Why customer communication is an essential part of the experience

Why customer communication is an essential part of the experience
4 minutes read

As with anything in life, the devil is in the detail. You managed to get someone to buy from you and have supplied them with the product or service. But wait, what if they want to talk to you? What if they need help? What if they received the wrong product? As most people know, communication is essential in business and great communication can only support great performance. So, why do customers find it hard to contact someone? Why is it so difficult to fix a problem? How did it take a complaint to someone senior to get things done? Read on as we explore why customer communication is an essential part of the experience.


Customer experience misunderstood

Customer experience (CX) is much more than the ease of placing an order or the interaction with customer services. It covers every interaction, every touchpoint and every time your organisation enters our consciousness. It starts the first time someone hears about you or sees your branding. It ends when they are no longer your customer. In summary, it is more than just the process of separating customers from their cash. It is also more than providing a customer service function to handle queries. CX is end-to-end which means that there are many opportunities for it to go wrong.

In general, human beings remember negative experiences more than positive ones. It is believed that this is an evolutionary survival mechanism, reminding us of sources of danger. Furthermore, it is part of the brain’s learning mechanism, helping us to avoid similar bad choices. We recall that the negative experience made us feel bad and try to avoid it. This should ultimately lead to more ‘rewarding’ behavioural outcomes in future. Therefore, we should avoid any strong negative experiences for our customers at all costs, lest they learn that the grass is greener elsewhere.


Communication as part of the experience

It goes without saying that human beings are curious. Various studies have shown that when left to idle, such as when trying to switch off and relax, brain activity actually increases. This confounded prior expert opinion and research into productivity at work. In essence, it turns out that downtime actually frees our minds to wander, innovate and problem-solve. So, imagine what happens when your customer places an order and nobody communicates with them? Fear is a natural human emotion and we begin to fear that something is wrong, causing us anxiety.

Additionally, not all interactions are successful. Perhaps an employee is having a bad day and the customer perceives that on the telephone. Maybe someone is abrupt during an online chat. Perhaps the engineer or delivery driver arrived 2 hours late and failed to apologise or explain why. No communication and bad communication can both damage the customer experience. In fact, over-communication can damage trust if the information is not of value or contains too many marketing messages.


Essential customer communication

There are some roles that directly impact the customer experience, such as frontline staff. Shop assistants, beauty consultants, couriers, waiters, engineers, contact centre agents etc. These roles have direct access, either face-to-face or over the telephone, with customers and are arguably the highest risk. First impressions are important when interviewing and they are just as important here. Interviewers make a decision about a candidate within the first 3 minutes based on what they see and hear. Similarly, customers are evaluating whether they like you and if you can help them in a few minutes.

Going beyond the face-to-face, many organisations have online chat, email, social media messaging, SMS, WhatsApp etc. These digital communication tools mostly have human beings at the other end. As will increasingly become the case, AI systems, such as ChatGPT, will eventually automate much of the routine interactions with organisations. Similarly, marketing automation platforms have robotised much promotional communication. However, things still go wrong here. Customers get frustrated, emails go to spam folders, messages are not answered quickly or online chats take forever.


Erroneous customer communication

Believe it or not, when companies (read people) screw up, as we invariably do, it is possible to repair things. Furthermore, research suggests that in some cases, we may even come out ahead of where we were before the error. This phenomenon is known as the service recovery paradox. This occurs when a customer with a problem has their problem effectively and efficiently resolved, giving them a more positive perception of your business. Indeed, a customer who has never had a problem has not given you the opportunity to demonstrate how you would fix it. Thus, the customer with a well-solved issue is more positive than a customer without any problems or a customer with a poorly resolved problem that will never come back.

The tendency of many staff is to take the ‘ostrich’ approach, which is the opposite of what you should do. Ignoring the problem and hoping that it will go away is passing the buck and opening up the possibility of a complaint. Similarly, ineffective management of inbound and outbound customer communication is a source of many problems. Hand-offs to different departments or colleagues is fraught with difficulty and makes it easy to lose track of the query. Are you following up internally but forgetting to update the customer? Have you assured the customer that it will be solved but then someone dropped the ball?


Revamp your customer experience

Here at Think Beyond, we see customer experience as a key determinant of performance. Happy customers will keep buying from you time and time again. Customers that rarely experience a considerable calamity are unlikely to take the trouble to look elsewhere. So, why not invest in a customer experience programme? Why not ‘sheep dip’ your employees through customer experience training? How about some research into how customers feel and what they want from you?

If you would like support on your customer experience crusade, simply drop us a line. Alternatively, why you request a call back via our handy online form.

Finally, why not read about our customer experience benchmarking example.