In their 2019 global customer experience (CX) benchmark report, Dimension Data assert that 9/10 executives recognize CX a competitive differentiator. Still, less than 12% of those companies are yet to deliver promoter-level experiences, which could cost companies in an era where consumers are holding businesses accountable for bad service.
Think back to the last restaurant you visited with a moody waiter that was slow to take your order and still forgot the onions on your burger. Did you ever go back there? Did you recommend that place to your friends? Probably not. Now consider a time when a company went above and beyond for you. Whether it was answering your simple email query within the hour or providing a refund no-questions-asked it, if the experience stands out to you as a positive one you are more likely to rave about it to your friends or on social media.
This is the essence of why customer experience is on people’s radar and why companies of all sizes are striving to impress their consumers like never before. The best of kind marketing is a customer with brand loyalty, because they will not only attract you free organic leads through recommendations but they will be a steady source of profitability as they emphatically throw money at anything you put on the market—Apple Watch anyone?
So what exactly is customer experience anyway?
The best way to define customer experience is the perception that customers have of your brand throughout their journey with your organization. This means delivering positive impressions at all stages of the customer journey is crucial; from the moment a customer is made aware of a product or service, to their in-store or online shopping experience, to the sale itself and the customer service they receive post-purchase—it all adds up to one holistic customer experience.
These various stages of the customer journey are usually referred to as touch points. Customers have a variety of needs that a business can fulfill—buying a product or seeking support for example—each of these is a touchpoint. Since every customer interaction is usually handled by a separate department, it may seem like having satisfactory metrics within each department would be enough to create a great customer experience.
However, the tricky part about CX is that the consumer does not experience their relationship with your company as a series of smaller interactions, but rather will remember it as one ongoing interaction. This can create problems for organizations in which varies departments are siloed and do not communicate in between each other. Silos can result in customers having to repeat contact information, fill out form multiple times or just a customer journey that drags on longer than needed. That is why it’s critical to be aware of CX from an end-to-end viewpoint and make sure the customer’s needs are at the center of attention every step of the way.
Challenges and opportunities of the updated customer experience
Depending how you want to look at it, this constant scrutiny can be a burden on your company or it can be taken as an opportunity to impress. McKinsey reports that it was the dramatic ascent of technology giants like Amazon, Google, and Apple that really drove this newfound interest in CX. Customers in all sectors are asking “If I can get a good experience over here, then what is stopping you from providing that too?” And the question is valid.
The internet has been a huge driver of this trend. With an ever-growing amount of products and services instantly available, consumers have begun to demand accountability from the places they do business. Improved communication is increasing the influence customers can have on brand reputation. A 2018 report on the business impact of customer service found that customers are 11% more likely to share a negative experience on social media than a positive one and 19% more likely to visit online review sites after an unsatisfactory encounter. This means even one customer experience that doesn’t live up to expectations could have drastic results on brand reputability and that reduced room for error is exaggerated by the ease of switching in the web 2.0 era. If you don’t like a product, or the way a company interacts with you, finding an alternative is as easy as a Google search.
Due to this developing market saturation, many companies are realizing customer experience is their best chance to stand out from competitors. In other words, if a good product and competitive pricing are no longer enough to produce loyalty, then personalized customer-centric experiences will have to be your differentiator. This might come in the form of the customer relationship management (CRM) program you utilize or maybe it’s as simple as honest marketing that doesn’t oversell something your company cannot deliver. Regardless how you choose to break through the noise, having customer experience at the center of that strategy is the way to go in this fast moving world of ours.
A focus on CX will improve all aspects of your business
Some might argue smaller business that need to be deliberate about how to reinvest their revenue should be focusing on more statistically concrete aspects like marketing or products development. But neglecting customer experience can be a fatal mistake. That is because ensuring your customers are at the center of any business decision will in the long run have positive impacts on these other aspects of your operations anyway.
We already mentioned the importance inter-department communication to avoid redundancies for customers. Well if your teams become more aware of how their processes affect other teams, from a customer’s perspective, it is likely going to cut out any actions your organization may not have realized were superfluous. This could come in the form of omnichannel customer service which can allow customers to reach companies on a number of different channels while making sure multiple agents don’t engage the same ticket.
Although CX is a customer’s perception and not a key performance indicator (KPI), it can still be beneficial for your business to try and analyze it. This could mean offering surveys at various touch points to ensure your company is getting feedback from every department which can then be looked at all together from a holistic view. Other important information to evaluate include churn and ticket trends. Being able to identify why customers leave and looking at what steps in the customer journey could be changed to avoid churn can be a power tool for future retention. Likewise, being aware of any trends in the tickets that come in to your contact center may help a business diagnose particular aspects of their product or service that is causing customers more trouble than another.
Another tip for improving CX could in fact be to lower customer expectations. If your company advertises five-day delivery and constantly falls short of that goal then consumers will be disappointed and perceive a negative experience. Therefore, presenting reasonable expectations that your business can definitely achieve—or even over deliver on—will improve your customer satisfaction (CSAT). Losing a potential sale to honest marketing will be a less devastating loss than a disappointed customer that proceeds to bad mouth your company to their network.
The most important thing to remember when looking to elevate your businesses customer experience is that the shift most come from a top-down position. If the leadership in your organization buys into being customer-centric, that will have ripple effects throughout the company until every department buys in as well.