An organization I work with received this feedback a few days ago and it was no laughing matter.
Designing a product or service that customers will love is no small task. And even after launch, the organization needs to keep making improvements. We must never come to the point when we become too familiar with the digital consumer. Organizations must strive to create and sustain a connection with their customers.
But these things are easier said than done.
The history of brands in the digital space is replete with stories of organizations that held sway at a time but could not stay the course. Take the case of Nokia. With features such as torchlights, longer lasting batteries and FM radio, its phones took the Nigerian market by storm.
However, the honeymoon was over a few years down the line as competition followed suit. Samsung entered the market with a range of smartphones that catered for the high end, low end of the market and everything in-between.
Before it could enjoy the spoils of war, Tecno showed up with similar featured but less pricey phones. And that’s how I found myself moving over to Tecno. At that time the screen of my Samsung Note 2 was broken. It was going to cost me almost the same amount to get a Tecno F8 phone, as it would have cost to fix the broken screen of my Samsung Note. To top it up, it was about the most affordable dual sim phone that had the features I was looking for in a smartphone – at that time.
In a decade I have transited through the phone brands in the following order - Nokia, Blackberry, IPhone, Samsung and Tecno. With each purchase I have been able to go beyond the marketing hype, looking instead towards my actual needs. Somehow sometime I became sufficiently disconnected from each of these brands to seek solace in the next. In a hyper-competitive market, every little part of the value chain is integral to winning over hard-nosed and wary customers.
That is why the email we received was a very timely reminder of the power of the “smart consumer”. A good product/service may become its own enemy as we bask in the euphoria of exploiting a new market. We have started working towards correcting the very valid flaws identified in the email.
It is time to “leave good behind” (if I may borrow this line from MTN). We live in times when constantly innovative firms eat others for lunch. Excellence is no longer an option. Therefore those of us who are tasked with designing and/or selling a service or product must focus on the concept of the “customer’s moments of truth”.
A moment of truth is typically an occasion “when the interaction between an organization and a customer can make or mar the relationship”.
In the lifetime of the relationship between both parties, there are usually many “moments of truths”. Experts usually warn that the relationship is most vulnerable during the early stages when the customer is still new to the organization or just experiencing the product/service (just as in the case of this customer). Other authorities caution that different customers attach varying levels of importance to different moments of truth. A case in point is guests who check into a hotel. Some may be more interested in the swimming pool and gym. Another set may be more particular about the ambience of the rooms. Yet a third group’s satisfaction will be greatly enhanced by the presence of high-speed, reliable wireless Internet in their rooms. It is indeed different strokes for different folks. Same thing occurs with airlines – while some passengers will always reject a window seat, others want seats at the emergency exits because of the amount of legroom.
If and when an organization decides to, it can over time build a profile of its customers’ interaction patterns and preferences. We have a whole avalanche of digital tools at our disposal to gauge customers’ preferences - from online surveys, analytics tools and even sentiment analysis. We now have unprecedented access to how customers and prospects feel about our organizations, why they do so and most importantly what we can do to make things right in a way that is profitably sustainable for all parties.
These are the days when customers are crying for mass individualization. Can we build some flexibility into our product design, systems and processes? Yes we can and we should!
Creating a lasting positive impression and deep customer loyalty can only come when we build “many positive moments of truths”. Each positive “critical interaction” (moment of truth) helps to reinforce the image of a caring brand and deepens the bond against the rainy/turbulent days of the relationship.
What we cannot afford to be is an organization where “positive moments of truths” are ad hoc arrangements that are hastily organized retrospectively because a customer decides s/he has had enough.
The enemy of most organizations is variation - customers go through painful moments interspersed with moments of joy.
No matter where and how we meet the customer – face-to-face, by telephone, by email or on social media, our frontline teams must demonstrate responsiveness, empathy and be empowered to take the necessary steps to escalate or resolve issues.
Our digital customers are not going to be patient forever. They will seek out newer, better, faster, more cost effective and more reliable ways of meeting their goals. We can and should work to identify and dismantle the institutional barriers that continue to limit our customers from doing more with and for us. We must own these moments of truth because excellence is no more an option.
P.S: This article was also published in the 5th of November 2014 edition of the Punch Newspapers. Click to Read