Does Your Customer Experience Strategy Need a Tune Up?
[Estimated read time: 5 minutes]
Undercutting your competitor’s price or coming out with “the next best thing” used to be enough for a company to stay on top, but consumer expectations have drastically changed. To stand out in today’s crowded and competitive market, the most important aspect of your business must be service, and that service must be amazing.
But getting from satisfying to stellar doesn’t happen overnight—it takes thoughtful and proactive planning. Is your customer experience strategy up to the challenge?
With a customer experience that turns dissatisfaction or indifference into delight, you can increase your market share, generate revenue, and create loyal brand advocates who will help you sustain that growth.
It’s All About the Journey
When broken down, the customer experience is really just the interconnection of pinpointed moments with a brand—think about the series of interactions a customer goes through when they sign up for new cable service or return a shirt that doesn’t fit.
Most companies perform well on the individual touchpoints, but those that excel in delivering cohesive journeys tend to stand out from their competitors. The Harvard Business Review found that performance on journeys is 30-40% more strongly correlated with customer satisfaction than performance on touchpoints, and 20-30% more strongly correlated with business outcomes such as high revenue, repeat purchase, low customer churn, and positive word of mouth.
If you’re only tracking satisfaction at the transaction level, your results will be misleading. In fact, any one customer could give you high scores across the board and still be dissatisfied enough to leave you for your competitor.
Why? Because you’re looking at each of those transactions as independent, but that’s not what the customer experiences. One frustrating phone call can taint every other encounter. A series of “good enough” interactions can accumulate into an unsatisfactory whole. Or every touchpoint could run smoothly, but when it takes 12 of them to complete a journey, the customer gives up. (Or, at a more basic level, your satisfaction rates might not be as high as they appear to be.)
To set yourself apart, you have to understand what it feels like to be your customer, from awareness and acquisition, to retention and re-engagement, to loyalty and (hopefully) love.
A Customer-Focused Culture Won’t Create Itself
Most companies still work in silos, meaning no one department will get the full picture of who the customers are and what they want. You can overcome the problem bringing together employees from every department to develop your customer experience strategy. When you have a 360-degree view of the customer, you can identify the most important journeys to focus on and redesign them with cross-functional processes.
Some of the most highly rated companies have instituted policies to change the culture and avoid relapsing into their silos. Amazon requires its top managers to spend time at a call center or fulfillment facility every few years. During IKEA’s annual “anti-bureaucracy week,” upper-level managers work on the floor and interact with shoppers. And one bank requires executives and even board members to call five dissatisfied customers every month.
Customers Are People Too
Most buying decisions are made for emotional reasons, often based on how much the customer empathizes with your brand. Here are a few suggestions for taking emotions into account when creating your journeys and overall experience:
- Perception is multilayered. Many factors can influence a customer’s opinions and actions, including temperament, past interactions, physical environment, and the customer’s goal. In particular, always look at an experience from a stressed customer’s point of view.
- Not all memories are created equal. Negative experiences are stronger than positive ones. Find your most crucial touchpoints, and look for ways to mitigate the consequences if they go wrong.
- Emotions are hard to articulate. Technology that employs text and speech analysis usually yields more accurate voice of the customer data than surveys and other self-reporting.
A Technology Solution Can Solve Your Problems
Customer expectations keep increasing, and it’s become almost impossible to meet them without the help of a technology solution.
Depending on the size of your company and the complexity of your industry, pre-packaged software might not be the answer. One size doesn’t fit all, and every company’s needs are constantly evolving. Choose a solution that can be customized, measured, evaluated, and adjusted, and a provider that sees you as partner, not just a purchaser.
Look for these features, which will lessen the work of implementing your customer experience strategy:
Real-time context is provided at every step of an interaction, so the customer doesn’t have to retell their story. When a request on the website is escalated, instead of hearing “How can I help you?” the customer can instead be greeted by “Hi John, it looks like you have questions about a canceled flight. I’m happy to assist you!”
Natural Language Processing (NLP) determines the meaning of a customer’s question and responds with an accurate and relevant response, as opposed to returning a list of topics that correspond to the keywords in their question. A customer can ask “What do I do if I don’t like the color of my sweater?” and receive a response like “If you aren’t completely satisfied with the product you purchased, click here to print a return label.” Without NLP, they would likely see a list of knowledgebase topics related to colors and sweaters.
Social listening tools find mentions of your brand and products in all corners of the web. By incorporating NLP, they can identify positive and negative sentiment and dig deeper to determine the specific emotions being conveyed. And when combined with machine learning, they can alert you to new trending topics related to your brand and reduce false alarms—“this burger is sick” (positive feedback) vs. “this burger made me sick” (product issue).
Virtual assistants and bots also use NLP to understand and simulate human conversation and artificial narrow intelligence to learn from each interaction. They can even display emotion, personality, and humor. A German utility firm gave its virtual assistant a Facebook page, and even had her take the “ice bucket challenge.”
How Astute Can Help
Learn how Astute’s CRM software solution can help you implement, measure, and adjust your customer experience strategy.