Companies are increasingly recognising the power of customer experiences for building loyalty and securing sustainable growth. But how do you make your customer experience better, and how exactly does technology help?.
Improving your customer experience (CX) isn’t just the right thing to do; it could be a major driver of future revenue. PWC research shows that 86% of buyers are ready to pay more for great customer experiences, and they are 3.5 x more likely to repeat business and advocate for your brand. An investment in CX can also improve internal profitability markers such as the cost to acquire a customer, says Harvard Business Review. Unhappy customers are lost customers, after all.
While something as simple as saying ‘thank you’ to customers after a purchase can make them feel special and cared for, there is no shortage of ways to connect with customers. Rather than a singular action, it’s better to think of CX as an ongoing, iterative journey of many moving parts. Powering the journey — and simultaneously driving brand loyalty and sales growth — is technology; this likely will include tools you’re already using like your CRM.
In this post, we’re looking at five ways to create breakthrough CX experiences using technology.
What's the difference between customer experience and customer service?
Imagine a strategy meeting where four colleagues are brainstorming ways to improve the customer experience. “Let’s talk about converting leads,” says person one.
“Okay, but first we need to get the leads,” says person two. “Engaging our audience is where we should focus our attention, and we need to think about how we can re-engage previous customers.”
Person three interrupts to point out that the brand’s image needs an overhaul. “Our website feels a bit tired. It’s not mobile-friendly and it doesn’t represent our business values. That’s why we’re not getting any traffic or engagement.”
“I think customer service is our biggest priority,” says person four. “Our competitors are answering questions through chatbots and text messaging. All we have is Melissa on the phone and she goes home at 5.”
#Which colleague is right? They all are!
Customer experience is the entire customer journey shaped at every touchpoint between the business and the customer: the website, the product or service offer, brand design, social interactions, lead nurture, conversion, transaction processing, delivery, support and aftersales. Customer service is an important driver of CX — but it is one of many drivers. Whereas customer service is transactional, based around solving a one-time problem, CX aims to create enduring relationships and sustainable, long-term value for the customer. It’s about creating a culture where customers come first everywhere, then layering in the processes to achieve that.
This is no simple feat. According to Salesforce research, 67% of customers say their standards for CX are higher than ever. They want smart, relevant and seamless experiences at every stage of the customer journey, and they’re using technology to research, communicate and engage with brands like never before.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, technology is extremely important in today’s customer experience environment. In fact, technology is mission-critical to finding out what customers want and meeting those expectations on demand. The tools are all available; it’s simply a matter of thinking with a ‘CX mindset’ and then applying your digital technologies against that.
1. Keep customers in the loop
There’s a direct causal relationship between the quality of your communications and happy customers. Think about it with your customer hat on – you’ve been on the phone with a customer service representative for 20 minutes; 19 of which were spent going over the last conversation you had with the company. The rep wants to resolve your issue, but they need to speak to a manager so they put you on hold. You’re already frustrated and annoyed that you had to call customer service a second time, and just want the conversation to be over.
It would be much easier if the agent could pull up a log of your previous interactions with the company and exercise their judgement to solve the problem on the spot. Or email you with the appropriate action so you can get back to work. And why didn’t someone proactively reach out to you with a solution the first time you raised the problem?
lIt’s critical to unblock the information flow internally so you don’t waste time, or annoy the customer, by re-asking for information that’s already been collected. You can use your CRM, communication tools or specialist experience management platform to enable everyone to log and gain instant access to customer information, thus presenting the picture of a well-coordinated organisation that is wholly focused on the customer. This is especially important for B2B accounts where you need to identify issues quickly and take proactive action to save accounts at risk.
Consider, too, how you keep customers in the loop and provide reassurance and further direction before they are driven to call customer services. For example, have you set up automated messages for routine process points like order confirmation, mailing and delivery times, delay alerts, thank you messages, opening a service ticket and requests for customer review? Have you followed up on customer feedback – turning every experience, good or bad, into a positive outcome?
2. Gather data to become 'customer intelligent'
To be effective, CX must be driven by customers, not internal goal-setting. This means understanding customers’ needs, wants, behaviours and values — and then using that intelligence to shape every customer interaction.
Customer intelligence data can be collected in various ways, including focus groups, market research surveys, social media data, sales reports, website analytics, lead capture forms, review sites, the data in your CRM, point-of-sale systems, and one-on-one conversations with your sales or support teams. That’s a lot of data to analyse. An easier and more precise way to manage customer intelligence is to integrate with analytics tools that automatically collect, combine and analyse the data for you.
By far the most important quality to look for in a customer intelligence solution is the ability to pull in data from various sources, distilling them down into a single interface. This will give you visibility into the voice of the customer, creating an early warning system to help you evaluate customer sentiment, products and campaigns and answering such questions as:
- Do higher value customers need a different experience than those who give lower value?
- Which customers should I be connecting with this week?
- Who just clicked a link in an email – and which email?
- Are there roadblocks to interactions with customers? If there are, what are these?
Invest in CRM software or upgrade what you have to include analytic capabilities. CRM tools can't manage what they can't see, so ideally you need a solution that integrates with other tools in your tech stack so the CRM becomes a single source of data for the entire customer journey. This will enhance your reporting capabilities significantly; if your data lives on multiple disconnected platforms, the information will be challenging to manage and analyse.
3. Create an emotional connection with customers
No matter what industry you’re in or how your customer is contacting you, it’s important to be empathetic. The more a customer feels like someone is listening, the happier they’ll be to continue the conversation with and about you – often becoming loyal advocates for your brand.
The top reason customers abandon you for a competitor is feeling unappreciated; to fix this, you need to treat each of them as individual people, rather than mere numbers. Interestingly, this type of empathy is not an exclusively ‘human’ skill in the sense that it can be replicated in your digital communications. Are you addressing emails to personal names, not “Sir and/or Madam?” Are you serving up personal messages to underline how important your customers are, for example, a promotional offer on someone’s birthday or to celebrate a business milestone; a ‘thank you’ for a customer who left a great review?
Once you understand the needs, values and past buying behaviours of your customer, you can create the right customised products, services, add-ons, features and messages that are tailored to their needs. Marketing automation platforms (integrated with your CRM) can help you deliver (for example) automated welcome emails, sales follow-ups, or trigger campaigns based on these demographic, behavioural and contextual insights, ensuring customers feel valued and understood.
4. Help Customers help themselves
Today’s customers have no patience for long response times. They want to access information immediately, and to be guided to an appropriate resource or an agent who can attend to their requirements now. The longer you make them wait, the more likely they are to leave.
Customers across the world share the same two frustrations when it comes to support, suggests the cc
- Having to repeat themselves to different people, and
- Calling in and no one is available, but there are no other channels available to get help
We’ve added the italics because they show something very important – customers want fast answers and are willing to find them themselves without any person-assistance from inside the company.
It has been widely reported that 70% of millennials prefer chatbots for the convenience and immediate time-to-response. An equivalent number want to take matters into their own hands and access self-service FAQs, blogs or knowledge bases that enable them to solve their problem on their own without the pressure of a salesperson. Hence why Gartner lists chatbots and self-service as the leading CX strategy for businesses to watch in 2022 and beyond.
Find a CRM that supports tools such as chatbots to enable customers to resolve issues at their own pace. An AI chatbot is always on 24/7 duty, which means customers can get an answer exactly when they need, which is not something a human customer services rep can do. A self-service offer will also reduce your labour costs, or free up your people to perform more value-added tasks, so everyone experiences an immediate benefit.
We’ve already talked about the importance of customer intelligence but it’s clear that self-service tools are another valuable data resource. Live chat essentially is a listening strategy. It gives you great visibility into ‘the voice of the customer’ so you can see things that aren’t always visible through customer support. Acting on those insights will help you deliver what customers want, create better products and attract and retain your ideal customers. This is pivotal to the success of any CX program.
5. Give customers what they want, how they want it
Gone are the days of visiting a store, meeting a sales rep or sitting down at a desktop computer to connect with a company. With more than 70% of web traffic coming from mobile, on-the-go digital journeys are now the standard.
But it’s not just about making your business mobile-friendly. Today’s customers use a range of offline and online channels to connect with companies – in store, online, phone, video calls, social, SMS and messaging, self-service, mobile apps – and what’s fascinating is they’re often using these channels at the same time. Always assume that a customer has viewed your website before visiting your store or booking a discovery call. Always assume they will pull out their phones to read your site, scan products for pricing information, check out your competitors, and eave a review on the go.
Omnichannel is the process of ensuring that every one of these touchpoints has the same level of service and seamless response. And it isn’t just a B2C model; B2B buyers want the same flexibility. This means B2B businesses also need to think in terms of omnichannel when planning acquisition and retention strategies and everything in between.
Embracing omnichannel essentially means simplifying the entire buying path, so the customer is delighted with “how easy that was” – no matter how unpredictable and meandering their journey to purchase. It’s one of the most exciting shifts you’ll make in your CX transformation.
What tech do you need to power omnichannel? It depends what type of business you have but, fundamentally, your decisions must start with your customer data. Omnichannel is all about delivering a personal and relevant service. You achieve this by tightly integrating with your CRM and retrieving customer information in real time to offer a personalised experience. Your website is the virtual showroom so ensuring it is mobile-friendly and integrated with other customer-centric tools can improve your CX considerably and is a great place to start.
Actions for the boardroom
Since happy customers buy more products, leave great feedback for others to see, and eventually become a part of your loyal customer base, good CX is a priority – perhaps even before other strategic goals such as raising revenues or attracting investment.
Technology is essential for managing these complex consumer dynamics. Among the actions leaders can take:
- Make CX the foundational pillar of your digital transformation strategy
- Embed a focus on the customer mindset across the entire company, not just in customer-facing roles
- Discover and apply real-time insights from customer data
- Make everyone listen to and engage with customer feedback
- Use technology to synchronise and automate across all of your systems and channels to improve customer experience
Most businesses already have a lot of data about their customers and relationships. Your biggest opportunities lie in connecting all those different types and sources of data and using it to really see inside the minds of customers, and deliver what they want.
Start you SME digital transformation journey with Aabyss
Embarking on a business transformation through technology requires a good understanding of these 10 questions, but the most important factor—one that really contributes to the topline, bottom-line and customer experience—is the partner you choose.
Aabyss helps business leaders outperform competitors and become future‑ready by simplifying technology. As impartial advisors, we can offer a fresh perspective on your business challenges and help you uncover innovation opportunities you might not have considered.
To get started, book a discovery call today.