The customer experience has become more and more central to many marketing executives focus. As customer behavior has evolved with technology, customers are showing their preferences through market share. They will go that extra mile out of their way to access the restaurant with the technology they prefer – from self-order, self-checkout to extremely customized user experiences, customers are speaking up about how they would like to engage with brands online and in-person.

  1. Customers have shown they are willing to spend more for an excellent customer experience; Forbes indicates that there has never been a research study on the subject that has found otherwise and in their most recent research, it shows 52% of respondents are willing to pay more for an excellent experience. And taking this just a little further, 25% of the respondents are willing to pay 10% more across almost every industry.  And not surprising that hospitality takes the cake with 30% of respondents saying they would pay up to 10% more, and 10% of these hospitality customers are willing to spend over 30% more. Consider that when evaluating your annual marketing budget. And when asking about convenience, the number jumps to 70% willing to pay more – customer convenience would fall directly under customer experience in any factor analysis.
  2. Sales Force reports 66% of customers expect brands to understand their needs and wants. And even more, 80% report that they find the experience to be equally as important as the product or service that is being offered by the brand.  Because disruptive technology is growing at staggering rates, customers expect that if one company can do it, so can any – but are you?  Customers are showing their preferences by shopping with brands that put them first.
    1. Customers expect integrated customer journeys where there is seamless communication between marketing, sales, and support; they expect to be seen holistically regardless of who they are speaking to in the organization. And this is typically not the case. Large organizations with legacy systems and large merger and acquisition strategies struggle here.  For example, you can call AT&T to order new service and be entered into one system where the notes do not transfer to the sales department and customers may find themselves in a circular game of telephone trying to get their needs met. While other advanced organizations are implementing the unified customer profile that has all data central for any employee with chat records, preferences, and notes all in one place.
    2. It’s reported that 74% of customers report starting their buying journey on one channel and completing it on another. Consider the shopper that wants to touch and feel the product and then go online to buy it and have it delivered for convenience. Certain innovations have enabled retailers to target users with ads after being within close proximity of a specific product. Now imagine triggering an email within the next 24 hours with a special loyal customer offer in exchange for their purchase.
    3. Customers expect extreme personalization these days. Over 50% of customers expect offers to be personalized to them and not a generic offer. And 66% of respondents expect the brand to understand their specific unique needs while the same amount of respondents say they are treated like a number and not  a person.
    4. Over 65% of customers expect brands to display empathy to their customers while only 37% report that brands actually demonstrate their desired, empathy.
    5. Over 90% of respondents indicated they would make a repeat purchase with brands that provided exceptional customer experiences; talk about an instant lifetime value booster. This immediately impacts your acquisition costs and what you can afford to spend on getting even more new customers that will be loyal. Be sure to benchmark the average number of orders your customers do today so you can compare any improvements.

That’s a lot of data supporting the need for brands to provide an excellent customer experience. In order to understand what an excellent customer experience is, you need to start with the foundational pieces your customers already told you they want. They want you to understand their needs. Below you will find the basics for uncovering customer needs that you already have at your fingertips or options that can give you exactly what you need from multiple customer segments – even if you have yet to define these.

  1. Identify your customer needs by starting with existing customers. You can do this in a multitude of ways, and it is suggested that you employ several of these methods to ensure you understand unique customer segments that have different priorities and needs. You may find you have 10 different customer segments at one point in your journey and only 3 at another point in the customer experience journey.
    1. Review CRM data for support notes; what are the common problems reported? What is the average hold time? What is the average call abandonment?
    2. Look at your online reviews for feedback on your product and services. This will provide you with not only items needing attention but also enables you to amplify the items that customers really like about your brand.  You may consider also reviewing your competitors reviews to see what they are doing right and get some quick tips on where your opportunities may be.
    3. Survey your customers in different product and service categories across different platforms. If you have a retail location, you will want to understand what this group of folks likes and dislikes about your physical experience. You will also have a similar survey for your online customers and another for the customers that cross over. And if you do not know your cross over audience between online and offline, you already have your first goal. Remember your customers expect personalized experiences across your brand regardless of the interaction location or department.
    4. Involve your staff in these conversations as they are your front-line leaders directly engaging with customers. From sales to support, each department has opinions on what is working and what is not, use this to your advantage. It’s also been noted that some technology solutions enable employees to do their job better and in turn customers are happier because it’s an overall smoother transaction.
    5. Study the competition online and offline. Be sure to shop your competitors to evaluate their customer journey. Some marketing teams have a dedicated resource that creates different persona types to shop the competition and understand how they treat different customer segments. How do they treat the customer that spends 1k versus $50? Tracking this will expose a lot of opportunity across brands.

Now let’s identify exactly what an excellent customer journey looks like. Remember the customer experience is not related solely to the sale; with technical products or services, the support becomes far more important to the customer than the sales process. However, it is recommended that all parts of your customer journey be mapped out to have excellent engagement and experiences at each point. Below are what many organizations have found to be central pieces of technology or operations to increase the customer experience at different parts of the customer journey.

  1. Chatbots are the new black in eCommerce. These tools enable you to scale your service department with fewer service team members; or shall we say that we save the service team members for complex needs and let the robots do the easy repetitive work. Chatbots can be programmed to answer a number of automated needs, does it come in this size, what is your return policy, is it in stock, and does it do this or that. Consumers are noting their comfort level working with chatbots so long as escalation to humans is an option.
  2. Improved personalization is an expectation these days. This means customer segmentation so you can treat folks in like situations with succinct recommendations. 70% of consumers say they will shop exclusively with brands that personally understand them. Over 80% indicate that they expect brands to accommodate their preferences and meet their expectations.
  3. Loyalty programs not only incentivize customers to be loyal to your brand, but they add a level of gamification that makes it fun to engage with your brand. Checking in for opportunities to earn more and see your balance are all part of the “game” that customers enjoy. And not to fret that you’ll dig into your margin as even the best programs only garner 20% of your user base, yet they set this segment on fire with loyalty. This means that this group will spend more than any other customer base and eclipse profitability of all.

You are well on your way to determining the best customer experience along your customer journey. This exercise alone should be extremely eye opening to what is already under your hood in your CRM. And if you have yet to identify the right CRM, you should hop on that ASAP to get your house in order. For those of you well on your way, start digging, talking, surveying, and segmenting your audience so you may deliver the best customer experience possible in your industry.

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