I've spent a lot of time talking about how marketers can leverage multiple touch points, including social communities, to engage users, create great experiences, and ultimately build brand advocacy and results. But building great, engaging customer experiences within and across channels is no longer a nice-to-have - it is table stakes.
According to Forrester Research, consumers increasingly expect that brands "deliver any desired information or service on any appropriate device, in context, at the customer's moment of need." Consequently, marketers are taking notice. According to a recent Oracle survey of more than 1,300 senior executives, 97 percent agree that the customer engagement and experience is critical to success, and 93 percent of these execs have made it one of their top priorities over the next two years. However, despite that desire, fewer than 40 percent of those surveyed have customer experience initiatives in progress, and just 20 percent who do would describe their initiatives as sophisticated.
So, what are the top five things marketers can do to change that and create a sophisticated customer initiative within their organizations that will have customers raving and the competition scathing?
- Audit the experience and think mobile. The best place to start is by putting the customer at the center and auditing her experience. Leverage existing data, including web logs, customer service files, etc. and retrace the paths and means by which customers engage with your brand. If you have dedicated segments, look to better understand these segments and how their paths and content may vary. Pay close attention to their expectations and spend time to better understand their further needs. Consider user group testing and create a focused initiative around usability and design. Finally, be proactive and prepare for what's next. Two key areas to pay particular attention to are how connected your customers are and the accelerating rate at which they are embracing mobile. Understanding your customers' mobile mindset and usage will enable you to properly anticipate and ultimately meet their mobile demands.
- Break down data silos. Sharing and accessing data is critically important, but data silos remain a key issue for large enterprises. While it may be difficult to combine data, look to pull representative samples from each silo to create a 360-degree view and understanding of each customer segment. Better yet - build a case for creating an initiative around "best" customers or "loyalty" members. Loyalty members often represent a smaller sub-segment that can provide greater upside and powerful insights. By creating a consolidated view of their interactions, marketers have the opportunity to create better experiences for their best customers while sharing the learnings and best practices with departments and executives. I have often found this to be a powerful initiative and a catalyst for corporate-wide change.
- Create cross-functional customer teams. Building a great customer engagement strategy requires input from all functions that touch the customer. Some of the more successful customer experience initiatives I have been a part of not only include a cross-functional team, but begin with the presentation of the audit by an independent third party. Seeing your brand through the customer's eyes can break down barriers and align teams toward the common goal of creating a better experience, regardless of function.
- Rethink your preference center. Give the customer a voice and relinquish control. Allow the customer to set preferences by channel and even communication type. This will not only empower your customers and build trust, but will provide a critical service to the organization by keeping your marketing compliant with changing privacy and communication standards.
- Monitor trust and satisfaction. As with every initiative, it is critical to set objectives and goals. Create a benchmark by which you can measure your customers' reactions and satisfaction levels. Solicit feedback, but do so only if you are open and committed to making changes and enhancements - consumers will take notice and appreciate the brands that listen and respond.
The stakes have never been higher. Tomorrow's winners and losers will be increasingly determined by a brand's ability to listen and respond to their customers' needs regardless of channel. To know your customer, become them, empower them, and embrace them. Doing so will enable you to create great customer experiences that differentiate your brand, build advocacy, and improve results.