On this episode of the Modern Customer Podcast, I spoke with Kelly McDonald about meeting customer expectations. Kelly is a speaker and author of several books, including her latest title, It’s Time to Talk about Race at Work, a guide for leaders to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Her ideas can be applied everywhere, from call centers to service and customer experience.
According to Kelly, so many businesses are still providing a one-size-fits-all customer experience, but this isn’t what customers want anymore. These days, they seek personalization more than ever when shopping, using services, and receiving customer care. And with growing diversity in all markets, it’s important to understand that different people may wish to be treated in different ways.
So, how can we get it right?
Kelly says that most businesses assume they know what their customers want. Instead, she says it’s a whole lot better to actually ask. Use surveys, focus groups, and interviews to find directly from your customers what their expectations are. You can also ask them how you could improve things so as to provide them with the best service possible. Customer insights can include race, gender, and religion to understand cultural nuance and serve customers in the way they prefer and are comfortable with.
Kelly says that professionals and businesses should take every opportunity to learn more about their diverse customers. However, this has to be done without creating a feeling of otherness. She recommends fostering “us-ness” by asking respectful questions in order to learn more. You can also look into any communities you’re not serving and see how you can build a customer experience where people feel welcome and invited, where someone speaks their language and truly includes them.
Another thing that Kelly points out is that modern customers want flexibility from the businesses they frequent. When your customers see an array of options to choose from, they’re more likely to find one that matches their lifestyle. Then, they feel like the business really understands their needs, and this makes them feel more comfortable and increases loyalty.
So what about when brands get it wrong?
Imagine a customer calling into a call center with a complaint only to be met with vague apologies and excuses that are irrelevant to them. This will usually just create more frustration. Kelly points out that customers don’t care why the problem has happened or why mistakes were made. They only want to know what will be done to fix it. She recommends that you use her five magic words: “We’ll take care of it,” and then, of course, do just that. This isn’t an excuse or an explanation. Instead, it tells the customer that even though you may have fallen short of your own standards, you’re going to fix things and take care of their concerns.
In modern, diverse markets, Kelly sees opportunities for all businesses to improve. Diversity, equity, and inclusion in employment can bring new perspectives and help businesses understand the needs of new customer groups. Fostering this understanding can help you provide more tailored experiences to your customers and both improve current customer loyalty and help expand and diversify your customer base.
Be aware that customers are no longer happy with an experience that doesn’t match their specific needs. With increasing diversity in the markets, flexible companies will prosper, while those with rigid, fixed mindsets will find it harder and harder to meet customer demands.