Keeping your customers happy in a rapidly evolving digital landscape

For reasons I cannot remember, this time of the year is the usual time for me to listen to the masterpiece album, Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel. One of the standout songs for me on this album is “Keep the Customer Satisfied”. A lively upbeat song, this is a stark contrast to its quite stressful lyrics: “I hear words I never heard in the Bible … Just trying to keep my customers satisfied”. Although written at the back end of the 1960s, its sentiment today is just as relevant, if not more so, than ever.

A September 2023 issue of Forbes’ ‘20 Issues Tech Companies Are Facing’ noted customer satisfaction and addressing poor user experience as two big issues right now. I previously talked about having a strong team to deliver in my previous blog post, The key to attracting top talent for your business, and it goes without saying that to deliver exceptional customer service, you need to have the very best talent. But delivering exceptional customer service is not something that relies on just one area.

As technology evolves at breakneck speed, the rush to have the ‘next thing’ becomes a constant task. Strategies of playing it safe and sticking with what you know will be unlikely to generate a successful long-term business, so risks do need to be taken at times. However, caution needs to be exercised when putting out a new product to make sure that the latest innovation works. We have all experienced the frustration when a piece of software is updated to the latest version, but the final bug check was incomplete and the software does not function properly; in the meantime, the fix is generated and rushed out! This can result in a loss of potential customers at the buying stage if they are reading poor experiences, as well as a loss of current customers.

How can negative customer experiences affect your business?

Customers are fickler than ever and will often just quietly quit – they will not tell you they are leaving and/or why, they will simply cancel their subscription, and/or turn to a competitor. In some respects, this type of customer feedback is the worst because you will never know what actually went wrong. For a small product or service, it may not be worth investigating – unless, of course, there are multiple quiet quitters. In this case, an emergency feedback gathering is required! Certainly though, for larger products or services, it is vital to obtain feedback on leavers. In fact, for such key customers, feedback requests should be obtained as the norm for all customers!

In other respects, the worst type of leaving customers are the ones that will complain. It is generally agreed that a bad customer experience is more likely to result in the customer telling multiple people of their experience (it is generally agreed that a good experience may be told to just a few people whilst a bad experience is told to up to 15 people) and word of mouth reviews can often be the most damaging, especially as there is very little a business can do about these. Equally, a complaining customer is highly likely to spend the time noting their experience on social media, Google Reviews, Trustpilot, etc. One bad feedback left can be really damaging to a business, especially in the world of online buying where there is little opportunity to do face to face selling. Once that review is left and out there, there is not too much you can do to correct the situation and it is there for all the world to see.

Tips to ensure that there are only positive customer experiences

Test your product

It sounds obvious, but fully testing the product or service before launching is an absolute must! Have you had an employee try to buy the product or service to give first-hand experience? As Artificial Intelligence becomes increasingly common in its use, there is a danger that it has not quite learnt what is needed – has it written something that looks great but makes no sense?

Obtain customer feedback

Feedback is the breakfast of champions! It is necessary to think about the actual information that will be of use to you instead of asking boiler plate questions that will not generate meaningful answers. I am sure we have all seen the operating system feedback questionnaire that went viral some time ago, where customers were asked how likely they would be to recommend the operating system to their friends and family , to which the general response was 0, because “friends and family just don’t sit around having conversations about what operating system they use”. In an ideal world, the feedback questionnaire would be able to adapt depending on the responses – extra space could be included for a customer reporting extremely positive or negative experiences. This will ensure that the good experiences are harnessed as case studies and that the poor experiences are investigated and resolved promptly.

Spend on quality control and security

Again, this sounds obvious, but there are multiple times when major market leaders take their eye off the ball and think their system or product is perfect - only to find that there is a major security flaw creating data breaches and catastrophic interruption to the business, or that there is a major recall needed because of error in the product being made.

Be honest and fix the mistake

Arguably, the most important action to take is to fix the mistakes. As soon as you become aware of a problem, own it – do not try to deny or brush over it. Admit that there is a problem: say what you will do to fix things and when you will do it. Things tend to break at times, and services can go wrong. The important thing is how you put it right. Keep the customer fully engaged and informed whilst this happens. And remember to still ask for feedback afterwards!

As technology evolves, the amount of innovation will simultaneously increase. This will inevitably lead to problems we did not even know existed! By focusing on the customer, constantly being on top of quality and ensuring problems are fixed, it may just be possible to keep the customer satisfied.

The next step

If you have any further questions regarding this insight, please contact David Allum on, or your usual UHY adviser.

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