Allison Esker wins $1,000 inaugural Connect First scholarship
Connect First is excited to announce Allison Esker as the winner of the first annual Connect First Scholarship. Allison is a student at The Ohio State University and is a Business major. To submit their application for the Connect First Scholarship, undergraduate students had to write an essay on the importance of customer interactions. We are now accepting applications for our 2020 scholarship.
Allison’s Winning Essay
In this day and age, meaningful interactions are the expectation of customers. If the company/customer interaction is not what the customer expected, they will be disappointed. Even if the “thing” purchased was a tangible product, such as a pair of shoes, nothing less than an excellent customer experience will be expected. A main reason that this experience is so important is due to the increase in online orders and ecommerce.
Let’s say you’ve just purchased a pair of shoes you’ve been wanting for a while off of your favorite shoe website. Once purchased, you receive a confirmation email. Over the course of the next few days, you receive several more emails regarding the shipment of your shoes, until finally, you receive a text or email that your shoes have arrived. You try on the shoes, to realize they unfortunately don’t fit, but no worries, the website offers free returns, so you do a simple exchange online, to receive your correctly fitted shoes a few days later. The messages the shoe company is relaying to the customer is important, and contributes to the customer’s satisfaction of not only the shoes, but the companies brand itself. This company is reliable, communicative, and problem solving. Next time you need to get another pair of shoes, you will purchase them through this website. Had they not sent the email updates, and made the return process so streamlined, you, as the customer, wouldn’t have been so satisfied. Actually, you probably would’ve been dissatisfied. In fact, your dissatisfaction would have nothing to do with the actual product at this point, but the level of customer service (or lack thereof) you were provided.
When a customer contacts a company, companies should look to use this interaction as “free advertising” and an opportunity for the company to build a positive brand image in the customer’s brain. The company should make sure that all channels, whether that be phone, website, or email, have congruence to the brand itself. One way to better shape the view of the company to the customer is to first ask, “Who is our customer?” The ability to empathize with the customer will unlock key contributors to create a successful interaction. “What do our customers value?” Is another great question.
Let’s say you sell yoga mats. You don’t happen to practice yoga, but you formulated some material in your lab awhile back that you think would work well for yoga mats, so you made a company out of it. However, you’re failing, because you never understood who your customer was and what they wanted. You thought your customer was “a yogi” who wanted a “yoga mat”. You’re wrong. Your customer is: primarily female, ages 18-45, and does yoga on average 1-2 times per week. She wants a yoga mat that is thick and cushiony, sweat resistant, anti-slip, and a brand that is respectable to the environment and provides a warranty. This time, let’s pretend that you actually understood all of that when creating your yoga mat business. One day, a customer contacts you through the 24 hour chat room on your website. She complains that the mat is emitting a questionable odor, and that she is slipping when her hands and feet get sweaty. You realize that you have failed on your value proposition to this customer. So, you hear her feedback and offer to send her a new mat, free of charge, along with your proprietary mat cleaner. It might sound counterintuitive, but you do this because you don’t want to lose money. You understand that the customer lifetime value for your products could be well over $1000, and the cost of acquisition for a new customer is high, so you keep this in mind to deliver excellent customer service to those customer’s you’ve already acquired. In the end, it’s win-win for both you and the customer.
With the rate at which technology is changing, it’s hard to say where exactly it will be heading, but there’s several values that will uphold as technology evolves, and these values will determine the direction in which communication technology is moving towards. One of these values is collaboration. Communication technology is trending towards superior levels of collaboration in both the business world and out. What this looks like is the growth of technology such as telepresence and virtual reality, that will make working alone feel like you’re working with others in the same room. Let’s say you can’t make it into the office for work due to an illness, but you feel able to jump on a call to help your team finish up a project. So you login to your home computer system and into the video chat that displays your face onto a screen in an office room. You can see everyone and everything in the office, and can even draw on the large touch screen monitor in the room from home in order to better describe something to your team.
Although not physically present, you’ve successfully completed the project with your team. Another value that will continue to drive innovation in the space of communication technology is an excellent customer experience. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will be the catalysts of success here. What if we can build a program that is better at identifying and solving customer needs than we are ourselves? This can be done through artificial intelligence. I see this technology enhancing customer experience in many ways. One specific way is through website’s chat rooms. An AI bot can be programmed to solve and answer most problems customers have. Another idea is AI technology in the retail space. Video cameras could capture a customer’s face, and AI could be utilized to tell us what emotion the customer is displaying. This data could be used to build out a more optimized store experience, ultimately increasing market share and sales.
One of the best things about technology is how it connects humanity. No matter the distance, we are able to hear the voice of our loved ones, and even see them, with the touch of a button. To create better connections, I believe, we need to simply create more connections. About 50% of the world still does not have internet access. In the years to come, the best way to innovate as a species will be through allowing and helping everyone to have access to basic rights, and this includes the internet. To further evolve and innovate, the connectivity of the entire world is needed. We are better together.