Using text to make customer experience less chaotic

OpenMarket – August 24, 2017

When you need to get in touch with your customers to be there, be useful and be responsive, text messaging is a better channel than either email or voice.

In this blog series, we’ll look at seven different Empathetic Moments – times when you can win customer loyalty by sending communications that really matter at exactly the right time.

Delivering a great customer experience is hard. There are a thousand and one questions you need to answer when you’re planning your strategy. What mindset are your customers in when they start using your product or service? What does each type of customer expect? How, where and when are they going to engage with you?

Now, in theory, answering these questions is all you need to craft a great customer experience.

But once your theory meets reality, there’s a whole host of factors, forces and events that could derail everything you’d carefully planned.

And although those things may have nothing to do with you, they can have a big impact on the way your customers experience your product or service.

For example, a customer might visit your hotel for a summer holiday only to be caught in an unseasonal downpour. Or they might visit your store just before closing time only to find themselves in a queue with dozens of other last-minute shoppers. Or they might struggle to use your website simply because they have a bad hangover.

In each instance, the customer is frustrated or even angry while interacting with your business. And although this isn’t your fault, it’s still a really big problem. In the best-case scenario, all your hard work is ignored or rendered irrelevant. In the worst-case scenario, they’re irrationally blaming your brand for something you couldn’t control.      

The importance of empathy

To deal with these kinds of issues, some brands proactively identify potentially problematic situations and steer customers away from them. For instance, if you think your store is going to busy at closing time, you can advise (or even incentivize) your customers to shop earlier in the day. This way, even if they still come in at closing time, they know you tried to help.

Of course, in some situations, frustration is unavoidable. For example, if you run a hotel and you know it’s going to rain the week new customers arrive, you can’t tell them to turn back and you can’t change the weather.

What you can do, is acknowledge that the situation isn’t ideal and do everything you can to make it more tolerable for your customers.

Instead of just ignoring the rain, you can text your customers the day before  with a weather alert, so that they can pack the right gear.

It doesn’t change the fact that it’s going to rain. But it shows them you’re thinking about them.

The key to getting this right is simple – you need to put yourself in your customer shoes. Once you’ve identified an uncontrollable situation that’s guaranteed to cause stress, frustration or inconvenience, focus on understanding how it’ll make your customer feel. Then get in front of the problem and offer them assistance.

Empathy in action

Virgin Trains recently put this approach into action. They realized that their customers were frustrated with how busy Euston station gets – the station is used by over 72 million people a day and is particularly chaotic during rush hour.

Virgin knew they couldn’t reduce the busyness, so they decided to make the situation more manageable for its customers instead. They worked with the station to get the platform information for each Virgin train before this was announced on the departure boards. They then send this information – via an SMS alert – to Virgin e-ticket holders, so that they can head towards the train before other ticket holders.

As a result, Virgin e-ticket holders reach the right platform without being “part of the herd”. Even better, Virgin staggers these alerts to ensure that elderly and young families receive the messages first.

The boarding experience is less stressful. Online bookers get a head start. And in the six months following the program, Virgin Trains’ digital ticket sales have spiked, and its Net Promoter Score has increased by 28%.

Taking control of the customer experience

Every marketer wants to be able to control the customer experience as much as possible. But sometimes it rains. And sometimes the place you sell your products and services puts your customers in a bad mood. There are parts of your customers’ experiences that just aren’t in your control.

The good news is that with a little empathy, you can spot what might go wrong and turn a potentially bad experience into a great one.

All you need is to know what your customers are likely thinking, then send them a text that shows them you’re one step ahead of them.

Find out how text can help you connect with your customers at crucial moments read our Empathetic Moments workbook.

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