As 2016 approaches, tech journalists will be blasting out their predictions on what’s going to be the hot new thing for the year ahead.
But what if we’re to take a longer view, to look to the end of the decade?
Specifically, let’s think about how much choice customers already have. Now imagine how much that will increase. How will organizations ensure that they’re retaining customers and attracting new ones in today’s ‘switching economy’?
Prioritizing customer experience is going to be key.
The loyal customer does still exist, but has to be fought for. Creating a personalized customer experience and shifting the organization to be truly customer-centric is going to become ever more important.
Delivering experiences: from morning suits to live chat
In 1911, America’s first Ritz-Carlton turned the way the hotel industry offered experiences to their guests by emulating upper-class home life in a hotel setting.
The Ritz-Carlton introduced hotel suites with private baths, and perhaps more interestingly, staff members of the Ritz-Carlton were dressed in the domestic attire of hired help at home – black tie and and morning suits.
This, a luxury customer journey that hadn’t been seen before, turned the way the hotel industry created experiences for their guests on its head.
It became clear that offering positive, memorable experiences when using their offerings or interacting with their staff reaped rewards.
Fast forward to 2015, and the way we can interact is constantly evolving, with SaaS products, mobile devices, and other technologies providing new ways to deliver great customer experiences.
The way customers, employees and enterprises communicate will no doubt advance incredibly over the next four years.
As a broad mandate, customer experience (CX) is already woven into almost everything – encompassing all branded interactions, both pre- and post-sale.
“Historically, we’ve shifted from an agrarian economy based on commodities to an industrial economy based on goods to a service economy.
Now, in the 21st century, we’ve entered an experience economy, where experiences are one of the primary things consumers are looking for. And experiences are, in fact, a distinct economic offering—as distinct from services as services are from goods.”
– Joseph Pine, author of The Experience Economy, interviewed by The CX Report
It’s clear that organizations wishing to stay ahead of the curve are going to need to prioritize CX, as customers will be demanding more from an experience.
Creating a winning customer experience seems to be becoming a key differentiator.
Social: from engagement to a complete customer journey
Many companies still believe that engaging with their customers on social is pretty forward-thinking and cutting-edge.
And sure, over the last five years there’s certainly been a huge rush for brands to get on to social and interact with their customers there.
The times of having to visit a physical store, or penning a lengthy complaint letter, are over.
Customers can engage with companies across text, email, social media, phone, live chat, and more, getting faster responses, more efficiently in the medium they wish to be communicated in, bringing the possibility of improving the customer experience – more ways to communicate will improve CX if they are handled well by the business.
However, it’s important to remember that more customer touch-points adds more complexity.
At the Gartner Customer 360 Summit last month, VP Gene Alverez looked to 2020.
“By 2020, 40 percent of sales organizations will rely primarily on mobile digital technology for their sales force automation initiatives. The types of devices and nature of application will greatly expand to support processes and real-time communication that were not possible with traditional computing technologies, such as laptops.
This means that mobile strategies need to go beyond smartphones and tablets. These strategies must move toward a multichannel approach to encompass and take advantage of concepts, such as the Internet of Things.”
Alverez continued on to say that social media will be seen as a channel that is in use by the entire organization rather than on a department-by-department basis, orchestrating a multichannel, multipurpose CX.
“Today’s IT leaders that can identify social media’s role in the complete customer journey will be better positioned to enable transactions over social channels, or facilitate the customer journey from social media to other traditional or digital channels.”
The take-away is clear: companies using social for customer service should start thinking how they can use it in more ways than simply answering questions, and consider how they should be using social data in different ways, all across the business.
Improving CX by listening
Using social analytics has helped big name brands improve their connection with their customers.
As an example, manufacturer and marketer of branded consumer foods General Mills learned through listening to their customers’ organic online conversations that families weren’t only using their Pillsbury Dough to cook with – they also use it to make shapes and craft for fun with the whole family.
These insights gave General Mills the information they needed to revitalize their brand, shifting their focus on to the product’s family activity value.
Acting on customer feedback and insights in this way is a great way to build on the relationships you’ve already fostered, allowing customers to feel important and valued.
Delivering an exceptional customer experience increases brand preference, loyalty and advocacy, which in turn drives revenue and profit for the business. It’s simple.
As 2015 comes to a close, what are your predictions for how technology will improve CX in the coming years? Comment below, or tweet us @Brandwatch.
Read more: Future of Engagement: Monitoring Audi’s Super Bowl ad