According to a study by Walker, customer experience will be the key differentiator for consumers by the year 2020. Currently, price and product are the key drivers for the decision-making process. The speed of change is rapid and companies will learn to adapt quickly or fail based on the inability to effectively compete. Long gone are the days of profiting despite touchpoints being misaligned with the core essence of the brand. Most of us have had an experience of recognizing an astoundingly beautiful restaurant only to be surprised by a service faux pas whilst dining. There is irony in that most brands believe they are creating satisfactory, personalized, and robust experiences but in reality, the customers are often dissatisfied. Why is this gap in perceptions so common?
Customer experience begins with an organizational effort to meaningfully engage the customer across all touchpoints, but a customer’s own perception of the experience crafted for them is of vital importance to consider as brands continue to rework their experience. The old adage “People buy from who they like” is the Northstar that organizations should always keep in mind. Consumer expectations are rapidly changing and they increasingly demand exceptional, personalized experiences. Some estimate that 70% of consumers make their decision to purchase or utilize a service before they ever walk in the door. Further complicating the delivery of experiences is the continuous lack of consistency. According to Kamplye, 87% of consumers believe brands fail to deliver consistent experiences. Brands must ensure they have metrics and strict procedures to standardize the process while making the consumer feel special. This is quite the task but it is doable.
First and foremost, it is incumbent upon brands to listen to the good, the bad, and ugly. Brands don’t have the luxury to cherry-pick feedback in an attempt to shift consumer perception. The access to information is ubiquitous and their credibility is at stake. Savvy brands create a feedback loop to ensure they are capturing consumers’ perception of their product or service. By asking open-ended questions to help engage consumers, brands can capture necessary data to make intelligent decisions to help grow and maintain a solid customer base.
Three quick questions to begin that engagement with the consumer are:
Customers now expect a consultative approach versus a selling approach. Consulting the customer provides balance when appropriate and also holds organizations accountable to implement or at least consider the customers' feedback. The consultative approach also requires that brands actively listen to customer interactions, taking into account what is said and acting on the information received when necessary.
Consumers have become very savvy about consumer choice, frequently turning to the internet to find the latest information. The internet has democratized information, and newly informed consumers expect the brand or organization to use this information to deliver a personalized experience. The good news is that “big data” can be your greatest ally if captured and utilized effectively. According to Google, 98% of Americans alternate between a number of devices daily, making it imperative to gain insight into every touchpoint involved with each customer. Feedback must not only be collected but also analyzed in order to continuously improve and deliver consistent, meaningful customer experiences.
According to the Aberdeen Group, companies with the most robust omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers versus companies who retain 33% of their customers due to weak omni-channel strategies. The ability to speak consistently in the same voice, thus enriching the experience, is an absolute necessity. Savvy brands utilize data across all channels to partner with the consumer across the lifecycle; recognizing they are less of an individual and more a part of an ecosystem. To that end, they have a greater ability to add value if they perceive and realize a positive experience and vice versa for a negative one. Brands must be fastidious and also must flawlessly exceed customers' expectations by continuously improving so that consumers remain loyal.
Without question, this is the new arena with a plethora of moving parts that companies must not only understand but must also master quickly. It is highly unlikely that a consumer will do business again with a company that already delivered a negative experience. Brands will either adapt or fail to deliver successful customer experiences based on their ability or inability to adapt to constant changes.
In this evolving industry, many organizations find themselves facing the question: to what extent should the CMO be involved in the marketing experience? If your company is also met with this same quandary, check out the Constellation Research: Should the Chief Marketing Officer Oversee the Whole Customer Experience? to find beneficial answers.