Article first published on businesslive.co.za, 11 November 2020 | see article here
Customer experience is the driving force behind every business, as it gives companies a competitive edge that earns loyalty and attracts new customers. However, getting it right can be a challenge, particularly as there is uncertainty about what the term really means and how to go about achieving it.
Customer experience has been described as a holistic perception of an experience and the results from every interaction a customer has with a business. Based on this, it means meeting customer’s expectations at every touchpoint along the customer journey. Each touchpoint needs to be viewed as its own customer experience.
While various factors are considered to contribute to the overall experience, PWC identifies speed, convenience, consistency, friendliness and, most importantly, the human touch as key. In The Great Customer Experience Opportunity e-book by Genesys it is attributed to consistency, choice and context. As there is no single defined list of contributing factors, companies should look at a combination of these.
MAPPING THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
For companies to deliver experiences that keep their customers satisfied and attract new customers, they need to put the customer at the core of their business and make changes that will affect positive experiences in every interaction.
To achieve this, according to McKinsey, companies need to pay attention to the complete, end-to-end experience customers have with a company. This means moving beyond individual interactions and touchpoints to looking at the entire journey from before, during and after the experience with the product or service. This includes all online elements from websites and bots through to the direct engagement with service staff, billing departments and after-sales service teams, for example.
It is this end-to-end experience that shapes the customer’s overall perception of the company and the brand and will either keep satisfaction levels up or leave customers disappointed.
GETTING EMPLOYEES ON-BOARD
Employees are part and parcel of the customer experience and need to understand their role in meeting expectations and delivering on the brand promise. All too often marketing departments take control of the branding and marketing elements and neglect to get employee support to execute the delivery of the customer experience. As a result, internal teams are divorced from the campaigns and what the marketing department is trying to achieve.
This is affirmed by McKinsey. It states that companies often overlook the need to engage all employees across various functions to get them involved and establish a customer-centric service culture by providing clear and ambitious objectives and earmarked resources.
To overcome this, companies should empower every single person in an organisation to communicate with customers consistently and deliver on the promises made in marketing campaigns. This can only be achieved by giving employees the tools and content to serve the customers with the right information at the right time and consistently every time.
Employees need to be more than vehicles to the customer experience. They should be participants and seen as part of the overall experience. To do this, they need a collective understanding of the brand purpose and their role in the customer experience and should be given the right information and content to deliver consistent experiences.
Consistency is a critical component to the customer experience. No matter how customers interact with brands, they want a consistent experience. This is important, as customers engage with brands across various platforms and channels, yet seek the same experience from each of them. PWC says smooth, consistent transactions from machine to human are critical.
Whether engaging with brands in-person or across devices, customers are looking for companies to consistently provide exceptional value with minimal friction or stress. Therefore all customer interactions should engage, interest and be consistent.
MEASURING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Delivering customer experience at every touchpoint and interaction can be particularly challenging as customers’ needs can change throughout the journey or they may have different needs at particular points of the journey.
Typically, companies use written or verbal communication to conduct customer experience surveys at the last stages of the customer journey. However, businesses would benefit from using a variety of methods to gain insights throughout the journey to determine which points of the experience are excellent or need improvement, or to receive recommendations. Companies could, for example, use images to help customers recall points of the experience and gain valuable insights in terms of what customers value the most from the product, service and experience.
This insight should be used to improve the customer experience further. For example, if customers prefer to deal with a person on a personal or sensitive matter, rather than with a bot or social media platform, this option should be made available to establish a relationship of trust and improve the customer experience.
USING TOOLS TO MEET CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS
Brands are a combination of the product, the service and the people who engage with customers daily. So employees should be given tools that empower them to deliver exceptional customer service in every interaction with customers and at every touchpoint. However, it is important to note that these tools should enhance customer experiences rather than replace them. Content can be pre-developed and pre-approved for employees to insert quickly and easily into e-mails, for example, to ensure the correct information is being sent out and is consistent across the company.
As the landscape of new technologies grows, companies will need to adapt to meet their customers’ expectations. All business decisions should be made with the customer in mind. The technologies being implemented should empower employees to enhance customer experiences. The companies that implement solutions to create better customer experiences will see the greatest benefit from their investment.