Recently my travels took me to a small town in New England that looked like it was a Norman Rockwell picture that came to life. The town was complete with the corner barber shop, hardware store, grocery store, and it seemed as though everyone was on a first name basis with each other.
Aside from feeling like I fell into a time warp, one thing struck me were the interactions people had with each other, not only from a personal perspective, but indeed from a business perspective. Each business interaction that I witnessed that afternoon, whether at the bank where customers we referred to by their first name or the restaurant where patrons asked for “the usual,” was an interaction where the person was in touch with the customer’s needs and wants. In many cases, they anticipated them. The employee knew the actual customer, and by being that in tune with the customer, made every interaction, both with good and bad news, a positive customer experience.
The truth of the matter is that few of us live in such nirvana where a businessperson knows his/her customer, and it is not surprising simply because of the de-facto “standard” which we call the “operating business environment.” Businesses today face the daunting task of continuously pushing the envelope to show increased growth while at the same time existing on razor-thin margins. Many businesses survive based on lowering costs to the bare bones while continuing to increase volume. More often than not if the customer has an issue, they want it taken care of quickly and efficiently. With the advent of overnight shipping, the hometown competitive angle has expanded from a dozen mile radius from home to literally anywhere in the world.
This quantum realignment of business can often put the business goals and customer requirements on a collision course with one another. Customers want to be heard and respected. They want to connect with the business on their terms be it phone, web, IM or any other number of communication channels. If you do not make it easy, efficient and pleasant for the customer, they will quickly find your replacement and go elsewhere.
The good news is that it is possible to get closer to your customer even in today’s highly competitive business climate. Today, technology is analyzing every interaction and transaction thus building a detailed profile of the person. By getting this close to the individual customer; just like I witnessed at the town bank or restaurant, it is possible to understand, predict and adapt to their needs in real time. Knowing your customer means you can create tailored experiences that go beyond what they expect.
And it’s not science fiction; businesses today are capturing and analyzing all interactions across the customer journey and are identifying key patterns, trends and voice of the customer insights. When potential sales opportunities or issues are present, real time capabilities can be employed to take action. When the news is bad, guidance is offered to resolve issues and delight customers. And finally, just as the local store clerk wants to satisfy his neighbor, organizations can use tools to drive collaboration, employee engagement and put best practices into every employee and ensure that everyone that faces the customer is incentivized, productive and is in full alignment to delight each customer every time they interact with them.
Consumers will remember how they were treated. While few of us live in the world of Norman Rockwell, we can treat our customers as if we did and use personal interactions to drive bottom-line results.