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You know the feeling. The feeling you get when you go to your favourite local business where they welcome you with open arms and a smile on their face.

They know you. They know who you are, listen to what you want and are flexible and helpful enough to give you a great service and a great experience by treating you as an individual.

Increasingly, this is what people expect from big companies too. Customers want big brands to recognise them. They don’t want to have to tell them twice who they are and provide information that they should already know.

Trust in big brands is declining

No-one likes a big faceless corporation. Trust in many big brands has been eroded in recent years and now some organisations are seen as more distant than ever from their customers.

Take BP for example, which saw a huge decline in its public brand reputation in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the subsequent reaction. Or News International and the public outcry after the phone hacking scandal.

Connecting with customers

It has never been so important for companies to connect effectively with their customers, especially in an age where customers are increasingly setting the agenda via social media.

United Airlines learnt this lesson very openly in 2008 when angry passenger Dave Carroll took to YouTube to voice his frustration after the airline provided nothing but poor customer service. Dave’s story and his lyrics soon became an international hit.

Service and the overall customer experience has never been so important. As profit margins become increasingly squeezed, service really is everything to today’s consumer. It’s how you create the emotional bond with the customer that makes them come back time and time again.

The new technological age puts the consumer in control. The expectation is for permanent access to brands via a number of digital devices and channel choices. He or she wants to be recognised, responded to and valued as an individual customer.

They do not care how big a business is, they want to be treated as if they are that brand's only customer. They want to feel like they do when they interact with their favourite local business.

Embracing the new reality of instant gratification

Successful brands are embracing this new reality. They are developing agile, efficient and effective strategies for turning this into their advantage using digital feedback tools and solutions.

Behaving like a little company works across multiple levels. Below are just five steps to help deliver that small business experience. 

1. Know each and every customer

Recognise them when they get in touch, however they come to you. Understand their needs and respond accordingly with relevant responses.

Use customer feedback to develop the right behaviours to reduce effort, optimise and personalise the customer experience. Don’t ask them twice who they are.

2. Develop a customer action strategy

Open up the channels of feedback, then listen and act when a valued customer is let down. Invest in this process and measure its success, using digital methods to facilitate this.

3. Stitch customer obsession into the fabric of the company

Monitor, analyse and interpret customer sentiment during and after key customer journeys. Make this process continuous, comprehensive and visible throughout the organisation.

Make customer insight the lifeblood of the business.

4. Build stakeholder engagement

Provide them with line of sight to business performance via a blend of internal KPIs and relevant customer insight. Provide customer facing staff with the tools to do their job better.

Get their feedback, listen to their needs and UAT (user acceptance test) all outputs, such as dashboards, before deployment.

Map out a journey for stakeholders to improved business performance and empower them to drive change.

5. Promote the company back to the customer 

Let customers know you are listening and acting off the back of what they have said. Prominent and open calls for feedback will encourage customers to get in touch and a campaign of ‘you said, we did’ stories will help to build trust and confidence in your brand.

The majority of comprehensive Customer Experience Management tools should be able to offer an integrated solution to help reach these crucial steps.

Speaking from personal experience, those that don’t offer market expertise, staff engagement advice and a broad range of flexible, future-proof customer action tools aren’t worth investing in.

Derek Eccleston

Published 24 January, 2014 by Derek Eccleston

Derek Eccleston is Chief Development Officer at eDigitalResearch (edr), part of MARU Group, and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect with Derek on LinkedIn.

5 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

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David Weightman

If there's one word that I could describe and sum up to this topic, that's gonna be - HUMILITY. The idea of having good business is not about after all the name or the branding, but it's the customer service that is often being remembered by most people. That's why it is often a challenge to most big companies to maintain an excellent customer satisfaction rate. Publicity that is proven with good customer feedback is much more valuable than publicity highlighting the brand. Thanks for sharing this Derek! Hope to see you in your future posts! =D

almost 3 years ago

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Tony Larks

Good article and most if not all companies now maintain a presence on social media channels. But who better to be the customer's advocate than their CEO. Really impressed with @paulpester this weekend who took to Twitter to update and say sorry to customers when their ATM network suffered an outtage. Followed today with an explanation and offer that no customers would be out of pocket. Leading from the front and delivering that service you'd expect.
Check out https://twitter.com/PaulPester

This is exactly what big brands need to do to regain trust and customer confidence. Engage in conversation.

almost 3 years ago

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