By Henning Ogberg, Senior Vice President & General Manager EMEA at SugarCRM

Customer satisfaction has dropped to its lowest level since 2011 according to the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index, which claims that consumers are more dissatisfied with their customer experience than ever before. This adds to a growing body of research that positions customer dissatisfaction as one of the biggest challenges organisations face today. It’s becoming increasingly evident that businesses need to work much smarter and harder to ensure that customer-centricity is at the heart of everything they do and that customer experience is second-to-none.

Customer-centricity is by no means a new concept, but it’s one that is constantly evolving in-line with changing customer behaviour. Whether it’s in a consumer or B2B setting, today we can take our pick of the channel through which we communicate with businesses; from social networking sites, and mobile apps through to more traditional means. This results in a communication minefield for organisations who want to unify the customer experience across all digital and human touchpoints over the entire customer journey.

Making Advocates; Not Enemies

Getting it wrong just isn’t an option. Not only is it bad for the bottom line when customer experience goes wrong, but it can be disastrous for a business' reputation too. Customers expect consistent and helpful communication from brands, and they want it now. If they don’t get it, they will take their business elsewhere, and while they’re at it they’re at liberty to share their views and feedback with a captive audience across social media communities.

Rather than competing on price and product features, businesses must shift their focus to offering superior experience for every prospect and customer. This calls for a seamless buying experience with a human touch, ensuring that any business representative who interacts with a customer has a comprehensive view of them, and is able to give them what they need, when they want it. The actions of all customer-facing employees should also be coordinated so that the person in question feels consistently known and understood.

The Journey to Success

Another useful tactic for organisations looking to deliver the best possible customer experience and create extraordinary customer relationships is to align their internal business operations with the typical lifecycle of their customers. This can be done through something called “customer journey mapping” and involves developing a comprehensive map of the customer journey – from awareness and consideration, to purchase, satisfaction, retention, and then advocacy, where they begin the journey to purchase again. This can be used to identify and better meet the needs of customers at each stage of the journey. It also empowers businesses to identify how a customer typically goes about making a purchase decision and helps identify internal gaps where the business may not be meeting customer expectations.

If organisations can build these approaches into their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, which brings the ability to analyse and collate data, they will be able to manage and make sense of all this customer data and apply it effectively. The customer insight that can be gained from seeing things from the customers’ point of view is invaluable to organisations across every industry and market. But the right system will be needed, which can aggregate the information from every channel into a coherent and useful view otherwise the effort is wasted.

It still stands true that customers need to feel that they are being treated as individuals and not as just another number. The insights gained from a truly customer centric approach to business are essential. And with the likes of customer relationship management systems lending themselves to a personal, real-time, approach to customer engagement, the power is in the hands of organisations to take customer satisfaction to the next level.