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How to Master Customer Experience in Manufacturing.
In an age where all of our answers are just a click or command away; it's easy to get caught up in what technology can do for your business. However, it's just as easy to lose focus of what it can't do and why empathy and human-centred thinking remain the cornerstone of quality customer experience.
There are situations where consumers will still demand to speak to a human and are enraged by automated messages and chatbots. Therefore, companies need to train and empower their front-line team to deliver exceptional customer service; using technology to complement this process, not over-complicate it.
As consumers, we've become accustomed to using apps to make our lives easier, at the click of a button, we can call an Uber or track our deliveries. We crave the ability to interact with brands as conveniently as possible, and businesses need to embrace and adapt to keep up with the modern-day digital consumer.
To help manufacturing brands in their quest to deliver successful customer experiences; I sat down with Head of CX, Kier, to find out exactly what they need to be doing.
What does good customer experience look like?
"'At its base level, a ‘good’ customer experience consists of meeting user needs through a seamless experience. This will rarely look the same and it might not be delivered in the same way; what a customer wants from Greggs versus what a specifier needs from Knauf are two very different things.
"But, it always starts with establishing what your customers (and those who don’t buy from you) need from your business. We’re careful to say ‘needs’ rather than ‘wants’ and not just for semantic reasons. Think of it like eating - you don’t need a doughnut, you need food - but you want a doughnut. If brands give users what they say they want, it’s a shallow interaction. If you take time to understand why a user wants a vs b, and what need they are trying to fulfil, you can develop loyalty and advocacy because you know that customer.
“A specifier working on a large corporate project has a different set of requirements than a fencing installer on a small-scale garden project. When it comes to base needs though, it boils down to the core of why any human interaction works; understanding, empathy, loyalty, happiness.
As brands, and this goes for all verticals, we have to consider how our service and products are meeting the needs of our users, not just how keenly priced they are. There’s a reason Apple can charge such a price premium - they know how to meet their user’s needs and exceed their expectations.”
A great example of a successful customer experience is Screwfix; whether you're a trade customer or a consumer, and no matter the medium you interact with the brand through - be it online, catalogue or in-store, the experience is highly rated.
Why? Because they listen to and understand their customers and they meet both product and service needs of their diverse audience. They understand the constraints around materials and deadlines and their website and front-line staff can give consumers the solution to their needs at ease. And they have delivered a successful transformation from bricks-and-mortar to an omni-channel experience centred on their customer.
What's the first step for brands wanting to own their customer experience?
"This can all sound like a lot of hard work and quite theoretical at times, and perhaps as agencies, we don’t help ourselves. It’s all about taking the first step and trying to really understand your customers, by giving them a voice. Voice of Customer (VoC) is simply that - asking questions, and really listening to the answers. You’ll collect a wealth of information that can help you unlock the customer experience your customers deserve.
“From there, it’s about capturing this information in a way that everyone from the marketing team up to the C-suite can understand and take something from.
"I mentioned empathy and this is where personas become really useful - they give a human face to a customer segment that can, without this step, easily be dismissed as ‘installers’ or ‘specifiers’. Ignoring the differences within segments and grouping everyone together can lead to average experiences for all, rather than well-thought experiences for core audiences.”
To create your personas, you need to get into the mindset of your customers. For example, one persona might be using her phone because she's looking for a new fence panel while on the go. She might be looking for the best quality at the lowest price, and she may want a quote for installation. She'll probably also want to see customer reviews and up-front delivery costs. That may not be true of another persona.
Create personas for every 'customer type.' Once you know your audience, the next step is to map out the journey they might go on from not knowing your brand at all to knowing you; to purchasing; to advocacy.
What is customer journey mapping, and what does it entail?
"Customer journey mapping should be high on the agenda for all brands - if they want to succeed. This process allows companies to map the consumer needs from research right through to advocacy, focusing on every single touch-point that customer might meet on their journey, and the customer's emotions and frustrations."
For instance, this might be the kind of customer journey someone experiences when looking for a boiler:
- You decide you need a new boiler
- You might ask friends and family members about which type they have
- You might do some online research; you might compare brands
- You might speak to a plumber and ask their recommendations
- You might do a Google search to find the one with the best reviews or the one that appears first in the search results
- You might contact the brand,
- Then when you make your decision, why do you choose them
Then, once you've chosen your boiler specialists, you might:
- Arrange for your boiler to be installed
- Call to speak to someone about where your installer is, how long does it take you to get through to sales assistant? Do they provide tracking for your driver? Did they send you an email with a time-frame?
- The installers arrive, how friendly are they?
- You contact the company to organise your warranty; how easy is this service? Has it already been emailed to you? Do you have an online portal or app?
- You've had your boiler for a year, you need a service, or there's a problem, how easy is the brand to arrange this?
"Brands have key Moments of Truth within any journey - generally when a user has decided to buy, at point of purchase and at point of use, but equally the research stage is just as critical (hence Google coining Zero Moment of Truth).
“At each of these stages, if the experience isn’t perfect, a customer with goodwill and high intent can feel let down and that damage can be irreparable. By mapping the customer journey, and really understanding where these pivotal moments are, brands can ensure they focus their energies on consistently amazing experiences at least in these key moments."
It's easy to put less time into a customer post-purchase, but when you look at CX as a whole, this can be the difference between retention and high LTV, or customer churn.
When we look at customer journey mapping, businesses need to consider how their customers feel at different touch-points. Rather than trying to sell more, focus on ensuring your customers are happy.
"Brands can use tools such as HotJar or Delighted to help them understand how customers feel at different points of the digital journey and can employ traditional techniques offline. And when I say traditional techniques, it can be as simple as talking to your customers and measuring their responses. This doesn’t have to be over-engineered.
"Customer experience is a very tangible thing. If you can understand your customer's mindset at specific touch-points and positively impact it, you can change brand perception and a customer’s experience in a moment."
Once brands have identified their customer journeys, what's next?
"Brands need to work out what it is they are trying to achieve. What does good customer experience mean for the business? If you don’t have clear and foolproof reporting in place, and benchmarking like NPS, all of your hard work won’t link to the bottom line and risks being denigrated. So, knowing what makes customers happy is one thing but knowing what it means for the business is what gets you investment into CX"
An excellent example of this is Apple. They provide premium products at a premium price, and yet people continue to buy and upgrade with them every year. Some consumers would argue that the price is too high, but the truth is that it doesn't matter. People don't just buy an iPhone; they buy into the Apple ecosystem, knowing that the products work seamlessly together, and Apple can control this.
What advice would you give C-Suite staff looking to embark on their customer experience journey?
"Customer Experience has become a bit of a buzzword. Brands should be doing this from day one, but it's hard for businesses to do this by themselves as they're very internally focused.
"The best piece of advice I can give is to start small - start talking to and listening to your customers. And then, and of course, an agency would say this, bring in an objective expert. It’s really, really hard to do this objectively without support. It’s the same for any business - if you really want to understand what’s happening, it can help to have someone with no bias involved in the process.
"The second piece of crucial advice is to listen to the data. There will always be internal pressures and decisions made by the business that might make your CX work harder but, keep that focus on the customer - their decision to engage with you as a brand is the reason you’re in business.
“Get the experience absolutely right - like Netflix, Apple and others have done - and you will reap the benefits.”
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Having joined the agency in 2013, Sarah has been part of the agencies growth story and leads the marketing team in delivering great internal and external brand experiences, driving sales and developing relationships with key strategic suppliers.