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How Business Owners Can Meet Shifting Customer Expectations

Customers are empowered like never before. The “big guys” who are ‘killing it’ at the Customer Experience game, like Amazon, Apple and Netflix have completely transformed customer expectations over the last few years. Giant leaders in Customer Experience have not only trained the customer to expect packages to show up on their doorstep faster than they can click their mouse but challenged providers to recommend and personalize the content that reflects customers’ anticipated needs and interests.  As a result, customers have now been groomed to expect this level of “experience” in all of their retail and service interactions.

So, if the “big guys” have budgets, processes, and people to deliver exemplary CX does that mean kick ass businesses like us don’t stand a chance?! Should we put our energy elsewhere? HARDLY! In fact, that would be a catastrophic mistake. And we’re here to prove why.

Don’t Underestimate A Business Owner’s CX Power….

While the “big guys” may have a bigger budget, bountiful resources, or a matrixed infrastructure compared to local neighborhood shops, studies show that small businesses have a greater innate ability to excel at Customer Experience! A CX study has shown that 71% of consumers said they have a better experience with a small business over large brands. Budget and infrastructure don’t dictate success, provided you find ways to excel at understanding and responding to the needs and wants of your customers.

Have we peaked you interest? Good! Because there are some pretty major advantages local businesses have over their global/national competitors. Businesses, just like yours, can stand out when it comes to wowing their customer with:

  • Personal Connections:

    Present in local neighborhoods, business owners typically have a good ear to what’s happening in their networks. They are an active member of the community and readily empathize with their customers. Because they’ve got a vested interest in these communities and customers, local business owners have an innate capability to develop more personal relationships with them.

  • Speed of Recovery:

    Due to their nimble business and less bureaucratic processes, customer complaints can often be handled by business owners faster and on a far more personal level. Think less robot automated generated responses to customer complaints, and more picking-up the phone and genuinely apologizing.

  • Increased Flexibility:

    While larger organizations may take months to develop, approve and market new products or services, business owners are in a much better position to quickly adapt to changing industry or market trends and pivot their product offerings/experiences based on customer feedback.

How Can Business Owners Improve Their CX?

To enhance their CX, business owners can do a few simple and tangible things to drive revenue, referrals and customer loyalty.

From our perspective, business owners can immediately start with these three impactful activities to begin their CX efforts:

  1. Gather Customer Data

Do you really know how your customers are feeling after they interact with your business? Unless you’ve actually asked your customers and kept track of their responses, the answer is a big maybe! Most of the ”big guys” will have automated software that collects customer data and feedback, but the important thing to keep in mind is talking to your customer doesn’t need to be complex. Tactics can range from picking up the phone to sending a third-party survey or tracking Net Promoter Scores.  It’s all ultimately designed by you! The important part is to gather customer feedback, make the changes necessary and track activities to measure progress.

Why gather customer feedback? Without customer feedback, you don’t know what drives the customer’s desires and motivations, and without this knowledge, you don’t know how to improve the Customer Experience. Think you’ll be bugging your customers more than you need to? Think again – because research shows 77% of consumers view brands more favourably if they seek out and apply customer feedback. 

As we previously identified, your business has a major advantage in that you can directly interact with customers without the bureaucracy and layers that many large organizations have.  Cut the formality, who needs that $h!t anyway! Have a candid conversation about what’s working, and what’s gotta go.

  1. This Time It’s Personal!

Satisfying your customer’s needs is their minimum expectation. They might be happy enough that you met their needs, but did you actually delight them?  Did you really understand what their desires and motivations are? And then respond by making a real difference? This should be the goal each time! But we get it, it’s not an easy task to do – unless you actually dedicate some time to really prioritizing this.

So, how can you get to know them? It starts with examining like-minded customers and grouping them to build Customer Personas so that you can experience interactions through their eyes! By drilling down to details like their objectives, you can more accurately determine which moments in the customer journey matter most – the touchpoints that are “make it or break it” for customers, and where emotions are running the highest! Customer Personas are different than Customer Segments. The key difference between a persona and a segment is that personas tap into the emotions and behaviors of customers – the warm fuzzy stuff, thus giving you a sense of their personality, values, and how they will react in different situations (we recommend that you consult our Ultimate Guide to Customer Experience to learn more about how to construct a Customer Persona.)

It’s important to note that once identified, Customer Personas including their preferences, objectives and pain points continue to be fluid.  For example, during the Pandemic with remote work and online school being the norm, a given Persona’s trip to their local coffee shop was a purposefully planned and coveted outing ; considered a little escape into some previous memory of normalcy. As a result, this customer interaction held greater significance than it would have had 6 months ago, when grabbing a Grande was more of an errand rather than an outing. Business owners who construct and re-evaluate their Personas are able to anticipate “headspace” shifts in real-time and pivot services and products to reflect that.

  1. Empower Your Employees

Employees are at the frontlines of delivering exceptional customer experiences and enhance or detract the impression left with the customer.  A customer-centric organizational culture cannot exist without all employees wanting to meet customers’ needs by providing each customer with the best experience possible.

Smaller employee teams are closer to their customers due to proximity; this is massively advantageous in comparison to a large corporate team, as it really solidifies a customer-focused organizational culture.  Larger, corporate executive teams can fall into “Ivory Tower Syndrome”, where they have little to no customer interaction in their day to day making it difficult to relate first-hand to those consuming their products and services.  Leadership, in the form of owners and managers, directly on the floor working with customers can create a CX focused culture almost organically.

So how do you keep your employees engaged to consistently do what’s in the best interest of their customer? Well, you give them enough power to actually do what it takes to blow a customer’s socks off! To wow your customers, make sure your employees have and the proper controls to do what’s in the customer’s best interest… without having to always “check with their supervisor”.

Taking a page from WestJet’s book…. this Canadian airline helps keep their customers satisfied with an initiative to empower employees to be the “CEO of the Moment”. The organization makes it a priority to offer every employee, regardless of their position, the opportunity to be the CEO of WestJet for a moment. In that moment the employee is the one with full knowledge of the situation, and the only person who is able to make the decision on what should be done for the customer. Sometimes this can result in a monetary credit, in the form of a fee cancellation, other times it could be recognizing a special in-flight milestone. Whatever the employee decides, the crew rallies to make happen without any questions, trusting it’s in the best interest of the customer! While at first thought it may seem risky to give employees such complete control with no financial limits, through implementing generous boundaries: proper training, guidance and quality control, this employee empowerment initiative has translated into consistently delighting customers. Recognizing that WestJet’s customer experience gestures are more focused on the ‘wow factor’ versus the dollar bills spent…why can’t entrepreneurs and business owners bring this to life in their businesses to adopt a similar framework, with trust starting from the top down.  We think that sounds pretty kickass.

Closing Thoughts

Customer Experience will continue to be the primary differentiator in evaluating where to do business and more importantly where to return to. As we mentioned in our last blog post, CX is proving to be the biggest thing customers are prioritizing, so much so that 80% of companies are expecting to compete primarily on CX in 2020. Ignoring or downplaying Customer Experience is no longer an option for business owners, as the voice of the customer continues to get louder every day.

For this, we’re glad…. because local businesses have a major advantage in this space. With more direct control over their operations and their ability to exceptionally engaging with their customers and personalize their interactions in the moments that matter most to them.

At the XLAB, we see first-hand, how efforts made to Customer Experience are game-changers for our fellow business owners. Need some help getting started, visit stackdxlab.com for more information about the newest Customer Experience accelerator.

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