By Chad Storlie
The challenge racing across businesses today is how to improve, scale, and sustain an excellent customer experience (CX). A company’s management of its CX is vital because how well and how quickly a customer can find product information, pay their bills, get questions answered, and resolve complaints is as valuable (or more) as the actual product or service the company provides. CX is vital because it allows companies to create further competitive advantage that not only forestalls competitors, but maintains loyal customers while growing new ones.
Digital innovation at the customer level is how companies improve and grow a great CX. An easy first question is for management is: Why digital? Digital can be seen to be cold, impartial, and elusive to a great customer experience. Yet, improving and growing digital interactions is how companies create, improve, and sustain great CX. Here are 5 ways a brand can use digital to do that.
1. Listen to the voice of the customer.
Use the voice of the customer to lead and prioritize the digital improvements to the customer journey. It’s easy to adopt a “we think” attitude to improve things “for” the customer. Instead, analyze, categorize, and visualize the customer journey (from discovery to purchase) using the actual words, observations, and data from the customer. Where does the customer stop? What takes a long time? When does the customer request help? Do customers return to a new process or try it once and never return? These “pain points” of customer frustration are where digital improvement must be directed. Prioritization goes to the places of greatest customer frustration, and where it is likely to discourage customer loyalty and repurchase. Finally, monitor your existing customer surveys to ensure that digital improvements are heard in the voice of the customer. If the customer complaints are still there, it’s back to the drawing board!
2. Always on, consistent, and with high levels of self-service.
For customers, inconsistent levels of service are one of the major pain points in any step of a customer journey. Consistency, even if a process is not perfect, is far better than one that is inconsistent. Customers, increasingly those of any age and demographic, want the ability to have powerful tools to research and solve their own problems. In the 1990s and early 2000s, calling a customer service center was a naturally accepted process that customers knew they had to endure to solve a problem or request additional service. Today, no more. Give customers the power, insight, and consistent delivery to find, research, and solve their own problems through web, mobile, and voice-enabled digital applications.
3. Personalize to individual customer needs.
Great CX really becomes “My Customer Experience.” Even for seemingly similar products and services, customers have different needs and requirements in their customer journey. Personalization gives customers the ability to use a common set of digital tools to create and use to meet their own preferences and needs. There is plenty of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and supporting technology to help guide this personalization. Conducting deep analytics of how customers set their personalization preferences can help build both a product recommendation engine and a self-help recommendation engine to help customers solve problems – before they even realize they’re experiencing difficulties.
4. Digital can build a great CX in any industry.
Creating a great customer experience environment is not limited to B2C, B2B, nor to any of the many different industries franchising operates in. Great CX is needed — and works — in any industry. An effective technique when building a great CX in digital is to look beyond your own customers, your own industry, and your own competitors to discover what are great digital CX practices. When companies look beyond their own industry, they discover new, exciting, and effective ways to deliver great CX that customers want and may not expect. Delivering a CX that is effective, fast, and personalized in a way that is new to an industry leaves the customer satisfied and a company in a great position. Compete against leaders outside your industry to deliver world-class, not best-in-industry, CX.
5. Solve and improve customer issues in the background.
The hardest lesson for a company to discern is that a great customer experience is never done. Great CX is a constant, consistent, and never-ending path and mindset to always be better, more efficient, more personalized, and more predictive to solve customer problems and pre-identify products customers need even before they know it. Customer surveys are a part of this, but a passion for customer success drives the ongoing delivery of great CX. This passion dedicates itself to constantly looking for ways to improve CX, no matter how small.
Digital is a powerful tool for improving CX, but it is far from the only one. Small sessions of 10 to 15 customers grouped into the same segmentation categories discussing their “journey” of how they use (and don’t use) a company’s services to solve their problems allows digital improvements to sustain company bright spots and improve on any company pain points customers still may have.
In addition, advanced analytics can help identify and target customers who need a new product or service. CX not only helps to maintain the bottom line, it helps grow top-line revenue. Create loyal customers by using self-service, easy-to-use, fast, personalized, and powerful digital technology to enable a great customer experience — and never stop improving on it.
Chad Storlie is a Marketing Director and a Lecturer of Marketing at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. He is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets, an Iraq combat veteran, and a widely published author. Contact him at email@example.com or 402-960-1350.