Most companies focus on customer experience as a way to increase revenue and create a competitive advantage. Numerous studies have linked strong CX efforts to profit and business growth. But what happens when a business doesn’t need a competitive advantage?
Although commodity businesses don’t face as much (if any) competition as businesses in other industries, customer experience still needs to be central. A focus on customer experience creates smoother processes and a better experience for employees and customers, which can lead to cost savings for the company. The end goal of CX efforts for a commodity business may not be to gain customers, but it can be to build goodwill and strengthen relationships.
In the terms of this article, we’re considering commodity businesses to be any company where customers don’t have a preference about the brand or companies that don’t provide customers a choice of who to do business with, such as some utility companies, telecom companies, or public works where customers are essentially assigned a company based on where they live.
Here are three ways to improve customer experience in commodity businesses:
1 . Understand Your Customers
No matter the type of business, customer experience starts with a strong knowledge of customers. Use data to understand customers as a whole and individually and to find what they want and what they value. Companies today have more customer data available than ever before, including demographics and behavioral data to paint a full picture of customers’ preferences and values.
The experience customers want changes based on what they value. Instead of trying to be better than the competition, commodity businesses can use their basis of understanding to deliver a quality experience that matches what customers are looking for. Many customers value convenience. For them, delivering a great customer experience means finding convenient ways to answer their questions, deliver service and proactively address issues. Other customers may value personal relationships. For them, delivering a great customer experience means taking the time to get to know them and being available to offer advice or recommendations. The more you know about what customers want, the better you’ll be able to engage with them and offer a high-quality, personalized experience.
2 . Focus On Digital Solutions
One of the main things commodity businesses can offer their customers is convenience and digital solutions. Using modern communication methods and a connected omnichannel experience not only creates a smoother experience for customers but also makes it easier for employees to do their jobs and provide great service.
Commodity businesses should still undergo digital transformations and find ways to connect data and offer digital solutions, including self-service options, chat features and intuitive apps and websites. Updated apps give more power to customers and help them get information and make decisions quickly and on their schedules. In many cases, a customer might not even realize that they’ve had a great experience because it was seamless and automated. But them not having to think about it is a win for CX.
3 . Build Goodwill
Even if customers don’t have a choice what company they do business with for commodities like electricity, phone or gas, they still want to feel confident they are connected with a trustworthy organization.
Commodity businesses can get involved in the community by providing service and advocating for worthy causes. These actions show customers that the company has a larger purpose and cares about its people. When companies take a stand and reach out in the community, it builds trust and pride from customers.
During the COVID pandemic, numerous utility companies suspended shutoffs and late fees for customers. Their actions didn’t do anything to increase the bottom line—in fact, they likely cost the companies money—but they did build goodwill with customers. In the future, if a customer has to wait longer than expected to have a question answered, that goodwill will likely provide some compassion and help them have a better experience. Think of goodwill as a buffer to protect from future accidents or missteps.
Commodities businesses have unique circumstances and challenges, but the need for a strong focus on CX is just as important. Understanding customers and creating seamless experiences to meet and exceed their expectations can build goodwill and strengthen customer bonds.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and the author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.