As the first 2 months of 2018 have flown by, and companies have taken stock of where they want to focus their energies, unsurprisingly Customer Experience stands out at the top again.
This year, a survey done by Econsultancy and Adobe saw customer experience leading by a whopping 7% over content marketing and mobile marketing! This is in line with the Walker study that claims that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key differentiator. One research claims that 86% of customers will pay more for a better customer experience. According to Forrester, thus, 72% of businesses say that improving CX is their top priority.
So, what is this whole new battlefield that is Customer Experience? If you comb through the internet, you will find there isn’t a clear definition of Customer Experience. I will make an attempt at articulating what it is and how we understand it.
Customer experience is the sum of all interactions a customer has with your brand product and/or service and how they feel about, perceive, and receive your brand. The interactions begin from the moment the customer sees/hears your ad or an advocate/detractor speak of your brand and continue till the time the customer chooses to sever the relationship.
Let’s say, for example, that you are looking to purchase a new car and are inclined towards a segment in a specific price range. Your experience will begin right from the moment you see an ad on tv, go on to friends, family and trusted ones advising you through their own experiences with various brands, when you walk in to a dealership, ask for a test drive, have the car delivered, send the car for servicing or repair and go on all the way till you change your car.
It is, in simpler words, the Moment of Truth journey coined by TMI’s Claus Moller many decades ago while on project to build SAS as a customer centric airline.
How you are treated, how the product works, how you experience the brand taking care of you will lead to the perception you carry of the brand – for a long, long time. It will also lead to you becoming an advocate for the brand or a detractor. Which translates directly into sales numbers.
Little wonder then, that all these conversations, surveys and researches are leading to companies scrambling for creating outstanding CX strategies. Customer experience is now widely – and loudly – being proclaimed as the most effective way for businesses to stand out from the competition.
So, what is it that really drives these perceptions and thus the experience? Everything from visual imagery, to the use of technology, to how you appeal to and manage feelings of the customer, and everything else in between.
Let’s look at two of the most critical of these –
2017 set the base for a technology-led revolution in the form of Artificial Intelligence (AI). 2018 ushers in AI-powered assistance and engagement. Live chat software has quickly become a necessity for quality customer service, with 52% of consumers more likely to repurchase from a company that offers live chat support. 67% of people now expecting to see or use messaging apps when talking to a business even out of office hours.
According to Peter Yang, Co-Founder of ResumeGo, emotion-tracking technology will help organizations blend machine intelligence and human intelligence. Computer software can now be used to analyze customer input and determine customer’s emotions by listening in on phone calls, evaluate how the customer is feeling, and feed this information back to the customer service representative on the line in real-time so that the representative can respond accordingly. Till then having people who are empathetic listening and responding to your customers is a no-brainer.
70% of consumers say technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere – Salesforce
This then leads us to why a customer would even think of spending their hard-earned money on a brand.
I recall the time when nicotine patches had just become available in India. A dear friend of mine, who was only an occasional smoker, made a beeline to a pharmacist selling one of those after a visit to his doctor’s office. Apparently, while he had only visited there for a mild cough, seeing others around and seeing posters on the wall scared him enough to purchase nicotine patches (while his smoking habit possibly did not warrant the need)! Stories as these abound on emotional, impulsive purchase decisions. Think of the time you walked into a store to buy one small thing and walked out having purchased 6 extra things (which you most likely did not have immediate use for).
An experiential commerce agency called SMITH found that there can be as many as 8 different emotional mindsets influencing the decision to buy, including a need to have their purchase choice validated, feeling special and unique, the need to feel superior, those that do dopamine browsing – shopping to feel rewarded and/or inspired, among others.
Not only do emotions impact buying decisions, they also have a massive impact on the experience the customer has. How they feel before, during and after each touch point, each interaction with you and your brand, product or service will leave a lasting impression and perception on them.
If you want to create a memorable perception for your customers, and one so powerful that they become strong brand advocates, creating strategies that keep both technology and emotions in mind at every possible touch point will be a great idea and work to your brand’s advantage. A few strategies you may want to explore adopting could be:
- Keep your ears to the ground (your customer walks on) and your eyes on the numbers: VoC (Voice of Customer) is a very powerful indicator of how your customers are experiencing you as a brand
- Listen to what they have said in the past and are saying now – and create your strategies for what they will be compelled to say tomorrow. Feedback is one of the most powerful foundations on which to build the future.
- Feed your bots/software the right data for it to pass on relevant information to your customer service agents. Imagine the delight of a customer whose waiting time gets reduced to nearly nothing because a the person they are speaking to (powered by a search bot) is able to answer (and hopefully resolve) their query in a matter of minutes.
- Empower your people to take decisions and say Yes! to the customer (or a no, if the situation so warrants). No one wants to have to deal with “policy”, “approvals”, “process”. Don’t make your customers go through the Pain of PAP (as I call it). Heard the legendary Nordstrom story? Seen a Starbucks’ “Partner” replace a coffee/snack not up to your taste standards replace it for free, without you having to ask for it? That’s what they do. Empower their people to say yes.
- If that means investing time, money and effort in training them, so be it. It takes the bringing together of many and varied skills for an individual to be able to really take care of a customer. From the ability to listen to the ability to problem solve; from managing own body language to managing customers’ varied emotions, if people are not trained to leverage that empowerment, empowering them will be a tick in the box exercise
- And if it means letting go yourself at some level of the need to be the only one in control, do it. Often, (well meaning) managers become the greatest impediment to a customer’s experience! Ever had a manager who wanted to be marked on everything and wanted to fight all your battles for you? Don’t be that manager!
There is a lot that can be done for creating great experiences at each touch point for your customers. We will be back with more on what can be done to create superlative experiences for customers.
In the meanwhile, what are you doing to create a memorable customer experience?
Article authored by – Shalu Bhuchar, OD & Customer Experience @InspireOne
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