Customer experience (CX) is defined by a person’s feelings and emotions, experienced at any stage with a brand. Great CX means happy, loyal customers who not only trust your brand, but are active advocates of it.
Essentially, CX encompasses all the touchpoints in your customers’ journey: from your website and email-marketing, to talking with a customer service representative, chatbots, and in-person communication. Companies that actively focus on CX can significantly reduce churn rates, increase retention rates, and earn higher revenues.
CX is an integral part of the wider Customer Relationship Management (CRM) concept. In fact, CX is the fastest-growing segment of CRM – highlighting just how important it is to both customers and businesses alike. Even more granular, customer service is considered one of the most crucial elements of CX.
So, why is CX seeing such growth? According to HubSpot, prior to the internet “service didn’t matter too much because contracts, for software companies as well as professional services, acted as ‘lock-ins’ on customer loyalty”. Nowadays, however, e-commerce has meant it’s extremely easy to switch brands. With only a few clicks, customers can buy from a rival company, whereas before, buying from a new brand might have meant driving an hour to a different store.
Whereas customers used to make decisions based on adverts, mail, and the news, consumerism in 2020 has been revolutionized. Customers can swiftly fact-check, price-compare, and unsubscribe at any time, causing brands to work harder to impress and retain people. Moreover, customers’ expectations around CX have evolved with the technology – they anticipate a personalized, seamless, and authentic experience across the board.
Here are simple, effective ways to stay successful in the new customer experience battleground:
Connect all communication channels.
Technology is everywhere, meaning customers have multiple options to reach your brand. Mobile, phone, online, live chat, and social media are just some of the ways customers and companies are connecting. While the new scope of communication is great to get in touch, these platforms need to be intertwined and offer a consistent level of service.
Many platforms allow brands to target specific audiences; for example, social media and chat is best for younger, tech-savvy customers, while older generations prefer phone or in-person. Understanding which methods are suited to which customer persona enables you to promote more personalized products and services. It also means you can tailor your messaging to the specific groups.
At the same time, remember that social media platforms are a way for customers to voice their CX with your brand, whether positive or negative. The conversation then, goes two ways. As you strive to create a great customer experience, you’re also being reviewed in real-time. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon (the most valuable company in the world), once said “you know if you make a customer unhappy, they won’t tell five friends, they’ll tell 5,000 friends”.
Harnessing the chance to interact with customers (whatever their feedback) is key. Online, always reply to comments, tags, and notifications either thanking customers or providing them with a channel to discuss things further. Offering an incentive for a customer to return is a top way to put your brand in a good light too.
Offline, if someone comes into your shop, send them a follow-up email afterwards asking them about their experience. Don’t shy away from acknowledging when people have interacted with your brand at an earlier time. For example, if on the phone, say “I see you came to a store a few weeks ago”. These basic efforts establish a human-to-human relationship with customers, and close the gap between online and offline conversations.
Collect customer service data.
Personalization is key in CX: 84 percent of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is important to winning their business. In response, most (if not all) brands have been quick to customize their CX accordingly. Such tailoring and segmentation has proved beneficial not only for customer satisfaction, but also to gather data to continually improve CX. Companies like Conde Nast, T-Mobile, and Adobe all use integrated data solutions to improve their CX strategies.
In the past, CX was a slow-feedback process, where heads of marketing made assumptions about what people want. Now, companies are able to analyze all the hundreds of thousands of conversations that come through customer support channels – and understand exactly what customers are looking for.
Customer data can help align the content, tone, and vision of your brand with your customers. It can also create real value for the customers themselves, because you as a company are more aware of what the actual pain points are. By using tools to track ongoing customer interactions, automate responses, and monitor customer satisfaction analytics, your products and services can prioritize the most frequently complained about issues.
While it is valuable to use data to understand your customer base at large, customers still want to be recognized as individuals. Automated services like chatbots can quickly provide you with representative chunks of customer data, but chatbots can also have a reverse effect of leaving customers feeling like a number.
Value customer lifetime.
A common misconception is that companies should prioritize customer acquisition over customer retention. In reality, signing a new customer may cost your business as much as six or seven times more than nurturing an existing customer. Not to mention, increasing customer retention by 5 percent can increase profits by 25 – 95 percent.
In the fast-paced, evolving world of modern CX, long-term customer relationships should remain the central focus. Well-executed CX encourages customers to not only make repeat purchases, but also to promote the brand in other areas of their lives.
Companies that develop their CX for quick conversions are less likely to form a committed user base; especially considering that 85 percent of customer churn stemming from poor customer service can be prevented. Artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots can certainly facilitate large-scale CX, however, the ‘human touch’ remains the biggest challenge for companies to foster long-term customers. Creating a customer support experience that is as fast as a chatbot, but as personal as a one-on-one conversation with an agent, is a must.
Brands shouldn’t be apprehensive to ask their customers to define what the ‘human touch’ is for them. 44 percent of U.S consumers say they are loyal to brands that ask them for help in designing or co-creating services and products. By including customers in your CX planning, they feel respected and valued, and are positioned to work (and buy) with your brand for a longer time.
CX a priority for every brand.
Customer experience is a huge component to being a successful, profitable company. And as technology and expectations continually advance, the CX battleground is becoming all the more competitive. A recent survey found that companies believe the single most exciting opportunity for their organization in 2020 is CX, but better still, CX needs to be a top priority.
Customer service, in particular, is the crux of any customer experience. Learning from your customer service communication can have a powerful ripple effect on your CX as a whole. Customer service can even outshine the product you offer – 88 percent of consumers prefer dealing with a company with strong customer service rather than one with the latest, most innovative product. Beyond satisfied customers, there are financial motivations for investing in CX too, as consumers are willing to spend 17 percent more on a company that has outstanding customer service.
Connecting all your communication channels, making customer service data-informed decisions, and prioritizing customer lifetime value, are core ways to optimize CX. However, the process is fluid – companies that are prepared to adapt to new trends in CX are poised to be far more successful than those that don’t.
Nathan Pitzer has earned his stripes in the startup world; with over 10 years of experience building and branding organizations at their most exciting, most vital time. Nathan is Head Of Marketing at Augment. In his role there, Nathan is dedicated to driving all elements of Business Development, Design, and Marketing. Nathan started his career in customer success within highly technical companies, where he discovered the importance of listening to customers in order to ensure a great experience.