Figuring out just what customers want these days can be a difficult prospect at best. But knowing what customers want is extremely valuable information. Difficult but valuable means that there are plenty of studies out there to get a better handle on just what the customer wants, and to that end, OpinionLab has stepped in to help. It's released the September 2014 Customer Opinion Index (COI), and with it, plenty of information about just what the customer wants.
The COI covers over 60 different customer service benchmarks with firms across eight major industries, bringing together millions of separate pieces of information into actionable conclusions, like areas for improvement, areas for optimization, and plenty more. There's good news and bad news alike here, and plenty of room for upward mobility.
The good news is customer service, in general, seems to be on the rise. Improvements are regularly being made, but there's still a perception that making the jump from the mundane to the magnificent is still eluding many firms. That's costing companies money, with more customer turnover and reduced profitability. Better yet, multichannel customer experiences are likewise gaining ground; the overall COI score rose to 519 out of a possible 1,000, up from 508 in the previous listing. That's not a huge gain, but it's a gain nonetheless. Areas like loyalty pages, meanwhile, are on the decline, suggesting that companies are more interested in steady continuous improvements than bold strokes geared toward improving customer experience.
For the best in customer experience, meanwhile, the current gold standard seems to be in the financial services market. With a COI score of 755, it's well ahead of the industry average. Insurance companies come in next at 607, but the low water market of the study is telecommunications, who actually lost 15 percent from previous scoring to hit a score of 253, faring poorly almost across the board including store locator functions, checkout systems, and product information presentation.
OpinionLab's CEO, Sean Fallon, offered some commentary on the COI, saying “The COI allows brands and industries to quickly assess how they stack up when it comes to customer experience – not just at the overall level, but also at the functional levels where they can gain an advantage. It illuminates new opportunities to achieve customer experience excellence and ultimately provides an important leading indicator of future customer behavior such as purchasing likelihood, loyalty, and brand endorsement.”
The customer experience is increasingly vital to the long-term health of companies as a whole. Without customers eager to show up and buy products, cash flow is all but ruined. Without cash flow, a business simply can't operate. It can't invest in new product development, it can't pay salaries, it can't keep the lights on. Cash flow is vital to any business, and customers are the best source of cash flow there is. So a focus on customer experience helps ensure that the customers that are already in the fold keep coming back, and those who aren't customers yet have a reason to consider a particular business over another. Good customer experience can provide valuable word of mouth advertising as well, so shoring up the COI numbers can be the first step toward success as a company. The better a company does with its customer experience, the better off overall it's likely to be.
Edited by Alisen Downey