The digital marketplace has made it increasingly easy for customers to find the lowest possible price. When price is the only difference between two products, the decision is simple. However, that's rarely the case. With lower prices often come more aggravating experiences. As many bargain hunters quickly find, you get what you pay for.
Customers want to spend less, but they usually want a good experience even more. Eighty-one percent of people would pay more for a product if it meant getting a better experience. Loyal customers keep coming back because of what the company gives them, not what it charges. Yet many companies still race to the bottom, competing to see who can charge the least — without considering how it affects their products.
In the travel industry, many companies have focused on getting customers the cheapest possible flights. Ryanair was famous for its incredibly low fares, but infamous for its poor customer service. The company’s business strategy was focused on cost leadership and not much else. Only recently, after a 2013 poll declared it the worst of 100 companies for customer experience, did Ryanair start to change its strategy.
No two companies’ approaches to delighting customers will look alike. However, there are common ways companies can deliver incredible experiences, and none involve lowering prices:
1. Stick to what you say.
Every company needs a mission statement it stands by. Clear goals are helpful for the people working for the company, but they also benefit the people spending money on its product.
In the travel industry, Southwest Airlines has been consistent with its mission of providing simple, affordable flights. When consultants suggested Southwest begin charging for baggage, it was estimated Southwest would earn an extra $350 million.
Southwest remained consistent with its message. Baggage fees violated its mission, and it promoted this with its “Bags Fly Free” ad campaign. Customers responded favorably to Southwest — to the tune of $1 billion in revenue.
Consumers want to buy from a brand with strong values and clear policies. When those are consistent, the customer wants to keep buying. If consumers know they can expect consistency in quality, they won’t mind paying a little extra.
2. Don’t make your customers do too much work.
Customers don’t want to hunt for the information they need to make a purchase. A streamlined, user-friendly website is a prerequisite for any business serious about providing a fantastic customer experience. The quicker customers can find what they’re looking for, the quicker they can make the purchase.
Equally important is giving them options. While some customers prefer talking with a representative to ask for information before making a decision, others want to avoid those interactions and decide on their own. Providing more options shows customers that the company is invested in connecting with them however they want to connect.
A contact number should be displayed clearly on your website. Your app should be easy to use. Customers who prefer self-service also need to be able to find all the information they’re looking for. Price is one piece of information, but it’s not the only one taken into consideration.
3. Make your customers feel heard.
Even though a great deal of business is now conducted through online self-service systems, customers still want positive interpersonal interactions, especially when things go wrong. No industry is immune to occasional mistakes or even complete disasters, so brands should prepare for damage control.
When a customer submits a complaint, the support team needs to respond as quickly as possible. If your team can’t respond immediately, having a turnaround time listed on your website will set expectations so customers aren't left in the dark. Consumers will forgive a promptly fixed error, but waiting forever for a response adds insult to injury.
Prompt customer support starts at the top. Solid leadership, staff training and communication are all necessary for creating an effective support team. When those requirements are met, the staff knows its role and goals, and can address any problems that arise.
Aside from problem-solving live support, a company can invite feedback from customers with review sections on its website and app, whether that feedback is positive or negative. By tracking customer satisfaction, a business can understand what it’s doing well and what it needs to improve upon, giving customers a voice in shaping the brand experience.
Keeping people happy is a lot of work, and it may require investments that raise prices. However, warm relationships are what keep people loyal to a company for years.
No one wins in a race to the bottom for the lowest price. While some customers will pick the cheapest product every time, most will spend money on a brand delivering a great experience — a brand with consistent values, the right resources and responsive customer support. Build these principles into your business, and you’ll keep your customers and your bottom line happy.
Tony Tie is the senior search marketer at Expedia Canada, a travel booking platform for flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises and local activities.
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