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Business is business - You don't need Google to take care of customers!

Extract from the book Business is business, published by Malpaso and Diabolocom

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The reception, product quality, customer journey, ambient music, many companies think of the customer experience they are offering- the customer experience ‘design’ and this stage of finding the right ‘cocktail’.

Are artificial intelligence, chatbots and client knowledge really the magic bullets transforming the customer experience? “Yes” according to exhibitors at trade fairs and major gatherings such as VivaTechnology. But much simpler solutions - the way we behave and the tools we use - can also be game-changers. They take common sense and real courage to use in an era that puts complete faith in technology. Three months before the fifth Expérience Client The French Forum, the leading forum on these issues, whose opening masterclass is set to focus on the little details that make a big difference, we take a closer look at initiatives and experiments that have made their mark.

Make yourself more available to listen and respond to customers

Too often, many stores don’t open until 10 am and when they close at 7pm, so does their customer service department. But consumers want to talk early in the morning, late at night - in fact, all the time. As the saying goes: “anywhere, anytime, any device”. Extending the hours you are available to customers has three main advantages: you can reply to prospects and customers when they contact you, lighten the load on customer and sales advisors, and improve their working conditions as a result. In Cameroon, helpdesk teams at VIPP Interstis reply in perfect French by email, telephone or in chatrooms to questions posed by customers of France’s biggest e-commerce companies, and telecoms and energy operators, twenty-four seven. Charles-Emmanuel Berc made a radical move when he left to set up his new venture in Sub-Saharan Africa. “At 9.90€ an hour [his selling price], I offer a service providing efficiency, availability and kindness.” This development was helped along by the French law of 6 August 2015, which authorised Sunday opening in 18 international tourist areas. The impact has been positive: sales have not eaten into weekday takings, and many students now have the opportunity to do better paid jobs.

Perfect your offering, even if it means not doing everything, and prioritise coherence

“We make burgers, fries and sell drinks to go with them, period.” Maxime Lestringant, former director of the Five Guys France burger chain, says that by simplifying their offering they can focus on delivering on their promise. Thierry Desforges, founder of the Viavoo customer experience semantic analysis platform couldn’t agree more: “The thousands of comments we analyze for the biggest brands all say the same thing: perfect your offering, product and promises: it’s the first essential step in a good customer experience.”

There’s no point spending millions on advertising if your product or service does not live up to what your customers actually expect: in the last comparison we made between online shoe retailers (Sarenza, Spartoo, Zalando), 49 % of customer verbatims gathered on the web were about delivery!

Take care of the basics and help people “in a bind”

What if the customer experience was actually about reformulating the retail profession? This is the firm conviction held by Galip Cakmak, who has repaired and altered clothes in the wealthier districts of Paris for thirty years and is used to serving a demanding clientele: “I don’t try to work with everyone, some customers are never satisfied, and I spot them quite quickly. I’ve also stopped working with big retailers who want fast and cheap services.” His small shop on rue Bois-le-vent - clearly not designed by Starck or Dragon Rouge - is joyously messy, but it does nothing to harm his business, because he understands what’s most important: “You need to welcome people, smile and do a good job, otherwise you could do a tap dance and it wouldn’t make any difference. And you have to understand the customer: if one of them is having a hard time, you take care of them, and of course, you reap the rewards, because you’ve got a customer for life.”

Show you care, the little extras that change everything

Four years ago, the SNCF devised a rapid service: virtual reality headsets to experience a high-speed train travelling at 600 kilometres per hour? No, the “public piano” initiative, now a permanent feature in many stations. Stations are anxiety-filled places where we’re often forced to wait around. By making pianos available to travellers - music lovers or not - free of charge, the company has reinvented the waiting experience: music is good for the soul, it often gives people of different ages the chance to meet and, the icing on the cake, it doesn’t cost much (a few hundred euros per month and per station). At Fnac, an annual competition rewards the best initiatives devised by store managers to improve the customer experience. Last year, it was the manager of the Chambéry store who won the top prize thanks in particular to the following idea: “When we listened to customers’ complaints, we realized that they found it very frustrating to queue at the ticketing desk, so we offered them croissants and coffee when the queues were very long.”

In real life, queues, stockouts, faulty air-conditioning in cinemas and the like can make the in-store customer experience more turbulent than we might wish. A customer-centred approach, and the autonomy given to those in direct contact with customers, are often the key to the customer experience. Although François Loviton, Google Retail Director, is invited to talk on the subject at countless conferences, for Galip Cakmak, the issue has already been settled: “No need for a brand, no need for Google: I take care of my customers.”

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 Extract from the book Business is business, published by Malpaso and Diabolocom, in April 2019. Author Manuel Jacquinet.