Before the emergence of the Internet and social networks like Facebook & Co., consumers had little choice but to rely on the brand promise made to them by the manufacturer when making a purchase decision. For example, it was an ingenious campaign idea of the semiconductor manufacturer Intel to lull people into a sense of security when buying their new Intel PC with the slogan: "Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM." Credible brand promises with sufficiently high advertising budgets were enough to generate new customers. And a consistent brand experience with a recognizable look & feel and eternally identical brand tonality almost certainly ensured that one-time buyers became regular customers.
Customers evaluate not only the product, but above all the customer experience
However, these good old days are over with the dawn of the information age. Companies no longer have exclusive control over what and how customers think about them. Instead, customer reviews, social media comments, influencer posts or unboxing videos influence the public image of manufacturers and products. And it's not just product quality that's taken into account, but the entire experience a customer has with a company during the buying process and afterwards. It's not for nothing that many product reviews on Amazon & Co. include the sentence: "Smooth and fast delivery."
"The key to customer loyalty is an effortless customer service experience," writes consultancy Gartner in a dossier on the subject. Or to put it in new German terms: experience loyalty beats brand loyalty. If you want to keep customers for the long term, you have to do everything you can to make their lives as comfortable and easy as possible. Every little stumbling block in the relationship between company and customer must be swept out of the way as far as possible. Because buyers are quick to vent their anger loudly on Facebook if they have to wait for hours on the customer hotline or receive generic general phrases in response to individual e-mail inquiries. And anyone who has to go through a tour de force to return an online order is very likely to simply choose a different provider next time.
If you want experience loyalty, you have to see through the customer's lens
But how can manufacturers and retailers improve their customers' experience loyalty? The answer: by looking through their customers' glasses - and thus considering the entire customer journey and not just the process from store entry to checkout. As early as the marketing stage, retailers must take into account that every customer has preferred channels - and serve them accordingly. In the online store, mobile customers should be offered just as good a shopping experience as customers who visit the web store via their desktop PC. Retailers are also customer-focused if they personalize their product range and don't make customers scroll through pages and pages of product lists. And at checkout, retailers should offer all relevant payment options and ask for as little data as possible.
What is often forgotten when optimizing experience loyalty is that the buying experience does not stop after the click on the buy button. On the contrary: shipping the order is the most emotional part of the customer journey and a fundamental lever for converting one-time customers into enthusiastic repeat customers. To find out what customers expect in terms of operations experience, i.e. the time between placing an order and delivery or completed return, we joined forces with the market research institute YouGov in a recent consumer survey in June to ask 2,000 online shoppers about their preferences. Among the most important findings: 86 percent of customers expect free shipping, 71 percent want to be able to choose between different carriers, 68 percent would be happy to be informed in the event of delays in the shipping process, and 59 percent appreciate it if express delivery is offered. Customers should also be able to return an order easily - for example, by enclosing return labels and making it possible to return the goods free of charge. And finally, after-sales services - for example, with lifetime guarantees - also play a decisive role in customer loyalty.
Those who offer an excellent customer experience in all these respects will positively set themselves apart from the competition. Because to give an example: A pair of Bose headphones is available from thousands of online retailers at comparable prices. But John Lewis has a customer-friendly warranty and returns policy on top of that. The same goes for a Moleskine notebook. You can get them anywhere, too, but at Amazon, they're guaranteed within 24 hours. Where would you buy if you were the customer?
About parcelLab GmbH
With the Operations Experience (OX) platform parcelLab, companies optimize the customer experience during order processing. Large companies in all industries can use the unique cloud platform (SaaS) to control all relevant process steps in fullfilment themselves in real time, identify any problems at an early stage and thus react proactively.
Via fully configurable and automated workflows, companies can communicate directly and in a highly personalized manner with the customer at all relevant points in the process and no longer have to hand over this valuable point of contact to third parties such as DHL & Co. In this way, companies ensure a consistent brand experience, proactive customer service and maximized cross-selling potential.
parcelLab customers include over 500 well-known companies in 45 countries and 32 languages, including IKEA, Lidl and MediaMarktSaturn. The company was founded in 2014 and today employs over 80 people at locations in Munich, London, Paris and Los Angeles.