Everyone knows that a great customer experience is critical for business success. When customers are treated well, and when they believe that a company's employees are competent and genuinely concerned with their satisfaction, they will remain loyal, even as competitors vie for their business. Consumers will also tend to make more purchases over time, and generate more word of mouth advertising.
But what constitutes a great customer experience? What differentiates a great experience from a mediocre one? And more importantly, what specific steps can your company take to ensure that every interaction with customers is as good as it can possibly be?
RightNow Technologies Inc., in Bozeman, MT, offers six field proven best practices for delivering a great customer experience across the customer lifecycle. Companies that implement these best practices have happier customers, build stronger brand identities, and can beat competitors who charge less or even have a slightly better product. Companies that fail to implement these practices make a lot of mistakes that turn off customers and choke off revenue.
These best practices all revolve around one central principle: knowledge at the point of action (KAPA). Every time a company interacts with a customer, whether it's a marketing, sales, or service interaction, there is an exchange of knowledge.
Knowledge may flow from the company to the customer, from the customer to the company, or both. But the quality of this knowledge exchange directly impacts the quality of the customer experience.
A great customer experience, therefore, requires that knowledge exchanges take place in a timely way across all communication channels. It also demands that the knowledge exchanged is consistently accurate, relevant, clear, and up to date.
The six best practices for KAPA are:
- Effectively and efficiently capturing required types of knowledge regarding the customer.
- The maintenance of accurate, relevant and fresh knowledge over time.
- Facilitating knowledge access for customers, among frontline employees and partners.
- Leveraging a common knowledge foundation across departments and channels.
- Fully exploiting self service where it is practical and appropriate.
- Continually measuring and improving KAPA effectiveness.
It's important to note that multiple types of knowledge impact the customer experience. They encompass knowledge about customers, products, and the company.
That's why customer relationship management (CRM) data alone is insufficient for a great customer experience. KAPA requires a broader view of what constitutes relevant knowledge, and greater emphasis on real time delivery of knowledge wherever and whenever it's needed.
In today's competitive global marketplace, a consistently excellent customer experience is distinguishing the winners from the losers. To succeed in this marketplace, a company must take concrete steps to optimize this critical competitive differentiator.
KAPA excellence obviously requires an investment of time and money. However, those investments have paid off handsomely for companies across virtually every market segment. The specific benefits associated with KAPA include:
- Greater customer retention. Satisfied customers are loyal customers. In increasingly competitive markets, this loyalty is essential for retaining customers and maximizing the lifetime revenue of every account.
- Higher pricing and higher margins. Companies that consistently deliver a great customer experience don't have to compete on price alone. In fact, customers are often willing to pay a higher price to companies that treat them better. By supporting higher price points, KAPA helps drive healthier margins.
- Stronger brand identity. Whether you're selling financial services, consumer products or a university education, your brand identity is critical to your success. Organizations that drive a superior customer experience with KAPA can achieve and sustain this kind of premium branding, which in turn drives a host of its own business benefits.
- Word of mouth advertising. Positive recommendations from customers are the most effective form of advertising. By transforming your company into the kind of business that customers are happy to recommend to their friends and family, KAPA helps you more cost effectively increase revenue and market share.
- Reduced operational costs. When you consistently give your customers the information they need, and when you consistently get the information you need from them on the first touch, you significantly reduce your costs. KAPA also eliminates many other costs, such as those that are incurred when campaigns are poorly targeted or when product defects go undiscovered for too long. These savings alone can more than pay for the implementation of KAPA best practices.
The bottom line is that by qualitatively and quantitatively improving the customer experience, KAPA boosts long term revenue, prevents profit erosion, and enables you to out perform your competitors. Businesses succeed by winning and keeping one customer at a time. For more information, including a multipage white paper on the KAPA principals, visit www.rightnow.com
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