By Steve Olenski July 31, 2018

Customer experience (CX) is a key strategy for winning and retaining customers. However, it’s not just a passing trend or buzzword. Customer experience actually matters more than ever before. For example, a Walker study concluded that, by the year 2020, customer experience will surpass price and product as the best way for a company to differentiate its brand.

Esteban Kolsky, CEO of thinkJar, described the customer experience this way: “Customer experience is defined as the sum total of conscious events, as a coordinated series of interactions between a customer and a brand to accomplish anything.”  And, according to Kolsky, 55% of consumers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience.

Every Experience on Every Channel and Platform

CX should matter to brands and businesses. Multiple statistics conclude CX is a make-or-break reason why consumers will work with a company or not. And it’s not just how a brand treats them online or in-person. According to this year’s “Connected Shopper Report” from Salesforce, 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage, including social networks, in-person, online, or mobile.

Even a single bad customer experience can seriously impact whether a customer decides to continue working with a brand. WOW Local Marketing found that 52% of customers surveyed were less likely to engage with a brand if they’ve had a disappointing mobile experience.

The results of ensuring a positive CX across platforms are well worth it. The Aberdeen Group, Inc. conducted a study of companies that use omnichannel customer engagement strategies. Those with the most comprehensive strategies retained an average of 89% of customers compared to 33% for those companies with underdeveloped or minimal omnichannel strategies.

That requires that a company think about each of those customer touchpoints and assess what a customer expects from each channel. While they want consistency, there are some specific differences between each channel that must be addressed. Overall, though, consistency in customer experience shares common factors, such as communication, convenience, relevancy, and speed.

Brands Not Doing Enough

Although these expectations about customer experience appear straightforward, companies do not seem to be doing enough. “The Omnichannel Customer Service Gap” white paper from Zendesk reported that 87% of consumers think brands need to do more to provide a seamless experience. The dissatisfaction among those surveyed invariably leads to a loss of customers, which no brand wants to experience.

Yet, CMOs may be starting to truly understand the benefit of developing a strategy focused around improving the customer experience. A Forrester report titled “The Evolved CMO” noted that 32% of B2C CMOs see improving customer experience as a top-three objective. The figure stands at 23% for B2B CMOs. On both counts, these percentages need to be higher if CMOs want to add and retain customers.

Customer Experience is Everyone’s Job

One key change that organizations can make is to transform everyone’s job into a customer engagement role. To create a truly customer-centric organization, a company can no longer expect just part of its team to be customer-facing employees. Even those behind the scenes need to consider how their roles contribute to a particular customer outcome. For example, instead of transferring a customer call to three different people — thereby requiring the customer to repeat their story or concern several times — train the first person that comes into contact with that customer to take care of the issue.

The Temkin Group report “Lessons in CX Excellence, 2018” used the example of Sage to illustrate how CX can be integrated throughout a company. Showing that CX is everyone’s responsibility, the company initiated employee CX awareness campaigns. These included initiatives like “The 12 Days of CX-Mas” and “Customer Success Safari.”

In return, employees came to understand the role they play in the company’s CX overall. For example, employees connect with customers through an online self-service portal. Plus, they have “Sage Ideas” — another online portal where customers can submit, review, and vote on ideas for customer-generated improvements. Additionally, the company encourages employees to visit customers and interact with them through web conferencing. 

Empathy Over Technology

Technology is regularly touted as the end-all solution for improving the customer experience — and in many ways, it can be, with AI for personalization & automation, and big data for new customer insights. But there is another strategy that focuses on the human component of CX. And that is empathy in creating a new level of customer care that delivers on authenticity for a brand’s audience.

Data collected for improving CX has to go beyond numbers to describe the customer state of mind. This means examining other factors aligned with emotion, behavior, and motivation. All of this impacts a customer’s mood. In turn, this influences how they perceive any given experience with your brand.

Stephen George, the CEO of brand and event experience company Surkus, says that customers view brands as individuals, not corporations — and that gaining their feedback is crucial to keeping them engaged. Learning how they feel, what they want to achieve, and what challenges are influencing their decisions can make a brand more empathetic. Then, they can effectively read each customer’s mood in real-time. While AI can facilitate that, the end-decision on how to react to that information is purely human. And it must deliver an emotionally conducive response to let the customer know your brand truly understands them.

Make It Count

Statistics paint a clear picture that customers want a great experience. And you must provide that across every channel where they come in contact with your brand. Everything you do around this interaction will determine if they stay with you or recommend your brand to others. Therefore, it’s got to be a priority to make it excellent, consistent, and involve everyone in the organization.

 

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