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Is it getting harder to please customers?

Let’s put aside everything on your marketing ‘must-do’ list for a moment and talk about the foundation of any strong, thriving business – the customer relationship. After all, it doesn’t matter how great your pictures are on Instagram or how catchy your posts are on Facebook if your clients aren’t raving fans when they walk out the door. Research into the daunting arena of the public sentiment has shown that it’s not just the odd livid customer that makes it to Yelp! that you need to worry about, but also the passive bunch in the middle. Now it’s the ‘eh’ responses that could be the riskier majority.

In this age of digital brand bullying, surveys of US corporate executives found that 6 in 10 are finding it more and more difficult to please their customers at all. I know you can feel the pressure, too.

As the screen-addicted, empowered millennial generation starts gaining financial independence they are rapidly shifting the power from brand to consumer. The majority of consumers are now putting more consideration into the brands, are performing more research and relying on peer feedback as part of the purchase process. According to Accenture, 56% of U.S. consumers said the number of brands they consider for a given product or service has increased significantly over the past 10 years and 46% of the same respondents said they were more likely to switch providers than before. The concept of brand loyalty may join the dinosaurs in the 21st century.

The same systems, same procedures and the same products are seemingly not cutting it anymore in the consumer-driven marketplace. As the review feedback loop drives the marketing process more than ever, the marketing department is getting more involved in the purchase and post-purchase experience to protect their promotional investments. Nothing tanks your marketing ROI than a barrage of bad reviews as the average American consumer reports customer service as the true test of how a brand cares for them. Are your front lines, the people that care for your clients, prepared for that task?

When asked what brands could do to win their loyalty, millennials reported:

  1. develop innovative new products and services (80%),
  2. improve design/style to reflect uniqueness (74%),
  3. improve quality (67%),
  4. engage in causes, philanthropy, or endeavors that reflect beliefs/values (63%), and
  5. limit distribution to maintain the brand’s exclusivity (54%)

Is it in fact harder to please customers? Or has technology just given a voice to the angry customer? 93% of business leaders worldwide said technology had changed customer expectations in the past five to 10 years. If technology is driving this change – social media, review sites, online services – how does your company interact with those services? Many companies that are winning in this new economy are those that view these services as customer service activities rather than marketing/promotional. For example, AT&T was an early adopter of social media service, with an entire team dedicated to helping customers using services like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. How many of your customer-facing reps are trolling Twitter and Instagram looking for ways to help users be (more) beautiful?

The CEO is no longer the most influential person in your company – it’s the front desk, the stylist and the people that help your clients on a daily basis. How are you investing in your brands new ‘face?’

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