“Nuts and bolts” of a company’s strengths and credibility once focused on length of time in business, track record and proven abilities—in other words, historical measures. Now, companies increasingly are judged based on their customer service-related performance in the present and moving forward. Historical reputation, while still a factor in buyer decision-making, is taking a backseat to such customer service measures as convenience, understanding and empathizing with customer needs, and trust tied to how well companies treat all stakeholders.
Companies wanting to play ball in the 21st century need to address convenience, demonstrate understanding and empathy, and show commitment and caring to all stakeholders.
While I heartily concur and have repeated that refrain many times, this time it’s referenced in a recent ZDNet.com article headlined, “The new standards of customer engagement: Why we won’t go back to ‘normal.’” Findings reference Salesforce’s fourth edition of the State of the Connected Customer report.
The article authored by Salesforce’s Chief Digital Evangelist Vala Afshar notes: “LEADING WITH VALUES EARNS BUSINESS AS TRUST FALLS TO NEW LOWS…In the midst of simultaneous crises of public health, economics, leadership, racial injustice, and climate change, customers are losing trust in institutions. More than half (52%) of survey respondents told Salesforce that they generally don’t trust companies…61% saying it’s difficult for companies to earn their trust — up from 54% in 2019…actions are under scrutiny for their impacts to all stakeholders, not just their shareholders. Ninety percent of survey respondents agree that how a company acts during a crisis reveals its trustworthiness. From how they treat essential employees to their actions against injustices to their environmental practices, a company’s demonstrated values have an outsized factor in whether or not they’ll earn a customer’s business.”
According to the article, 82% of consumers consider employee treatment important during this year’s crises; involvement in the community (another stakeholder) is important to 72% of consumers.
Convenience plays bigger role in customer satisfaction
Convenience is big and becoming bigger. Notes the article: “Among the most notable shifts is a redefinition of and increased emphasis on convenience. In a physically distanced world, offerings like Zoom appointments to save a trip, curbside pickup to minimize contact, or chatbots to handle unexpected surges in service case volume are now commonplace and expected. Moving forward, convenience will be an increasingly critical aspect of the experience offered by companies regardless of their industry or size. This will be especially true as millennials and GenZ’ers expand their purchasing power.”
Convenience is overshadowing other brand selection criteria. According to the article, customers prioritizing convenience over brand showed up early and often. Seventy-six percent of GenZ’ers fall into this category, with 70% of Millennials, 69% of GenX’ers and 67% of Baby Boomers following suit.
Empathy, understanding come up short
Customer expectations of empathy and understanding are coming up short, the report concludes. Afshar points out in the article: “Despite its importance, most companies are falling fall short of providing customers with customer’s expectations for empathy and understanding, offering a clear and open opportunity for differentiation for those that do.” Statistics from the article note:
- 68% of customers expect brands to demonstrate empathy; only 37% of companies generally do;
- 66% of customers expect understanding of their unique needs and expectations; only 34% of companies generally treat them as unique individuals.
Companies looking for competitive edge have a clear path to success. Those going down that path—and staying consistently on it—will see profits go up as a natural consequence. Those that continue to live in the past will be passed up.
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Mark Lusky (aka The Happy Curmudgeon)
is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm. He’s a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience, and author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage.