“If there was one takeaway from this year’s Adobe Summit, it was that we have entered the ‘Experience Era.’ For consumers, experiences are becoming more valuable - and more powerful - than products. For marketers, the challenge will be delivering on technological transparency, consistent voice and context, and ‘knowing’ the customer. This comes with the reality that today’s five-star experiences will be tomorrow’s one-star expectations.”
So wrote Mike Brown, Chief Growth Officer at ICF Olsen, in the wake of the 2016 Adobe Summit, and in 2018, these words ring truer than ever. In order to survive, organisations need to give customers not just an excellent product, but a fully integrated experience.
Customer experience (CX) is not just about customer-facing roles like sales and support – it encompasses every interaction that a customer has with your organisation, from awareness, to conversion and well beyond. Every interaction is an opportunity to elicit a positive emotion from the customer, making them more likely to be satisfied and remain loyal.
If this is sounding like a conversation you might have in a marketing meeting, you wouldn’t be wrong. Marketing disciplines have shifted to be more customer-centric focused, and, as such, have accountability to deliver insights to their respective organisations in order to help them improve their overall CX.
So how exactly can they do so?
Here are 5 ways marketers can help their businesses be more experience-led.
1. Move from thinking about customer touchpoints, to customer journeys
It can be easy for departments to become siloed in the way they operate and interact with customers, but this can result in a disconnected and dissatisfying experience for the customer. As McKinsey reports, even if individual touchpoints perform well, the overall experience with the entire end-to-end journey may still be poor.
Marketers are no strangers to thinking in terms of customer journeys – the challenge is extending this type of thinking to other departments in the business. Marketers can use their expertise to help the organisation adopt this frame of mind, thereby creating a more cohesive experience from beginning to end.
2. Create a fully integrative omni-channel experience
Today, customers expect a seamless experience, from the product to their phones, their tablets, their desktops, in-store, and wherever else they may be. This has been shown to be important for customer retention: according to the Aberdeen Group, companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared to 33% of companies with weak omni-channel strategies.
Creating a fully integrative omni-channel experience means understanding every online environment your prospects and customers engage with, and delivering an experience that translates across these mediums. What it does not mean, however, is trying to meet customers across all mediums just for the sake of it. What should be first and foremost in your strategic planning is the customers’ needs.
The Starbucks mobile app, now the most successful mobile payment system in the US, is an excellent example of this. Rather than thinking, “We should create a mobile app”, Starbucks instead sought to meet a need. They realised a major customer pain point was the large bottlenecks in busy stores at the cash register, so, to alleviate this, they created an app to enable customers to pre-pay for their purchases, as well as track and redeem rewards points. By resolving a pain point for the customer and helping them save time, it was widely adopted.
3. Develop personas and share them widely throughout the business
Marketing has long known that personas – highly developed, evidence-based portraits of your key customers – are an essential tool when it comes to illuminating what customers need and want, and uniting the department around the same objectives.
Personas can help the entire organisation become customer-centric, as they are far more tangible than simply numbers on a screen; they are “real” people, so to speak, based on real roles, personalities, challenges and goals, that organisations can understand and empathise with and rally around. This type of deep understanding of the customer is helpful to all aspects of the business, from product development, to accounts, to customer service and support.
4. Mine data for insights
In this day and age, when there is more access to data than ever before, there is really little excuse for organisations to not understand their customer.
Organisations need to look to their data to appreciate what the customer’s experience is truly like – and this goes well beyond looking at negative feedback that is received via the customer support line or social media. There’s also implicit feedback, which customers provide just about every time they have an interaction with your organisation. For example, are they abandoning their cart at a certain point in the transaction? Are they only watching a how-to video up to a certain point? All this data is grist for the mill in terms of getting closer to delivering a positive experience for customers.
The influence of data is clearly seen in an announcement made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week. “[R]ecently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other,” he wrote. “We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being.”
This feedback is soon to have a big effect on Facebook’s CX: “I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
In fact, so focused is Zuckerberg on providing a positive CX, he is seemingly sacrificing his bottom line: “Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”
This is the kind of zealous focus on CX that every organisation needs to have.
5. Be proactive in preparing for the future
As Brown said, “today’s five-star experiences will be tomorrow’s one-star expectations”, so organisations have to be forward-thinking when it comes to pre-empting what customers want out of their experiences. This means keeping on top of trends and being proactive when it comes to preparing for the future.
One example is the advent of visual and voice search, which is bound to grow in popularity with the proliferation of home assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%. This means experimenting with visual and voice interfaces in the near future, and thinking carefully about how SEO strategies will evolve as these search modes become more commonplace.
Adopting a customer experience mindset
To deliver an excellent and, perhaps even more importantly, a cohesive customer experience, organisations need to be united around this singular goal. Marketers can lead the way and use the tools at their disposal to help other departments adopt a customer-centric mindset, thereby helping the entire organisation go from strength to strength.
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