They say the customer is always right. For today’s workers, that cliché rings increasingly true. Living in a services economy, customers expect more, and companies have to deliver on the customer experience front.

Emphasis on a Great Customer Experience

Product excellence is no longer enough to win and compete in today’s markets. Tech innovation has in some part leveled the playing field, making it easier for start-ups to compete with large, established organizations. Rather, the new point of differentiation that helps companies grow and retain their customer base is a great customer experience.

An Accenture study found that 52 percent of consumers switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service, with banks, retailers, cable, and satellite television providers being the worst offenders. It generally costs six times more to win a new customer than to maintain the ones you already have. Even more, the estimated cost of customers switching providers is $1.6 trillion in the US alone.

The companies that deliver a unique experience, and then continue to nurture and build deeper relationships with customers are the ones who can maintain a market leadership position, which of course translates to revenue and growth.

Meeting Expectations Requires Communication

So how can companies continuously create great customer experiences?

Just as customers can draw on more information sources to make buying decisions, customer-facing employees must be equally or better informed to keep pace. That starts with good communication and the right technology solution.

Let’s take a real-world example in a highly competitive market such as the cable operator. A field technician comes to your home to install the latest satellite dish and cable box, which both need to be correctly set-up and operational by the time he or she completes the job. At the same time, the tech needs to be super knowledgeable on all peripheral services such as WiFi and modems, as there is an opportunity to upsell while doing the install.

First, the technician must arrive on time or at least within the window provided. Second, they need to have all the parts in the truck to avoid any delays. During the install, if there are any technical challenges, they must easily contact a fellow technician to do any troubleshooting and perhaps access a new software update while completing the install.

During this entire customer visit there are ample opportunities to communicate with a variety of team members from the operations manager to fellow technicians to tech support back at corporate, and even sales for that coveted upsell. That’s a lot of touch-points before the technician can leave the job. Making a bunch of calls or leaving the property to go find parts is not an option. Technicians must be on top of it all to avoid any impact on costs.

The Cost of Lost Customers

The Accenture study revealed that 80 percent of customers who leave their provider due to poor service say they could have been retained if their issue had been resolved on the first attempt. This first-time fix rate is an incredibly important factor when it comes to improving customer satisfaction levels.

Every time you place a customer on hold or ask them to reschedule another home visit, you are in danger of losing revenue. And it’s not just that individual’s business you’re losing, dissatisfied customers are much more likely to share a negative experience with others, creating an exponential effect.

Plus, the impact on your bottom line doesn’t end at the point of sale. No employee likes leaving a customer unhappy or rescheduling a repeat visit to complete the job. Most employees simply want to do great work and get rewarded. The more empowered each employee feels to work collaboratively with others in the organization, the more they can directly affect customer happiness levels and thus their own happiness levels. This, in turn, increases retention, productivity, and leadership development — all keys to an organization’s long-term success.

Looking Forward

In our services-led economy, many believe that customer service will be entirely automated with chatbots and artificial intelligence. There are certainly “commodity” cases where that will be true, but for complex services that require customer face-time, a robot won’t be able to do the job.

Research has shown repeatedly that human interaction is still essential for a great customer experience. Instead of replacing humans, we need to connect them, empowering each individual with the knowledge to better do their job and the support of the entire organization behind them.

Just as customers today have more sources of information, more people to crowdsource advice and reviews from, and more touch-points to communicate with, we need to provide the same level of transparency and access for our employees who interact with customers every day. Simply put: the key to a satisfied customer is a satisfied workforce, which centers on communication.

ABOUT Kristen Wells

Kristen is the senior manager of corporate communications at PTC and editor of Field Service Digital. She is passionate about elevating the stories of women in field service and improving communication between the field and the office. Prior to ServiceMax, Kristen held content marketing roles at startups such as Zinc and cielo24. Kristen holds a B.A. in Communication with an emphasis on Professional Writing from the University of California, Santa Barbara.