Turn Empowered Customers Into Loyal Brand Advocates

The quest to satisfy customers may often be viewed by organizations as a never-ending battle which, despite leading in scorecards, may never be won. Customers continue to expect more efficient and faster service, as they have been conditioned through everyday life to expect the highest level of support and issue resolution.

In Aberdeen's recent research on "Voice of the Customer: Empowered Customers Bring a Wealth of Business Insight" (April 2013), half of all respondents stated that their top challenge was the changing dynamics of customer relationships as a result of empowered customers. Customers have not only gained the technology tools to become experts on products, services, and the organization well in advance of an interaction, but they have also mastered the ability to impact the organization's brand through social networks and other channels. To turn empowered customers into positive voices, more than half of top performers (52 percent) have implemented a formal strategy to encourage loyal customers to be advocates for the brand and products; only 27 percent of others have.

As the business world becomes more complex and as customers' collective (and individual) voices become more critical to the viability of the organization, a few recommendations should be implemented.

Formalize a company-wide strategy for voice-of-the-customer initiatives. No one function within the organization owns voice-of-the-customer strategy or is the sole touch point to customers, and thus with these multiple points of interaction, it is imperative that one message is what the customer hears (and sees) no matter which channel (i.e., Web, phone, social, face-to-face) or functional area is the point of contact.

Make customer data available and accessible to relevant stakeholders. Many organizations have become really good at capturing customer data through the many channels of interactions, but the next step is using that insight. More than half of all top performers (52 percent) have a centralized repository in place to store customer data which is accessible to all customer-facing roles as compared to only 31 percent of all others. As data is coming in from everywhere quite quickly, it is imperative that organizations set up tools to capture, cleanse, and make accessible customer insights to help employees better serve customers.

Use customer data to improve products, service, and the overall customer experience. Customers have become accustomed to the fact that organizations will request their feedback. However, they expect and demand that if businesses are given this feedback, it will actually be used to improve products and services. Too often organizations only use customer data/feedback to target future promotions and sales. This insight, though valuable for future targeted promotions, should also be used to actually improve the products and services being provided to these customers. Effectively closing the loop on customer feedback will not only benefit the customer but will also lead to products and services that customers are more willing to pay for.

Customers' expectations have never been higher, and these customers demand more from the organizations they choose to do business with. However, despite this expectation of better, faster service, customers have also provided organizations with a breadth of insight. Now it is up to these organizations to capture, make accessible, and leverage this valuable customer data to improve the customer experience. Organizations that do this well will be able to reap the benefits of s happy customers and hold the competition at bay.

To learn more about key voice-of-the-customer trends, please read the complete report