Top 5 ways to wow your customers in 2014

Experience drives everything. How we feel. What we remember. Why we choose one brand over another. So as the competitive landscape gets well, more competitive, how can brands make customer experiences exceptional?


This week, we’re taking a look at companies that do just that. Here are five tips based on real-life examples we’ve found—and how they can affect your business:


1. The best brands put employees first, every time. When a Starbucks employee asked this Forbes contributorwhether he thought the company treated employees or customers better, the answer was a tie. And it’s a good thing. The way you treat employees affects the way they interact with customers. On that note . . .


2. Hire (and retain) frontline reps who show good judgment. Many managers and executives make the mistake of judging reps based on how quickly they can get through customers. But customer expectations for quality of service have evolved. A lot. Today’s rep is more like a knowledge worker, going beyond what scripts or checklists can provide. Companies that understand this will change everything from the way they hire to their culture. Zappos is perhaps one of the best examples of “hiring for culture.”


Customer service reps who know how to treat people right will be one of your biggest assets in 2014.


3. Show both expertise and openness. Which major brands are winning the most consumer love? According to a recent study, Walt Disney, Yahoo and Google make the top three. These brands are nailing the important attributes consumers look for, which include understanding, approachability and relevance. On the other hand, brands that didn’t come across as particularly “approachable” took a hit to their rankings.


4. Practice empathyTemkin Group research says this is the year of empathy. If brands are too focused on their own success, they might overlook what really matters to their customers. The companies that will come out ahead are soliciting customer feedback, delivering more proactive service, and taking the customer experience to heart throughout all stages of product development.


5. Give them painless, consistent customer service. Traditionally, customers have asked for help by phone. Now, more of them are using self-service, chat and email for assistance. As part of its top customer service trends for 2014, Forrester says it’s more important than ever for your organization to develop an omnichannel approach to service. That means providing a consistent, pain-free experience across all service channels.


At the heart of our core NCR values are integrity, innovation and a commitment to excellence. To us, that means always training ourselves — and each other — to nurture a culture of nearly 30,000 problem solvers. Our customer-focused approach is part of our brand, and we make sure to ask our customers what they think with surveys twice a year. As employees, we fill out surveys too, which helps us create the kind of company where people actually want to work.


How are you improving your customer service this year and making experiences more exceptional?