Customer experience (CX) is not an action. It's a feeling. It’s how your customers (or any person, really) feel about your brand after interacting with you. Every interaction presents the opportunity to improve—or destroy—that feeling. So, maintaining and improving on any positive feelings that they may have about you is extremely important and must be your constant focus. But how do you enhance customer experience? By knowing who your customers are and what they expect.
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Nothing harms a brand more than a poor customer experience. Even if your customer receives a broken or flawed product, they are far more likely to forgive and continue to do business from you if you can make them feel that you:
Meeting these three—very broad—customer experience goals is challenging. How exactly do you show someone that you are listening and want to help? It's not easy. But with some time, the right tools, and a solid strategy, you can improve each customer experience so that your customers will be your customers for life.
There is no longer just a generic, linear customer journey, so you can no longer put all your efforts, assets, and dollars into a handful of channels. You must be ready for all channels.
Customers will visit your site and download your assets for many different reasons, and they will contact you using various channels. Their reasons for interacting with you will be as varied as they are—to browse through your products, understand what you do, provide feedback, make a purchase, redeem an offer, gain information, cancel a purchase, modify a purchase, and more. Once you have mapped out the journey for each type of customer, conduct visitor testing on your digital channels and ask for feedback from human-based exchanges. The best way to get a sense of what is—and isn't—working is to get the information directly from customers and prospects (see #2 for more details).
In many cases, customer journey audits, testing, and other forms of customer feedback struggle to highlight the actual customer experience. They can determine what is and isn't working well. But "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" and many other forms of measurement cannot fully dictate experience. Customer experience is subjective, and to truly understand how your customers feel about the experience you provide, you need to gauge sentiment from many different angles.
Surveys work well, but they need to be structured carefully with a variety of question types. For example, open-ended questions provide the freedom to write anything. They are good at identifying issues and opportunities you never knew existed because, unlike multiple-choice options, open-ended questions don't limit responses. How many times have you looked at a multiple-choice questionnaire and thought, "None of these categories really fit me"?
However, multiple-choice questions are easier to analyze and faster to fill out, so they usually have higher response rates. But they do limit respondents' ability to express exactly how they feel. You can find a middle ground by adding an open-ended choice at the end of the list of answers.
Rating scale questions are another option, offering a range of answers that correspond to a numeric scale. They have high response rates, but they can be confusing if the scale is not well defined (for example, 1: not easy at all, 5: very easy). Customers may choose "5" for "great" when, in fact, that means "awful."
Other types of survey questions include:
These days, almost everyone is streaming TV through over-the-top (OTT) devices. The average user of streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, watches content across three devices and uses three different OTT services. Viewers want their experience to be the same no matter what room they are in or what device they are using. In other words, we want to pick up exactly where we left off, no matter what device is used to stream content. These expectations follow us as we engage with a company, no matter where or how or with whom we are interacting—in-store, through a mobile app, on a website, or with an agent on the phone. Everyone has a preferred channel, but most people aren't channel loyal. People expect the same experience, though. Companies with effective CX strategies develop a level of similarity between all channels while still addressing the needs of an individual.
Too often, chat windows open with the standard text, "How may I help you?" A much more memorable CX would be to have the digital assistant ask an opening question that is personalized to what that customer is seeing/feeling/experiencing. For example: "I see that you have placed a size 7.5 and size 8.0 in your cart for our red boots. May I assist you in determining the right size?" This chat is much better because it delivers a thoughtful, personal experience—not a generic one—using readily available first-party data.
Automation exponentially improves CX. It reduces the risk of human error, streamlines routine workflows, and makes things easier. But how about customer experience management, something that seems tangible and abstract at the same time? A human might find it challenging to analyze feedback data—say from an open-ended survey—at scale, measure the efficiency of your CX practices, and decide which gaps to bridge. The entire activity could come down to hunches, guesstimates, generalizations, and random selections.
It is possible to eliminate all that. Automation is already here, and many companies already benefit from it through CX solution suites that use relevant customer data to give you the full view of how customers (and prospects) interact with you, what they expect from that interaction, and which areas of the experience might need to be overhauled.
Those who master data understand their customers better, can deliver the experiences they crave, and, in many cases, anticipate what steps they should take in anticipation of their customers' wants. However, data means nothing if you're not able to analyze and act on it properly. Most companies are woefully behind the curve when it comes to turning data into information and information into intelligence.
The chances are that less than half of your structured data is actively used in making decisions—and even less of your unstructured data is analyzed or used at all. About 70% of employees have access to data they should not, and 80 percent of analysts’ time is spent simply discovering and preparing data—not analyzing it. Data breaches are common. Rogue data sits in various silos, and companies' data solutions cannot handle the volume of data needing to be synthesized.
Customer data platforms (CDPs) and data management platforms (DMPs) can give a fuller picture of what's going on with your customers.
When combined with a comprehensive data strategy, these solutions put data into the proper context so it can be used to reach and connect with customers and boost engagement and conversion levels. CDPs and DMPs also enable companies to:
Engaging and relevant content that catches and keeps a customer's attention is the foundation of a successful marketing campaign. But what makes content relevant and engaging? That’s pretty simple. Basically, your content should offer information and solutions that a customer/audience segment might be interested in. This does not just include the written word. It includes video (both company- and customer/influencer-made), webinars, interactive websites, landing pages, digital assistant scripts, infographics, and more.
The copy should be sharp, to the point, and well written, with a pleasing, eye-catching design, regardless of the format. Developing a content strategy can aid in the tactical placement and positioning of content as well as derivative content creation and reuse. Establishing the right KPIs and paying close attention to metrics and data will reveal what audiences prefer and how you can adjust content strategies accordingly.
One thing has never changed—the customer is at the heart of everything marketers do, especially as they design and build a customer experience. This means that every piece of technology marketers add will affect their customer data, data strategy, targeting and optimization, and audience segmentation.
Marketing, sales, and customer service are much different than they were a decade ago. Teams are shaped around goals and functions and are focused on how to serve the customer better. And customers are constantly moving, growing, and changing. To provide the type of experience and support the interactions your customers want, you have to get agile, become adaptable, and eliminate the silos built up around CRM, digital marketing, brand, sales, customer service, field service, and ecommerce.
Boosting agility goes beyond just implementing a new tool. Technology is important, but it cannot stand alone. You need to research, identify, and understand your customers and then use that information to build a digital experience that meets your customers’ needs. Understanding will always trump purchase. Information is the key to agility and adaptability. If you know what your customers are doing, who they are, and where they are going, you can make sure that you have the right processes in place, the right technology implemented, the right employees engaged in improving CX.
In a recent survey, 2/3 of companies (PDF) reported using at least one advanced technology for CX. Almost half (45 percent) of those who use AI for CX reported an increase in sales per customer.
For digital marketers, it is important to the most out of testing and optimization tools, customer data platforms (CDPs), and marketing automation software embedded with AI and machine learning. Digital assistants, conversational search, and voice assistants provide new ways for customers to reach out and interact with you, and many companies are capitalizing on these next-generation tools. In fact, 64 percent (PDF) of companies are currently using or piloting intelligent voice assistants/automated chatbots, and 51 percent (PDF) have reduced customer time to resolution through voice assistants/chatbots.
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