They want an exceptional end-to-end experience, often personalised to their own tastes and needs. They want things fast and fresh, and they want it safe and secure.
In developed markets, customers demand an increasingly personalised service. The phrase “customer experience”, abbreviated to CX, has become all-pervasive as businesses wake up to the reality that the physical sale is just part of a much larger picture.
This is not some kind of 21st Century sense of entitlement either. In a crowded global marketplace, often with little differentiation between products and services, customers are also making purchasing decisions based on secondary factors.
In fact, by 2020 50% of customers will rate "experience" as the most important factor in their decision-making, according to the CX consulting firm, Walker. By contrast, just 16% will continue to prioritise price. But despite this stark fact, businesses are still failing to deliver on their increasingly demanding expectations.
Here are five mistakes (and potential remedies) to be aware of:
Successful marketing has always hinged on the idea of making the right offer to the right person at the right time. Historically that meant designing and executing a campaign, analysing customer responses and outcomes, refining the approach, and beginning the cycle again.
Nothing has changed either – apart from customer expectations of increased personalisation. Because they have seen what your competitors can do, they expect your deals and services to be tailored to their personal circumstances as well.
Solution: It’s a big and nebulous topic, but data analytics will help you better understand each customer as an individual. An enterprise-grade analytics solution takes time to deploy, but you can get started right now with tools such as Power BI which is included with Office 365 subscriptions. You can then mine your existing data to increase the level of personalisation offered to customers.
Time-poor customers won’t wait. Google engineers discovered that '400 milliseconds "literally the blink of an eye" is too long' for a web page to load for instance. And the surge in demand for next day, or same day order fulfilment shows that impatience exists at both the beginning and end of your sales process.
If you make your customers wait, they won't come back.
Solution: Slack, waste and inefficiency need to be removed from every aspect of your business – which is hardly news. Your business needs to look at how technology can be applied to reduce latency, automate common functions and develop all-new processes – including managed hosting where appropriate.
GDPR has helped to focus corporate attention on data security – but your efforts are not simply to satisfy regulators. Customers are increasingly switched-on about data security - 58 per cent have said they’d avoid a provider that has recently experienced a data or security breach.
There is only one conclusion: expose sensitive data, lose half your potential customer base.
Solution: All customer data deserves to be protected by enterprise-grade security systems – even that held by SMEs. The most cost-effective way to protect applications and data is through the use of public cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure which rely on cutting edge network perimeter protections and encryption to keep criminals out.
Customers expect dealing with your business to be quick and simple. Think of the way in which credit cards are stored in your online accounts; customers expect similar levels of simplicity in every interaction with your business. But simplicity is often sacrificed when businesses simply replicate their archaic processes online for expediency.
Simplicity saves time – which is why time-poor customers will often pay a premium for services that promise to make their lives easier.
Solution: Deploying smart technology that allows you to automate common functions, reduce manual interaction and deliver as many services as possible online. Moving back-end operations online will also help to simplify your own processes too.
5. Post-sales service
According to Adobe, 41% of all online revenue comes from repeat customers. Obviously, the initial sales experience is crucial to their first return visit, but a consistently high level of service is required to keep them coming back again and again.
Support is often regarded as secondary to the sales process – and this is a fatal mistake.
Solution: The customer experience does not end at the “buy now” button. You must deploy technology that delivers an exceptional self-service experience and seamless hand-over to a well-informed human operator when requested by the customer. Again, customer data and analytics will play an important part in ensuring that you provide the right support/advice at the right time, as quickly as possible.
The key to bridging the digital divide is data – or more specifically how you use data. Simplicity and efficiency are not solely reserved for backend operations, for instance, you need to ensure that your processes are optimised to give customers those benefits too.
Your business will also need to be smarter about how it uses technology. Storing data is one thing, but securing it properly is a whole new issue. And extracting the profitable insights hidden within that data is even more important – for the quality of service offered to customers, and for boosting the lifetime value of that relationship.
As always, there is a time constraint on these developments. Your largest competitors are already well on the road to delivering against the demands of customers – which means addressing these five issues sooner rather than later.
- Personalisation and hyper-relevance are now standard expectations when customers engage in your brand.
- Immediate delivery - both physical and digital - is now the norm, not the exception.
- Data must be leveraged, but data privacy and protection carries strategic importance.
- The increase in self-service means online CX needs to be easy and simple.
- Companies that recognise their customers’ digital experiences when they design or refine their end-to-end processes, demonstrate huge competitive advantage.