In the past, companies typically created products first and then convinced customers that they needed them. Because corporations controlled the channels through which consumers engaged with companies, they were in complete control of sales processes. Technology has changed that, empowering customers to make their own decisions on products that companies present to them.
In "Empowerment, a Way of Life," John Tschohl says that empowering customers means giving them the authority to make important purchasing decisions in their own time and according to their own schedules. Today's technologies make it easy for the consumer to search for information on the product, read customer reviews, contact the company and place an order. If corporations don't use technology to attract and satisfy customers, they will lose business.
Whatever form of technology companies use, it should be geared toward improving the customer experience. In "Three Components for Excellent Customer Service," Mary Nestor-Harper writes that getting and keeping customers is all about giving great service, building customer relationships and getting referrals. Perhaps not surprisingly, the best technologies facilitate all three of those components.
Word-of-mouth is just as important in the sales process as it used to be. In 2012, Oracle conducted a survey that revealed that 47 percent of consumers relied on customer reviews, and 37 percent relied on word-of-mouth when making purchasing decisions. Online customer reviews are simply a high-tech version of word-of-mouth, and displaying them is a popular way of empowering customers, which increases corporate profits. As a result, Amazon, Dell and many other companies put customer reviews — good and bad — on their websites.
Integrated Customer Service Channels
Today's consumers use a variety of technologies to conduct business, including smartphones, tablets, desktop computers and laptops. According to Michael Abramow, in "Six Best Practices for Empowering the Customer Experience," these technologies should be integrated so that the customer can start a conversation on one device and finish it on another. This means that the help desk should have access to customer history from all these channels to provide the best service possible.
Giving customers a way to engage with a company is a good method of empowering customers, which is why most corporations have Facebook pages. The company should monitor communications and quickly respond to customer complaints, both privately and, if necessary, publicly. However, Abramow states that there should be many channels through which customers can engage with a company, as consumers have different needs. While some prefer social media, others would much rather chat online with a service rep, so it's important that a company gives customers a variety of communication options.
Empowering customers is not a choice; it's a requirement for any company that wants to grow its business. By using technology to give the consumer trustworthy referrals, integrated service channels and a method that facilitates customer engagement, a corporation can keep their customers happy and its bottom line healthy.
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