10 customer relationship trends in 2016 according to Thierry Spencer

10 customer relationship trends in 2016

Thierry Spencer, notorious speaker, blogger and expert in customer relations, gave December 15th the fourth edition of his annual conference on “Customer relation trends”. Then and there, he shared 10 customer relationship trends that should shape the year 2016.


Responsive experience

Following their customer experience, Kurt Salmon and Uptilab found that 30% of websites for CAC 40 companies are neither responsive nor mobile-friendly (despite the fact that both the website and its content are adjusted to the mobile screen)! The use of mobile phones is soaring and tends to be the new rage in the habits of Internet users. Indeed, around 60% of clients using the net resort to  multi-channel paths. These multi-channel paths come in different forms: online consulting followed by in-store purchasing, price comparing via a smartphone directly in the store, etc.

A figure particularly emphasizing the importance of this tendency: 50% of all e-commerce transactions are carried out through several devices. And it is a number that will continue to soar in 2016, according to Critéo.

This responsive concept includes of course browsing through different channels, but one can also speak of responsive as an experience, the customer service or the offer. The key is to adapt oneself. Therefore it is and will be essential to provide suitable answers for each channel as well as offers and services that match the consumer’s new concerns and expectations.

An increase in the number of experiences for clients

At this conference, Thierry Spencer declared that “Customer experience is the trendy word of the year”.

Clients are no longer purchasing mere products. They also want to purchase an experience based around the product. This experience is key to customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

The experience will have as much importance, if not more, than the actual purchasing act. It will be a crucial factor in the choice of brand. Indeed, consumers accumulate and live out many experiences with different brands and different companies. They are now comparing such experiences. One must therefore stand out.

Brands have become fully aware that the experience has been gaining in importance in the purchasing decision process and in the company’s ability to satisfy their customers and earn their loyalty. Therefore some brands have decided to gamble on the quality of this said experience. Zappos’ strategy is a perfect example. The brand encourages its advisors to spend as much time as necessary with clients. There are no objectives as to the number of clients assisted. It’s the customer’s satisfaction alone that matters. In fact, the brand’s slogan says it all when it comes to their frame of mind: “Happy employees make for enchanted clients”. An example that ought to be followed!

Client experience depends on its database

The race to accumulate data has begun. Indeed, a user’s activity generates a lot of data, and companies seek to collect it before exploiting it in order to better know and anticipate consumer behaviors.

Contrary to common thought, Internet users are more and more open to the “exploiting” of their data, as long as they are used to better the quality of that client’s experience. Internet users are slowly becoming aware that the use of their data could benefit their experience as consumers.

A figure highlights this tendency: 69% of Internet users wish to access a personalized content (special offers, product recommendations, etc.) while surfing the web.

The experience used within a collaborative economy

Many companies have achieved success thanks to a collaborative economy. A few examples are: Uber, Air BnB, Blabla Car or more recently Mon P’ti Voisinage.

This new consumption trend is much appreciated by consumers because it rests on two fundamental factors: economies with respect to the use and “traditional” purchase and the community, a social factor. Proof of this is that around 70% of French consumers have resorted to this type of use (purchase, sale, carpool, services…).

This economy will continue to grow in the upcoming year based on existing approaches (Air BnB, Blabla Car…) as well as new concepts and companies that will consequently change our present code of consumption.

The power of video recordings

Increasingly, video recording is being used as means of communication among consumers. Indeed, in just a few years, the use of videos has changed. It is now used for business purposes. Companies have understood the interest in videos, they particularly lean on “stars” that have made their breakthrough on Internet thanks to videos. YouTube is the birthplace of many influential videos, whether it be in video games, beauty consulting, cooking recipes, or in the sports industries.

Brands are gradually starting to lean on these new influential videos to communicate with their consumers through YouTubers, particularly for product placement, sponsoring or tests.This new means of communication has only surfaced recently. However, when looking at the volume of potential consumers that can be reached (several millions for some YouTubers), it looks as though this means of communication will be increasing in upcoming years.

The reinforcement of user groups

The present tendency is geared towards the dematerialization and the automation of the various processes. The objective is to drive a brand’s or website’s activity to be more efficient and relevant. However, there is one thing consumers don’t want to see in their consumption habits: the removal of the human aspect.

Indeed, despite the numerous advantages brought by technological innovations, clients still want to “feel” a bond with a brand. And human relationships shape this bond. In fact, Thierry Spence explains it himself when referring to a customer: “He wants to speak to someone he trusts, someone that is going to take the time to advise him”. This is where user groups play an important role in the quality of the client’s experience. They pay particular attention to other Internet users’ opinions. This underlines the importance for companies to create consumer groups and recruit ambassadors for their brand. The aim is to recreate a bond between the brand and consumers while humanizing the relations. This social aspect enriches the client experience and, at the same, reassures futures clients and stimulates customer loyalty.

The consumer on a quest for simplicity

Consumers are increasingly demanding, but they also have less and less time. Simplicity is one of the most influential criteria in the final purchasing decision. By facilitating the user’s purchasing process, the chances of satisfying and converting him to your product are greater.

Surprising the consumer, a factor of satisfaction

A purchasing experience can’t be dreary. It has to have a story, in other words give out an element of surprise. It’s natural consumers buy products and services and expect to live an experience of quality; so why not exceed their expectations and surprise them? Thierry Spencer points out that “Brands must encourage small acts of thoughtfulness”. Indeed, a surprise creates and enriches the brand-consumer relationship. By adding a handwritten thank you note, offering a free sample, invitations or exclusive special offers, the client is surprised and re-enchanted with the client relationship, therefore he is closer to satisfaction.

Reciprocity in client-advisor relationships

“The customer is always right”, this expression has never been so true; the decision-making power of consumers is growing, especially since new buying methods have been emerging these past few years. Nonetheless, even if the customer is always right, it doesn’t give him full power over companies. This is why, with the arrival of new services such as Uber, Air BnB or Blabla Car, companies and brands, mostly derived from the collaborative economy, set up a grading system to evaluate their users. In concrete terms, the customer evaluates his Blabla Car driver, and the driver evaluates his passenger. This way, everyone gets a grade, and “good” customers can be detected. This state-of-mind promotes reciprocity in respect and transparence.

According to Thierry Spencer, companies must raise awareness among their employees of this reciprocity between clients and advisors or companies; particularly in “classic” companies for which it is crucial to incorporate this reciprocity with respect, even if the customer is always right…

Customer relationships, a decisive factor for investors

As hard as it may be to believe, investors and the financial ecosystem are putting more and more emphasis on the quality of customer relationships within a company. Of course, the turnover remains a crucial factor, but the quality of customer relations is gaining in importance in the soul of the company, far beyond customer service “boundaries”. According to Thierry Spencer, “This is very good news”.

Clearly, the quality of customer relationships will play a major role in the life of a company, but also in the life of consumers. The patterns set years ago are being consequently altered by these new tendencies.

For more information on customer relations, we recommend you visit Thierry Spencer’s blog, abundant in information and advice on customer relationships.