A winning customer experience has always been a critical ingredient for business success, but this truism is magnified in the digital world. Technology has improved many aspects of the customer experience, making it possible to understand consumers better, build loyalty and address their issues, sometimes instantly.
It’s also raised expectations. Today’s customers demand the same, if not better, experience with small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs) as with the Goliaths. What’s more, what qualifies as a great customer experience varies by business segment, by customer, and by situation. There are times when customers expect personalized service, and there are times when they may find such interaction invasive.
To find the right balance, SMBs need to be able to identify, segment and follow their audience – and deliver a consistent experience – across all stages, from marketing and e-commerce, to customer service and accounting. The benefit of having a smarter customer experience strategy: Customers who’ve had great experiences spend 140% more than those who’ve had poor experiences, reports Harvard Business Review.
Here’s how to get customer experience right.
The first thing SMBs need to recognize is that customer experience (CX) isn’t a single job function. A customer experience strategy should become part of the business strategy and span all areas to ensure that customers have a seamless and consistent experience at every stage of the buying journey. This requires the use of smarter, connected CX technology utilized across all lines of business.
With the right processes and technology, SMBs can engage customers and win their loyalty at multiple points during the engagement. Oracle CX Cloud technology, for example, makes it possible to deliver preferred end-to-end customer experiences by connecting the critical data elements needs to build customer intelligence.
Companies strive to become more intelligent about their customers. But many fail to connect the dots where it matters the most, customer data, as in, having complete, shared customer profiles across all front and back-office applications. Why is this important? If a customer inquires about a new product, for example, the representative is more likely to win a sale – or add to it – if he or she understands that customer’s history. The same goes for customer support. Armed with information about transaction and interaction history, employees can quickly address customer issues. Contrast that to the alternative – forcing a consumer to explain himself multiple times may exacerbate a problem and decrease customer satisfaction.
A smarter CX approach is to leverage emerging technology and to connect all necessary customer data points and generate a complete customer profile across all applications. This kind of visibility and intelligence can democratize customer service across the business. Oracle makes it possible to generate even more personalized customer experiences by cross-referencing a company's own data with third-party data, such as web, social, and behavioral data.
Not too long ago good customer experience in the physical world began when a customer entered the store. A good salesperson was someone who was attentive and more than anything, knew everything about the products and solutions sold to facilitate a sale.
But today it’s likely the customer experience begins online. If and when a customer comes to a physical location they are more informed and perhaps apathetic towards salespeople. Today there’s a thin line between being attentive and being annoying and emerging technology will likely continue to disrupt such traditional human-to-human interactions.
Today digital interfaces set the tone for customer experiences, while virtual customer service agents standby for questions. An AI-powered agent, or chat bot for example, can not only deliver service, but up-sell and cross-sell opportunities by understanding customer intent based on historical data and past purchase patterns across the web. It’s not hard to imagine that an AI-powered agent can do this more efficiently and at a lower long-term cost than a group of humans. Furthermore, it’s not difficult to imagine a situation where eventually your customer will be replaced by their own personal digital assistants doing all their online shopping on their behalf. This not only disrupts human-to-human interactions, it could replace many of them all together.
Trying not to annoy customers is also important to digital marketing. Did the customer put something in his or her basket, only to abandon it at checkout? A retargeted ad or email might help close that loop. Conversely, if your customer completes a purchase, you should have systems in place to turn off retargeting ads and instead send an appropriate follow-up email, such as a request for a product review. Again, all of this requires the use of smarter CX technology.
More and more consumers are reaching out to companies for support via social media. In one JD Power survey, 67% of respondents indicated that they had asked for help from a company via social media.
Companies that respond to social media requests quickly enough risk losing prospects and customers, and increasingly, put their reputation at risk. Companies that use these interactions to engage their customers in real-time stand to benefit; a Bain & Company study found that consumers end up spending more with a company after it responds to requests coming over social media.
Because every business is different, SMBs should compare the requests – and outcomes – coming via their social media, call centers, websites, emails and other channels. This data can help create a more complete picture of your customers and your customer experience management strategy – and answer the question of when it pays to be high tech or high touch.