Perfecting the digital customer experience for the connected customer
Digital customer experience is the top trend impacting the roles of CX practitioners according to this year’s Global State of Customer Experience report. Liferay defines digital customer experience as “the sum of digital interactions between a customer and a company and the resulting impression that a customer walks away with.”
Digital customer experience
The high demand for digital customer experiences is illustrated by surging online sales and a growing reliance on smartphones. Customers seek more mobility, flexibility, frictionless brand experiences and value self-service at the moment they choose. Live messaging apps perfectly answer these new expectations in exchange for more traditional communication channels such as phone calls and texts. Indeed better digital customer experiences will reduce customer contact costs for a business.
According to the Global State of Customer Experience report, online customer experience and user experience attract the majority of budgets dedicated to digital CX initiatives. Jean Belanger CEO and co-founder of Cerebri AI notes “Connected customers are being serviced better than ever. Amazon has made everyone up their game in digital as far as UX, ease of use, etc.”
Many of today’s customers are time-poor, they appreciate convenience and responsiveness especially when they need to solve a problem. With this in mind, brands should make it as easy as possible for users to locate what they are looking for. Brandon Seymour, SEO manager at DentalPlans.com reminds: “Regardless how tech savvy your target audience is, the layout and structure of your website should be intuitive enough where the user can navigate the site with ease. This keeps users happy, and generally leads to a higher conversion rate.”
That being said there are still many limitations to the digital experiences today’s customers receive. This is due to the fact that there are a lot of things companies still aren’t doing quite right. The digital customer experience is influenced by various departments: customer contact, IT, marketing and C-suite. In the absence of a CX team that unites these groups, this cross-departmental structure can trigger fragmented customer journeys as the divisions make decisions that impact the overall customer experience in silos. The call center may govern the voice and email channels, meanwhile the marketing group leads social engagement and such a set-up could create communication disconnects for a user.
In the Global State of Customer Experience report industry commentators maintained that the pressure applied on the concept of digital transformation will only rise as customer expectations for high quality digital experiences refuse to waiver.
The stakes are very high. One research report noted that for a third of those surveyed, online retailers had a mere 10 seconds to provide the user with information they wanted before they moved on to a competitor.
The right talent is crucial for successful digital transformation alongside realistic budget allocation and good integration with legacy systems and processes. The Global State of Customer Experience report respondents did acknowledge that digital transformation is challenging, but this did not dampen their ambitious targets as a significant portion embarked on new digital transformation projects.
Customer data: Awareness of what your customers want
In order to perfect the digital experience businesses need to have complete visibility on what their consumers desire. Justin Reilly, Former Head of Customer Experience Innovation
Verizon notes: “Brands do a really terrible job, and I put myself in this camp, of actually understanding what their customers want.” This notion inspired Justin to lobby for C-level executives to sit with Verizon’s real-life customers – and this research produced some inspiring results.
One particular mother of five set the record straight that offering an extra $100 a month or free features were not incentives that would persuade her to switch to Verizon. She clarified that in-fact she needed someone to handle the admin of terminating the contract with her current provider and smoothly transition her to Verizon with all the features she desires.
“Her point was, just build a product that breaks up with my provider for me. And no one in the room, [some of] the smartest people in the world, had come up with a switching product.
“So we built a switching product that went as far as the lawyers would let us go, and it’s been phenomenal. If you actually analyse the metrics of building it, it’s cheaper than building a product with discounts and all these things that we think customers want when they [in fact don’t.]”
customer experience specialist Jean Balanger also maintains that deep research into the customer’s mind-set is crucial for business success, noting: “The one area where Amazon is miles ahead of most companies is in understanding their customer data. [Brands must know their] customer. They are no longer a customer but rather they are a customer journey. Every customer has a series of customer touchpoints where you interact with them. All of these touchpoints must be well understood before you can even attempt to say you have everything under control. Amazon presents 300M unique home pages to its massive customer base, all based on every customer's unique preferences.”
Digital customer experience metrics
Tracking user web behaviour will provide clarification on the digital paths that are most popular and those that aren’t working. As Clicktale mentioned in its last webinar with CX Network, by understanding the customer’s mind-set and intent businesses can improve their emotional connection with customers and improve customer lifetime value. This understanding can be captured by voice of the customer tools, multi-variate testing, surveys, feedback forms and web analytics. It’s important to integrate the data from various channels - mobile website, desktop, app and feedback tools to build a 360 ° view of the customer. The different activities to track in a digital customer experience strategy include:
- Journey path to the website or app
- On-page behavior – scrolls, mouse movements
- Checkout process.
Once armed with this information on various wins and losses, brands should assess the design of their digital assets and apply the required tweaks to improve the user journey. The continuous optimisation of websites has been shown to boost the amount of site visits.
Balance of online and offline
One of the biggest mistakes companies can make in attempting to perfect the digital customer experience is to focus too much on technology. It is important to get the balance correct between online and offline interactions as clients place value in direct human contact and assistance at certain points of their journey, in retail branches for instance.
Jonah Fink, President of Net2phone said: “My mother used to say that ‘too much of anything is no good!’ We must apply a “Middle of the Road” approach between AI or digital interaction vs the human touch. Digital communication can open the door, but it cannot put that chocolate mint on your pillow.
“When customers call in, the identification process can be and should be fully digitalised. Once the customer has been identified and recognised alongside its proper “issue” category and delivered to its most suitable department, who will resolve - a human with its smile, warm touch and “anything else we can do for you” should take over.”
A blanket approach to digitising every analog experience can have many hidden complexities. Kevin Susman, the Creative Director and Head of Brand at Matrixx Software explains: “The problem, unfortunately, is that those analog processes were specifically designed to compensate for the limitations of the experience. Moving to digital completely changes everything and, as a result, means rethinking the entirety of customer engagement across the lifecycle.”
In addition to this, the customer experience specialist warns: “Don’t promise what you can’t deliver – in the rush to capitalise on digital hype, it can be tempting to try to do too many things, too quickly.
“While the initial PR hit may be good, incomplete or ill-conceived digital experiences frequently do more harm than good.
“It’s better to do a few bold things really well, and then expand from there, building brand equity and customer loyalty along the way.”
A word to established businesses: Think like a start-up. Shep Hyken notes that digital natives have the key advantage of agility. Not only are their psyches more customer centric, but they are also more open to embracing new technologies. As a result they have the make-up required to swiftly disrupt established competition.
Omnichannel and frictionless digital experiences
Companies cannot rely on merely having a multichannel customer experience strategy. Customers expect to engage with brands across multiple touchpoints, and to do so easily. They expect their experience of the organisation, its look and feel, its messaging, its availability, its answers, to be seamless and equal across different channels. So it’s crucial that channels are integrated to provide the best experience for consumers.
Only 10% of practitioners in this year's Global State of Customer Experience research could confidently claim they provide a completely seamless omnichannel experience. Around 87% of consumers think brands need to improve to provide a seamless experience across channels
The omnichannel vision allows businesses to integrate feedback from different sources into one platform. Insights on past preferences are taken into consideration to assist future behaviours and decision making.
The move away from an organisational set-up that is structured entirely around silos – both horizontal by function and vertical by hierarchy – is a key block to building the omnichannel experience. The firm should focus on shifting to a customer-first or customer centric culture.
Kirsty Traill VP of Customer Support, Hootsuite considers the failure to meet customers in their channel of choice as a big mistake. She says: “Not providing customers with the information they need in their channel of choice can be a costly mistake. This results in forcing customers to switch channels which increases costs significantly. For example, switching to a higher cost channel such as calling a call center, which defeats the purpose, OR having the customer not make the purchase and churn because they can't find what they need, which results in lost revenue. Both equally costly mistakes, both equally preventable.”
Practitioners should avoid templated, canned responses when dealing with social contact channels, especially from a contact center perspective. Particularly in the public space, responses should try to strike the delicate balance of keeping with the brand’s tone while being respectful and appropriate.
New data released from TELUS International found that half of Americans surveyed would recommend a brand because of its exceptional social media presence (e.g., quick response times, informative, across multiple sites), even if they were not initially happy with their product/service.
Online customers expect a response within one hour, according to another study, but only a third of consumers that make enquiries via social media receive a quick and effective solution. This could be regarded as a lost opportunity as social media savvy customers are more likely to be vocal about their experiences, be them positive or negative.
In the 2018 predictions report, Annette Höher-Bäuerle Group CX Director Thomas Cook highlighted mobile-first as a key expectation that must be met. “More and more customers use mobile devices to search, plan and book their whole trip. This means that every development in the digital area needs to focus on mobile. So a seamless mobile journey – where all information the customer needs is at hand on their mobile device throughout the whole journey – should be another focus area.”
Starbucks has been praised for setting standards in the industry especially in the US with its intuitive mobile ordering app.
Data and digital customer experience strategy
With rising expectations of seamless experiences with various channels, protecting and tracking the single-view of the customer is more important than ever. Failure to have a single customer-view could harm healthy relationships and make for a rather jerky customer experience. Firms can struggle to identify the same customer across multiple lines of business, due to the fact that customer data is often locked in silos. If a provider fails to connect the dots they could be at risk of process inefficiencies as well as sending communications that are anything but targeted.
Oracle’s recent report with CX Network Creating tomorrow’s customer experience today saw siloed data win the title of the number one CX challenge. Kristi Mansfield, Director of CX Strategy & Transformation, APAC Oracle continued: “We see this problem in almost all of our customer environments. Being able to combine data reduces the risk for disconnected experiences and enables interactions to be personalised, contextually relevant and consistent—regardless of channel or lifecycle stage.
“Although today’s marketing, sales and service teams are more efficient than ever, they often still operate independently at either the data, intelligence or experience level. This all leads to a disjointed customer experience.
“Solving this problem is simpler, faster and less costly than people think. Oracle has a customer data management tool as part of our CX suite that lets organisations connect all the data – from ERP to CRM and social media data to create a comprehensive customer data profile that can be actioned through the marketing or service cloud.”
Connecting the front-office with the back office does indeed create business efficiencies, but the biggest gains are seen within customer experience. Brands are equipped with capabilities to provide clients with immediate access to intelligence. This connected data ecosystem is the foundation for the wonders of proactive customer experience. Plug-ins such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can support agents with data-led decision making and more sophisticated customer engagement. However, for AI to function it needs to be hooked to a high-quality and relevant data source.
What lies ahead for digital experience management for customers in 2019?
When we asked our customer experience specialists this question, one main trend remained front of focus: personalisation. Customers are beginning to build a strong sense of entitlement when it comes to individualisation. If they reach out to a business they expect the webpage or agent to have a complete view of their entire user journey and all the relevant case information. Businesses with returning online users should look to equip their websites with dynamic content tailored to each individual.
As CX begins to claim its title as the key brand differentator, businesses cannot afford to make the fatal mistake of ignoring the importance of digital customer experience strategies.