posts, and work toward meeting your customers where they are.
Offering consumers a good customer experience can make or break a brand, and when brands are able to meet consumers’ needs — even when the brand has made a misstep — brands are likely to create customers for life. To learn more about the disconnect between consumer expectations and brand understanding — and to learn more about how your brand can address the gap — see the full Forrester report.