We have been doing a lot of research around customer experience recently, really delving into into all things CX, not only defining concepts such as customer journey and touchpoints, but also figuring out ways for companies to deliver real and tangible experience improvements to their customers. We have also taken a long, hard look at how and why customers and their needs have evolved, and dared to make some predictions of where we think customer experience is heading.
First, let’s start with the usual spiel- technological advances. As consumers, our relationship with businesses changes every single day, we are becoming increasingly demanding and impatient, and why shouldn’t we? At the end of the day, we are truly spoiled for choice-
- We are able to purchase almost everything online, groceries, clothes, even cars. And it all gets delivered to our doorstep pretty quickly. Meet the modern consumer- if a website takes too long to load, we move on to the next, if an online retailer doesn’t have what I want in stock, I’m fairly confident I can find it elsewhere immediately.
- We are hyper-connected, we switch from browsing on a laptop to a smartphone in a matter of seconds, any content we collect gets instantly uploaded to our cloud-based drive, and the list goes on. I expect companies to deliver the same experience on multiple platforms, I wanna be equally satisfied no matter which route I decide to take.
- Our peers’ activities are constantly in our face. The increased popularity of ephemeral social sharing on social media such as Instagram and Snapchat has completely revolutionised the experience economy. We are eager to share amazing experiences with our social audiences, but we are also pretty publicly vocal if we have a bad one.
Businesses fight for customers’ attention every minute of every day, and in true adapt or die fashion, they are getting creative. Not only are new communication channels constantly emerging, but entirely new concepts of company are popping up too, there are more solutions in AdTech, CRM and analytics than ever before. And let’s not forget that whilst these concepts are a given in today’s market, only a few years back this level of automation and data was unimaginable.
In this search for ways to captivate demanding audiences, marketers have finally realised that a positive customer experience is no longer a nice-to-have but a powerful way to compete in a pretty tough playing field. A recent survey from eConsultancy stated that 62% of marketers rated customer satisfaction a top priority, alongside their favourite stat: the average spend from repeat buyers was ranked five times higher than one-time shoppers, not to mention the intangible benefits, in the form of referrals, word-of-mouth, etc.
And if you need further proof of the commercial success of high customer satisfaction strategies, take a look at Amazon. Jeff Bezos founded Amazon with the mission of becoming the world’s most customer centric company (before it was mainstream!) and actually put it at the core of absolutely everything they do. Aside from the seamless shopping experience, as an Amazon customer I have only had positive encounters with their customer service, instant refund when I forgot to cancel my Prime membership and a voucher the one and only time they delivered something late. Rumour has it Bezos still reads customer complaint emails personally. Their processes, their products, their market moves, all have one thing in common- the customer as their compass. And look at them now, they are the most powerful e-commerce platform in the world. The key to customer centricity is that by putting yourself in the mind of the consumer, you are better placed to predict their actions, improve their experience and keep them coming back.
Brands are definitely on the right track, but there’s still a lot of improvements to be made in customer experience, and after a lot of work on the subject, here’s where we think it’s going-
1. CX data and getting better at measuring its business impact
It’s a fact that customer experience improvements generate business gain, but there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of data and measurement. Inc. Magazine found that only 14% of practitioners see a tangible relationship between CX and business results. What’s more, a Harvard Business Review survey revealed that 75% of the almost 700 executives surveyed felt they didn’t have the necessary technology and infrastructure to study CX data.
The more CX data we have access to, the better we will become at predicting customers’ future behaviour and as linking improvements in customer satisfaction to bottom-line increases. It’s argued that this will partly be achieved by moving all CX management in-house, as well as by integrating reporting and data from various channels- mobile, social, e-commerce into one centralised source of consumer data. Businesses are rightly obsessed with measurement, as customer experience continues to gain importance it will evolve from intangible into fully quantifiable, and as we become more capable to report on its business impact, we will be able to justify a higher customer experience spend.
2. Personalisation is only just getting started
Customers know how much of their data businesses hold. We tick agreement boxes on a daily basis when browsing the internet. In exchange, we want to see our data being used for something good. If I give the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, ASOS and Spotify access to my data I only want to see ads for things that interest me, I want not only a carefully curated selection of films, music and photos but a selection curated specifically for me and my tastes, I want to shop in my size and based on my personal style. When brands do this seamlessly, customers have very little incentive to switch. Feeling like a brand knows you without a doubt fosters loyalty.
Technology to achieve this improves everyday, AI and machine learning continuously allow brands to learn more about their customers and deliver accordingly. We are heading towards an age of hyper-personalisation, where no two customers are treated the same. This will go beyond the ads they see to include the full breadth of content and product offerings that are presented to them.
3. CX as part of companies’ DNA
As discussed, technology has changed the game and enabled companies to make improvements in their customer journey, expand their channels, personalise their offering. We have every tool at our disposal to really start investing in improving customer experience, a million ways to code a website to improve the interface and user experience, AI and machine learning for personalisation, VR for trialling products from afar, etc. However, this will all be technology for the sake of technology, innovation for the sake of innovation if customer centricity is not truly ingrained in your company’s DNA.
Companies will no longer be able to provide excellent CX if they don’t genuinely believe in it and make it a part of their day-to-day company culture. CX should be at the heart of everything the business does, if this isn’t the case, it will become increasingly apparent to the customer. And there is all to gain, the more you interact and engage with your customers, and the more you show genuine interest, the less likely they are to go off to your competitors. You may even get some useful feedback to improve your products, Jeff Bezos still reads complaint emails that lead to product and process improvements, why shouldn’t you?