It’s no surprise that brands need to manage and surpass their customers’ expectations.
In fact, building brand affinity is based on customer happiness, and that happiness comes from foreseeing what the customer wants and needs and providing that offering. Yet customers are coming to expect more and more—and brands are struggling to keep up with what their consumers want.
Despite the rush to offer competitive options, brands need to ensure they’re spending the right amount of time identifying customer needs, developing a product or service, and bringing it to market correctly. If companies rush to put an imperfect product on the market, they could ultimately drive away the very customers they are trying to please.
But more importantly, once a product is launched, brands need to create positive and honest feedback and data loops that are connected to a product’s rapid iteration to perfect and evolve the product and improve the experience.
Take Wi-Fi, for example. People now assume ongoing connectivity to be commonplace and are frustrated when barred from using their devices. While brands need to use technology to create customer-led experiences, if it doesn’t work, the customer’s affinity for the brand is at risk.
However, we’re in a rapidly evolving world. Waiting for a perfect product in today’s environment may result in paralysis and never launching. The most important thing a company can do then to engender customer loyalty is be honest, transparent, and continuously iterate and improve their service.
Creating this type of relationship needs to be a priority for brands, and there are some easy ways to get it right from the get-go.
- Take responsibility: Being honest and up front is the most important thing a brand can do. Don’t try to fool your customers or place blame elsewhere. Address the issue and be as human as possible. Customers want to know that you hear their complaints and that you’re doing everything you can to resolve the issue. This means acknowledging a mistake and actively looking for a solution, not just saying you are.
- Communicate right: Now that you have acknowledged the issue, make sure you are communicating with your customer clearly and effectively. For example, change your service messages in real time based on the actual experience, rather than a fixed message that only frustrates your customer more. Make sure the directions you’re providing are clear and not conditional, and help provide real solutions.
- Put yourself in the customers’ shoes: In order to identify customer expectations, brands need to really understand what their customer wants and more importantly, what they need. The product offering should be geared toward these expectations. Continuing the airline example, why do travelers want to use their Wi-Fi? If watching video content is the answer, ensuring streaming capabilities should be a priority over autofill forms for shopping. Then, understand what problems customers may face and what types of communication or guidance they will be seeking. Who will they contact? How they can help problem-solve on their own?
- Train the customer-facing colleagues: Make sure the people who are dealing directly with customers have a thorough understanding of the technology, potential issues, and possible solutions. While not every customer service representative can be a technologist or have as much training as a 1-800 IT support desk, they are on the front lines, representing your product and your company.
- Scale services correctly and appropriately: You’ve successfully introduced a product to a small or specific subset of your customers. Now you want to expand the offering. Just like creating a new product, make sure you have business processes and multidisciplinary teams aligned to quickly iterate and roll out incremental versions. If you’re going to offer a service that can’t accommodate all your customers, plan for that.
- Leverage UX researchers and developers: While offering authentic experiences is paramount, the real goal is to have an error-free product. Make sure you have the right talent behind an offering, ensuring you understand the user experience and potential issues. Service designers, UX researchers, creative technologists, and other design experts working with engineers can prepare you for ongoing improvement of your product or service.
While it’s better to wait to offer something that is reliable and functional than introduce something that is frustrating and error-prone to the market too soon, sometimes it’s just not possible. Being smart about product development and customer experience when issues do arise means we can create better service experiences that work for a human-shaped world.