Guest Post by Joseph Michelli, Ph.D
Ok, the title is a smidge misleading. If customer loyalty was something easily achieved, the American Customer Satisfaction Index would not be approaching a 9-year low. However, “EASE” is a key to driving customer satisfaction, engagement, loyalty and referrals.
In this, the age of the consumer, people increasingly want knowledgeable sales people, veritably perfect products, rich sets of product and service offerings, instant delivery, and a strong emotional connection with the companies they choose to patronize. By the way, if your business fails them on any of those fronts, those very same customers have, at their fingertips, a plethora of other options, the ability to write scathing online reviews, and a penchant for sharing negative stories widely throughout social media.
Let me pause this depressingly challenging consumer trend analysis by offering resounding hope!
Dating back to seminal research published in 2012 in the Harvard Business Review, a considerable number of studies support the notion that the “less effort customers expend to get their needs met, the more likely they are to make repurchases and to spend more with your brand.” Put simply the easier it is for your customers to shop, buy, receive service, and execute returns, the more likely they are to stay loyal and spend more with you.
As such, I have been encouraging clients with whom I consult to ask their customers to assess the effort required to get their needs met across the brand journey.
More importantly, companies like Mercedes-Benz USA (with whom I have worked and written about in my latest book Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way) focus on making the lives of customers easy by empowering staff members, streamlining processes and strategically deploying technology.
One example of this is Mercedes Benz USA’s “Digital Service Drive.”
Before Digital Service Drive, most dealers purported to have “online-scheduling.” However, in some cases, that was nothing more than posting the service department phone number on the dealership website so customers could then call and make an appointment – not a particularly easy set of hurdles to jump if you are the customer.
By contrast, the Digital Service Drive program includes, among other features:
- True On-line Service Appointment Scheduling – Customers are given the opportunity to schedule service and arrange a courtesy vehicle at any time using a smart device or computer.
- Service Drive Tablets – iPads and Digital Service Drive technology enables a Service Advisor to complete the write up, vehicle history, walk around, customer information collection, and loaner contract processes, all from the advisor’s tablet. These activities take place in the service drive without the customers having to leave their vehicles.
- Status notification automatically sent via customer-preferred method – The customer receives updates on the service process and a summary of the work being completed in easy-to-understand language.
- Online Bill Pay -This feature enables customers to use their mobile devices to make self-service payments by delivering final parts and service invoices via text and email. It also allows customers to pay anywhere and anytime that is convenient to them. No need standing in line to pay after you talk to a service advisor!
From a dealer’s perspective, Digital Service Drive results in greater customer engagement by providing choice and cutting-edge tools that project a professional image for the dealership. From the customer’s vantage point, the Digital Service Drive simply means ease, convenience, and more productive use of time at the dealership.
Are you driving customer “ease” at your business? Are you asking your customers about the effort they expend?
If you aren’t, I suspect a competitor will!
Joseph A Michelli, PhD, CSP, is an internationally sought-after speaker, consultant, and New York Times No 1 best-selling author. You can find more information about him at www.josephmichelli.com.