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ALL CONTENT WRITTEN AND SUBMITTED BY NIALA RAMKALLAWAN

 

In light of the active threat of the COVID-19 pandemic transitioning to the level of community spread in Trinidad and Tobago, Entrepreneurs are again faced with the strong possibility of remodeling, enhancing and transforming their key business strategy under the New Normal. For survival, growth and sustainability of our MSMEs, the need to rework and diversify our approach must be geared towards our potential consumers and actual customers.

 

Though the business climate in our twin isle is progressing at a slower rate, Entrepreneurs must stay resilient and be mindful that this health scare has dealt a harsh blow to economies globally and entire business communities, causing long standing brands to close down operations worldwide. As a problem solver, critical thinker, game changer and pioneer, amidst all this global uncertainty, Entrepreneurs must retain a positive, fighting and breakthrough mindset of a Champion. By adapting and working with what we face, we must seek solutions for the now, near future and even distant one.

 

Working with what we have and knowledge that our customer base is the very essence of our existence, how we treat with them must be given particular attention. As such, it is necessary that an Entrepreneur be equipped with and also possess a skillset to understand and manage customer relationships in a feasible and sustainable manner during this pandemic and beyond.

 

This blog feature offers distinct pockets of knowledge to aid your decision making, practical approach and realistic strategy in handling customers, in addition to comparatively highlighting the key elements of both customer service and customer experience. At that point, the onus will be on you to tighten your existing approach or integrate this learning in your present business survival and continuity blueprint.

 

THINK! -> While advertising or in selling your product, is your effort focused on providing mere customer service or do you aim to deliver a customer experience?

 

If you can’t differentiate between both, don’t be too hard on yourself. In all honesty and according to several studies, many MSME business owners consider customer service and a customer experience the same thing, or are confident that they already possess adequate knowledge to successfully close a sale and leave the customer satisfied.

 

Today, I would like clarify that perception in the diagram below, which pinpoints that customer service and customer experience are not one and the same. However, it is true on occasion, that few similar elements shared may overlap.

 

Weekly Challenge:

This challenge consists of 3 tasks, I’d love for you to do and get involved in.

1st Task:

I would like you to think about your customer encounter and delivery. Honestly decide if you focus on providing Customer Service or prefer to offer a Customer Experience.

2nd Task:

Ask yourself are you satisfied with how you deal with your customers? (Keeping in mind your ability to retain your regular customers and also your ability to attract new ones - Do you need to work harder and exert more effort or is your product good enough to gain popularity via word-of-mouth?)

3rd Task:

When you’re done reading this blog. Give some thought to your present approach: you can opt to tweak certain parts of your customer encounter, revamp an approach in its entirety, pay more attention to the customer journey or even add some elements of a healthy customer relationship to your mix. The choice is yours.

 

In an earlier blog post entitled ‘Changing Dynamics & the Normal Customer’, characteristics of the New Normal Customer were accentuated in great detail. It is imperative to note that very few purchases are done ad hoc without proper research involving the comparison of prices, suppliers, geographic locations, delivery options, payment plans, and the list goes on.

 

As such, it is necessary to give consideration to what is known as the Customer Journey. This journey illustrated below reveals the process a customer will go through from becoming aware of the product or Supplier to the business transaction conducted between the Entrepreneur and the customer where the final purchase is made and customer encounter is delivered.

In business as usual under the New Normal, collaboration between the Customer Journey and Components of a Healthy Customer Relationship is relevant and much needed to incorporate in the customer experience and add to our entrepreneurial journey for the way forward.

 

Have a look at all 8 elements identified below required for a Healthy Customer Relationship to become a successful and sustainable Customer Experience, noting which ones you currently utilise and pinpointing those you would like to integrate in your business model in the near future. I assure you that all elements are equally important, though as an Entrepreneur priority is given based on resources, financial or otherwise and the allocation of such.

 

 

With that in mind, how about some worthwhile tips to employ and enhance your New Normal Customer Experience offering in your MSME.

               

  • Effective Tips For Building Your New Normal Customer Experience:
  • Recognize that customers and target niches have changing needs and expectations. So a generic strategy used in the past, may be outdated and no longer be pertinent.
  • Be aware of any new or shifting consumer, customer or market trends. These may be as simple as customers having a preference for delivery to a workplace or public space, as opposed to their home, or customers looking forward to discounts and bargains after purchasing a certain quantity, or even customers’ preference to pay cash on delivery instead of using an online payment method.
  • Observe and understand the change in the needs, expectations, market and trends of your customer or target niche. Make notes and do some research as to what triggered or caused the shift.
  • Map a Customer’s Journey. To do this, you will need to communicate with your customers to garner first-hand knowledge by asking questions, conversing or gently probing, awaiting and noting their responses for future customer encounters.
  • Build a Customer Profile with all the fresh details acquired from the point aforementioned, including a list their needs and respective expectations. This will aid in managing your customer relationship and enable you to build your customer database and expand your customer network, which will be advantageous for marketing, advertising and hosting new product alerts, just to name a few.
  • Brainstorm strategies and tactics that set you apart from marketplace rivals and competing substitute products.

Truth be told, many times an Entrepreneur has an awesome product, but the target audience is lacking or unsuitable, the method of reach is ineffective or they lack confidence in pushing their product to achieve the attention, growth and success that it was meant to receive .

  • For MSMEs with an online presence, allocate time to browse emails, reply to messages, and visit social media. It is also wise to drop by online market places and e-commerce sites. Consider this browsing time, as part of your strategising routine. By meticulously looking at competitors, substitute products or product details, you can determine their selling strategy or approach.

For instance, closely observe if prices are posted from the onset with the advertised product, if the price isn’t listed assume the Seller prefers to interact with the consumer and get buy in. It is also safe to assume if the Seller notices the Customer is interested but hesitant (as it’s their first time buying that brand or from that Seller, it’s a different brand from the one they’re accustomed to or think they will be get more value for their money with the said product), the Seller may then offer combos, specials and bargains, or throw in free delivery to certain areas or when purchases over a certain amount is made.

  • Customer Engagement is also very important. This interaction will create an impression in the mind of the Customer and reinforce their perception of the Entrepreneur, your business or your product offering.

As part of most marketing strategies in history and more so today, you need to emotionally appeal to your target audience, with the consumer at the forefront of your mind and form a bond that emotionally connects them to your product, brand or yourself. It’s an experience we want to be favourable for them, so our product and brand remain as an integral part of their top-of-mind awareness.

Typically, you acquire the customer, then engage them with your champion mindset to get buy in and retain them for repeat business, encouraging positive testimonials and word of mouth referrals. This type of customer loyalty occurs in the final Component of a Healthy Customer Relationship and Customer Experience.

 

For your next customer interaction, think like Shep Hyken,

“Satisfaction is a Rating. Loyalty is a Brand.”

 

Each customer is different and dissimilar to another. Though they may exhibit similar traits and characteristics, each inquiry leading up to each sale must be handled with care and consideration given the fact that the customer is our ‘yard stick’.

 

As mentioned before, you can have a wonderful product that no one is aware exists, BUT what about if you have that type of product with terrible customer service or a bad attitude. From my past experience in conducting business with MSMES, I’d like to point out some things that I believe can definitely damper a customer experience and damage a reputable image or brand:

  1. When contacted, price and product details are inconsistent from what was advertised
  2. Incorrect prices were advertised and upon payment the discovery was made
  3. Messages via social media and email were professional and courteous, whereas during the customer encounter namely delivery manners were deficient and the Seller in an apparent rush for payment
  4. The Seller takes too long to respond to posts and messages on social media and via emails
  5. The image of the advertised product does not look the same as the actual product in real life
  6. The product was advertised where contact details and information were omitted, so the Customer is unable to contact the Seller
  7. The Entrepreneur lacks flexibility and is unwilling to have an online presence, give prices over the phone, or offer an option of delivery

 

With that in mind, remember:

“Every single interaction, the most minute details of the interaction you have with your customer, are an opportunity for you to create something remarkable.” - Joey Coleman, CX Expert and Co-host of Experience This!

** Source: Please note all images were created for this blog.

 

 

About Niala

I am a Freelance MSE & Social Media Advisor, the Owner/Founder of Gia’s Creative Studio and YBTT Mentor/Advisor providing ‘Insights from a Creative Entrepreneur’ on transformational leadership, strategy, forging a legacy, motivation and success.
Niala Ramkallawan, MBA, BSc.
 
You can find me on:
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/niala-r-71b12742/
YBTT - https://ybcaribbean.skysthelimit.org/volunteer-profile/15317
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/giascreativestudio/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/giascreativestudio.868/

 

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