Increasingly, customers are demanding an effortless online experience. To increase customer satisfaction and improve loyalty, online businesses must remove any kind of friction or effort from their customer experience. After all, in today’s ecommerce world, consumers have multiple choices for where, when, and how to buy what they want. The availability of what they want on the Internet has become a given, a commodity. If they search for it, they will find it, and will be able to buy it.
Case Study: The Yankee Candle Company
For example, take online candle shops, which according to Craft Site Medic and ArtCraft Marketing Network, number over 100, making it a particularly saturated online market. Recognizing how crowded this corner of the e-commerce world already is, one company, Yankee Candle, 40-year-old American manufacturers of scented candles, turned to its customers in order to develop a competitive edge.
Since 2012, the company has been distributing online feedback surveys to customers, asking for feedback on everything from product selection to customer service response time. Survey questions focus on three key areas of the business: (1) the brand, (2) product development, and (3) innovation. Thanks to a streamlined, automated survey distribution process, the company has managed to collect thousands of customer responses, generating a sizeable knowledge bank and increasing customer engagement.
Today, Yankee Candle clearly stands out from its competition, in large part because customer's voice has been an integral part of its development. Websites and blogs devoted to scented candle lovers frequently cite Yankee Candle as a top favorite and its Facebook page, which also helps the company track customer voice, has attracted an impressive following of over 1,400,000. In 2015, the company was named a winner of the Bizrate Circle of Excellence Award, for receiving “outstanding online customer satisfaction scores in the past year as rated by millions of verified online buyers.” In fact, The Yankee Candle Company received the highest honor, the Platinum Award, for generating exceptionally high marks in all key satisfaction metrics related to the point of sale purchase and post order fulfillment.
All told, since 2012 - the year Yankee Candle improved its efforts to collect and use customer feedback - it has sold over one billion candles, increasing revenue by 18%, which places it well ahead of the industry average.
The Take-Away: Three Ways It Pays to Gather Customer Feedback
Focus on retention, not acquisition
Retailers like Yankee Candle show that ecommerce businesses cannot simply rely on customer acquisition alone to increase revenue. Instead, much of a business’s growth comes from focusing on retention; its success depends on how well it engages existing customers in a more meaningful way.
If you make sure that existing customers have a good experience with your product or service, you will surely see an increase in loyalty:
- Forrester found that 81% of customers are likely to repeat business with firms that have exceeded their expectation.
- CapGemini reports that fully engaged customers, those with a strong attachment to a brand, contribute 23% more to a business’s profitability and revenue.
- The Harvard Business Review supports this claim, reporting that increasing customer retention by 5% can lead to a minimum 25% increase in profit.
Customer relationship surveys, the foundation of many Voice of Customer programs, will help you measure loyalty. The feedback you receive will help you understand and diagnose problem areas or, as with the case of Yankee Candle, produce innovative products customers want which will keep them coming back for more.
Anticipate and be responsive to customers’ wants and needs
Yankee Candle achieves a high level of customer satisfaction because of its efforts to develop and maintain a deep and intimate understanding of its customers’ wants and needs. Getting customers to put their thoughts in writing on a survey has proven to be an especially successful feedback technique. That's because Yankee Candle doesn’t just collect customer feedback; it uses the feedback to anticipate what its customers want. It asks – and acts on – what its customers tell them.
Generally, the customer won’t mind giving you feedback – with one catch: most of them want to see evidence that their feedback has actually led to some kind of improvement or innovation. Accenture reports that a major customer frustration is when a company is unresponsive to their needs and wants, either failing to quickly resolve an issue or, simply, never providing a solution
You can learn a great deal about your customers by talking to them. Asking them why they're buying or not buying, what they may want to buy in the future and asking what other needs they have can give a valuable picture of what's important to them. If you know what they need and want, it's much easier to offer them what they are looking for.
Show customers you care
A Gallup Survey indicates that what customers want more than anything is service that feels thorough and friendly. Online businesses that provide a customer-friendly, personalized experience will see an increase in retention and satisfaction.
The number one reason customers leave an ecommerce site is not, in fact, because they found a better price. According to research from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 68% of customers leave because they are upset with the treatment they've received from companies who seem indifferent to their wants and needs. And when they leave, they often don't go quietly; the average dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Bad customer service can and does hurt your business.
Facing stiff competition for customers’ loyalty and dollars, Yankee Candle knew it had to pay more attention to its customers. Simply asking them for feedback, and placing that feedback at the center of all decisions, has not only helped increase its value to customers but shown customers that their voice matters.
Customer Feedback: The Key to Success
Yankee Candle’s success is largely due to its uncompromising commitment to protecting and strengthening its relationship with customers. With so many online candle retailers available, Yankee Candle understood that it couldn’t compete on price alone, but needed to establish an especially strong relationship with customers if it was going to stand out. Gathering and using feedback helped the company create a clear point of differentiation, giving customers a reason to care about the company – and a reason to spend their money with Yankee Candle versus the competition.
With so much competition in today’s ecommerce environment, there is a good chance that you, too, will not be able to compete on price alone. What you can compete on, however, is offering your customers a unique, frictionless experience, one which has been customized to give your online visitors exactly what they are asking for.
Consider following Yankee Candle’s lead. Gathering customer feedback will enable you to develop a personal relationship with the customers who visit your site. And customers will feel a greater connection with your brand, knowing that their individual needs are being looked after, that the experience they have with you won't be found anywhere else.