Globalization, online shopping, and even the rise of handcrafted and small producers selling their products in accessible ways mean more options than ever – and more competition for businesses big and small. When customers can easily take their business elsewhere, there’s an increased impetus on keeping them happy and coming back to your brand. It’s getting harder and harder to differentiate based on features and attributes. The companies getting ahead are the ones who are also focusing on the overall customer experience as a way to build business value and increase loyalty. These companies are raising the bar for everyone else – making satisfactory customer experience a point of parity and anything subpar a threat to viability.
Here are 5 signs the customer experience is more important than ever:
Marketers See Opportunity to Optimize Customer Experience
Twenty-nine percent of respondents in Econsultancy’s recent Digital Transformation in the Retail Sector report say that the ability to optimize the customer experience is the most exciting opportunity when it comes to digital transformation in 2016. A fifth (20%) say data-driven marketing that focuses on the individual is the biggest opportunity while 11% say it’s cross-channel marketing. The majority of this focuses on the idea that marketers know there is an opportunity to improve the customer experience. With 20% saying data-driven marketing that focuses on the individual is the biggest opportunity – it sounds like they’re a lot of acknowledgement of the importance of creating a better experience.
The Need For Curation
A study by Hitwise, a division of Connexity which provides marketers with a sampling of online behavior, showed that in the past three years, visits to subscription box sites have increased nearly 3,000 percent. My hypothesis about the increase in interest in subscription boxes is that it’s a response to an overcrowded world. People are bombarded with options, and a subscription box curates the number of options to a manageable few. It also allows people to still experience the joy of new product discovery. It’s a balance between the automated experience of buying your favorite products on Amazon and browsing the mall and trying different things out. Companies will need to continue to look at the overall experience of how their customers go about the shopping process, from start to finish. Companies that can keep the shopping process from becoming a hassle and make it enjoyable will be rewarded.
When Customer Experience Is Poor, Companies Suffer Financially
Gary Friedman, the CEO of Restoration Hardware, wanted his employees to get on board with a push for a better customer experience. He went so far as to compare operations to a burning building with people on fire. The company is facing declining profit and sales stagnation from last quarter. They’re struggling with customer service, late orders, and order cancelation rates. According to an interview with Bloomberg, “We need a MASSIVE CHANGE IN OUR CULTURE AND ATTITUDE RIGHT NOW,” Friedman said in the message, which was replete with capital letters. “THE GOAL IS DELIGHT.” Friedman’s touching on something I think a lot of companies are trying to wrap their heads around – how to go beyond satisfying the customer to delighting the customer. People have more choices than ever, more ability to price compare, more alternatives, and loyalty is harder to earn. You need to go above and beyond to keep your customers. Friedman is ready to commit to customer experience in a big way: “WE CANNOT AFFORD TO LOSE ONE SINGLE CUSTOMER. NOT ONE,” Friedman said in the memo “YOU WILL NEVER GET IN TROUBLE FOR MAKING A DECISION TO DELIGHT OUR CUSTOMERS. YOU WILL, HOWEVER, LOSE YOUR JOB IF YOU DON’T.” Obviously, the ideal situation is for your company to get ahead of the game with customer experience before it starts affecting your profitability and stock. This means being proactive about ensuring the customer experience is the best it can possibly be – and keeping in mind how important it is whenever you’re tempted to take shortcuts that may negatively affect the customer experience.
The Year of the Customer
In an article for business.com, Amas Tenumah says it’s the year of the customer, and CX is a top business priority driving change in organizations. Tenumah says customer experience is no longer an option. Companies may need to make operational or process shifts, implement new technologies, create new products or positions, new marketing programs, vendor relationship structures, and reporting or compliance requirements. Calculating ROI means companies need to get good metrics and go beyond to gain a nuanced understanding of the customer experience. “Far too many firms focus on fear as they play defense in the marketplace and seek to prevent damage or customer defection,” Tenumah said, referencing his 2015 book, The Curated Experience.
There’s A Gap Between What Companies Think They’re Providing And What Customers Are Experiencing
An article from Business 2 Community, points out that the customer service opportunity may be created by a gap between what customers expect and what they experience. Eighty percent of companies believe they deliver “superior” customer service, but only 8% of customers think these same companies deliver “superior” customer service (Source: Lee Resources). Ruiz provides 4 keys to differentiating customer experience: mindset, culture, feedback, and agility. Ruiz has a lot of stats to back up that customers aren’t getting what they want. This means companies need to improve their customer experience and do a better job of getting feedback. If you’re not listening to your customers, you’re not able to take action to improve weak areas of the customer experience. It’s not going to be enough to just make general aims at improving customer experience. You can’t make guesses about what you think customers want. Companies need to invest in user research and customer research to truly understand where the opportunities are, so they can better serve customers. Forget generic approaches. In 2016 and beyond, you’ll need to get personalized to your audience.
- Marketers understand that there’s a huge opportunity to improve customer experience
- People are overwhelmed with brands, companies, messages, and information – companies need to make the buying process easier and more enjoyable and think about different approaches
- Customer experience is driven by culture as well – you need your people to be on board with the goal of elevating the customer experience
- It’s better to be proactive than reactive, because poor customer experience can have a damaging effect on your brand and your company’s financial viability
- There’s a gap between what brands think they’re delivering (good customer experience) and what customers report (poor customer experience), which means that companies need to understand their audience and identify opportunities to improve the customer experience, tailored to their specific audience’s needs
What You Can Do
- Advocate for customer experience in your organization
- Identify meaningful metrics for measuring customer experience in your organization so you can calculate ROI
- Invest in listening to your customers, proactively doing research and identifying areas where your company can improve