Using Technology to Improve the Customer Experience
Customer experience today looks a whole lot different than it did 50 years ago. The main cause for that change? Technology. With websites, apps, automated chat bots, virtual reality and AI coming out of our ears, how do we nail down which technologies to use to help us genuinely improve customer experience? In this blog you’ll learn how technology is evolving customer expectations and the key ways we can leverage technology to deliver awesome experiences.
What is Customer Experience?
Before we dive into all things technology, let’s take a step back and look at what exactly customer experience means. When we talk about customer experience we're talking about the way a customer personally feels about your company, its products, services and, well... everything: all of the tiny details and micro-moments that add up to create an opinion. A customer’s experience starts at the first impression of your brand, and encompasses all ongoing interactions thereafter. In a highly saturated and digitally competitive environment, experience–not price or product is the differentiating service value.
Businesses around the world are finally waking up to the customer experience alarm clock. In a recent study by SuperOffice, 45.9% of the 1,920 business professionals surveyed said that their number one priority for the next five years was customer experience. When you consider impacts of improved customer experience, it makes perfect sense. These include:
Increased customer retention and acquisition
There is a clear, undeniable link between customer experience and customer acquisition. In fact, 73% of U.S. consumers say that customer experience is one of the most important factors in their purchasing decisions. The link between customer experience and retention is just as clear—59% of consumers will leave a brand high and dry after just a few bad experiences, and 17% will walk away after just one bad experience.
To build a healthy, loyal customer base where new customers are flowing in and existing ones are coming back for more, you must turn your attention to optimizing the customer experience.
Bolster brand distinction:
When you improve customer experience for a single customer, their perception of your brand increases. When you improve customer experience for your entire customer base, you become known as the best in the business. Since 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience, being known as the best in customer experience is one of the greatest brand differentiators.
The cost of acquiring a customer is 5 times more expensive than retaining one, therefore, focussing on customer experience is a more efficient way to grow.
When you map out the customer journey and break down all the micro moments and touchpoints that contribute to a customer’s experience, you’re able to identify loopholes, fix them, and reduce costs along the way.
Brands with superior customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than competitors that lag in customer experience. And it makes sense right? When you deliver great experiences, you attract new customers, build a loyal customer base and grow sustainably and efficiently.
How technology is evolving customer expectations
Way back when before technology was integrated into almost every aspect of our lives, customer experience was a whole lot simpler. Customer’s decided they needed something, they’d walk into a store, pick it up and Bob’s your Uncle. Today, we have hundreds if not thousands of brand options available, multiple ways of interacting with a company both on and offline and a global marketplace to browse. This digital transformation has radically impacted customer expectations.
The key expectations of a modern customer include:
A consistent experience across all channels
No matter if you’re interacting with a brand via an app, phone line, email, helpdesk or in person: customers expect a consistent level of service. When you can consistently deliver on your service promise every time, in every location, with every customer — you’re on the money. Getting it right once or twice doesn’t equate to an awesome service experience. Frontline team members at the forefront of customer experience need to be coached to the same standard and need the same benchmarks to measure success.
Real time service and resolution
Customers want solutions, and they want them now. Attention spans are shortening, customer schedules are packed and people expect quick, convenient and easy support from the brands they do business with. Support journeys need to be accessible, user friendly and solved in real-time.
Highly personalized and customizable experience
One size fits all no longer cuts the mustard. 80% of customers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand who provides a personalized experience. Customers favor service experiences that are tailored to their unique needs.
Connecting emotionally with a brand
Despite the technological whirlwind we all find ourselves in, at the end of the day, customer experience is all about humans, talking to other humans. Customers expect a level of empathy, kindness and respect, just as any other human being would.
Using technology to meet evolving customer expectations
Trying to consistently deliver on your service promise, offer real time service and resolution in a highly personalized and empathetic way without digital technology would be like trying to stick to the serving size on a family bag of Doritos - impossible. By leveraging technological advancements in the customer experience space, businesses can more rapidly meet evolving customer expectations, improve workflow efficiency and retain a satisfied customer base.
Leveraging technology to facilitate convenience in the customer journey adds value to consumers who expect 24/7 access to support. Sometimes, especially for large enterprises, it’s impossible to see every customer, so self-service options can be a convenient solution. The benefits of enhancing self-service options include lowering business costs, promoting self-reliance and meeting customer engagement expectations of being quick, easy and accessible around the clock. Just make sure you get actual customers (or at least some other real humans) to test your self-service options. You don’t want to find out later down the track that you were actually making the customer experience more frustrating and time consuming, not less.
Online knowledge base and support hubs
Online knowledge bases and support hubs will vary from business to business and industry to industry, but most will include how-to blogs, searchable FAQs and online help centers. This help center from Southwest Airlines is a great example of how to organize popular support topics including ‘Changes & Cancellations’, ‘Baggage’ and ‘Special Assistance’, to help streamline the customer journey. The more time and effort you invest into your online knowledge base, the less time you’ll have to spend on the phone to customers. Providing better content also helps you establish your brand as an authority in its field, builds brand credibility and fosters loyalty.
Create relevance through personalization
A data-driven individualized approach is imperative in boosting customer engagement and improving customer experience.
One of our favorite examples of brands leveraging technology to provide personalized, unique and magical customer experiences is none other than Disney. Disney’s MyMagic+ wristband used at parks around the globe gives the Walt Disney World employees the information they need to create memorable, personalized experiences for their visitors. For example, if someone is wearing a Disney MyMagic+ band, employees have the information to be able to greet the customer by name when they arrive at the restaurant, start preparing their pre-programmed food order when they’re a few paces away, and to bring out their meal exactly as they sit down at the table. Everything seems magical to the customer, yet frontline teams are working behind the scenes to perfectly orchestrate world-class service.
When you utilize technology and tailor the experience to meet the needs of your customers, you’re able to provide a more relevant experience, enhance customer engagement and meet the customer expectations of a highly personalized experience.
Personalization, like the MyMagic+ wristband is driven by excellent customer relationship management software. A CRM system helps companies understand their customers, nurture leads, automate processes and increase profitability.
The key functions include:
Mining and analyzing data
If you’re known to geek out a little on graphs, data and spreadsheets, you’ll very much get a kick out of the data capabilities that CRM tools offer. Every ounce of information you’ve ever collected about a customer is stored on a CRM software, so you can track and analyze to your heart’s content.
Tracking customer metrics
A customer that’s just heard of your business has different needs to a customer that’s been with you for years. A CRM helps you generate, manage, qualify and nurture leads, so you can manage the relationship effectively and in a timely manner.
With greater access to customer information and a centralized place for tracking leads, a CRM system automates administrative workflows traditionally carried out by sales representatives, allowing teams to close deals faster with more efficiency.
Anticipating and identifying issues:
By centralizing customer data and sharing knowledge, organizations are able to act upon customer requests with a high level of personalization which results in a greater connection between the customer and organization
Improve interactive engagement
Consistent engagement strengthens brand loyalty by demonstrating value and availability to the customer. Here are three emerging channels you can use to improve customer experience:
Real time messaging
Email is soon to be on par with pigeon post. An exaggeration? Yes. But still - instant messaging is rapidly outpacing email and phone calls in the customer support space. By leveraging real-time messaging, you’re able to promote a simple customer process that’s accessible, personalized and supports the exchange of visual and audio content.
Face-to-face video chat
Providing visual customer support can often more efficiently address the root of customer support issues. The benefits of face-to-face video chat include seeing problems in real-time, improved customer satisfaction and a more personalized, empathetic experience.
Customer centric brands are adapting their social media accounts to handle customer service situations. Social media is quick, instant and accessible - making it the perfect tool to improve customer experience.
That's no good, Chad. Can you let us know exactly which store you purchased your shoes in?— Nike Service (@NikeService) August 21, 2019
Automate routine tasks
When we talk about customer experience automation, we’re talking about any technology that can assist customers with common tasks. Think website chatbots, self-service checkouts or online banking apps. It’s important to note that in order to reap the benefits of automation, it must be effectively balanced with human support. For example, if a customer asks a support query on a company's website, an automated response may be the best outcome. However, if their query isn’t resolved with an automated reply, the company should provide the option to speak with a (human) customer service member. Another example is an automated workflow tool, which empowers employees to immediately respond to both positive and negative feedback. With this, teams are able to create rule-based automations that trigger automated emails or interrogations to drive reviews or trigger the next best action.
With the right tasks automated along the customer journey, you’re able to lower costs associated with manual labor, improve quality and speed of service and deliver a consistent level of service.
Chatbots are automated instant messaging services that help customers resolve support queries. They’re often structured through flowcharts that help customers find the answers they need without the need for human interference. When done well, chatbots can help improve self-service, enable around the clock interactions, reduce the number of live support requests and expedite response times. When done badly, they’re possibly the most irritating things on earth.
AI technology is at the heart of effective customer experience platforms. While chatbots are an example of AI, other examples include machine learning, smart speakers (like Alexa or Siri) and robots. When used effectively, AI can help a business gather customer intelligence, create predictive personalized experiences and enhance operational decision making.
Seamless channels integration
Between web browsers, social media, email, and apps, people engage with the commercial world in an omnichannel way. Omnichannel, meaning a multichannel approach that focuses on seamless customer experience, no matter where your customer is shopping from. For example, a clothing brand might sell its products on its website, Facebook shop, Amazon, as well as brick-and-mortar stores. A true omnichannel experience seamlessly integrates the human and the digital.
Technology and software solutions can help take your customer touchpoints out of silos and into an integrated approach. For example, real time data synchronization between different channels, the ability to access the same services on and offline and reduce customer wait times by enabling immediacy.
Support the Frontline
Digitizing customer experience is only as effective as the team engaged to deploy the key initiatives. As AskNicely CEO Aaron Ward says:
“The software industry has done a pretty good job building software for salespeople, marketers, developers and accountants but have all but ignored the service person on the frontline who deals with the actual customer.”
Despite the critical role frontline workers play in the success of an organization, they’ve been largely left out of technological innovation. A Forrester study found that only 23% of frontline workers feel they have access to the technology they need to be productive.
Coaching and recognition software can help your organization motivate and empower the very people responsible for delivering customer experiences at scale. Through empowering the frontline, you’re able to improve customer service, reduce employee turnover, bolster the bottom line and cultivate a customer centric company culture.
Measure and improve customer experience
Data and analytics tools that collect and evaluate customer feedback can help your organization uncover blindspots and optimize the customer experience based on key metrics such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS®) framework. Benefits of using customer experience technology platforms include first party data collection, better data segmentation and predictive algorithms.
Sentiment analysis tools
Have you ever received a text where you can’t quite work out if the person is angry, happy, upset, joking or annoyed? A sentiment analysis tool is a software that helps brands analyze text conversations to help determine the emotion behind each message. If only we had sentiment analysis tools for dating! By digging deeper into the tone, intent, and emotion behind conversations, you can better understand and accurately analyze feedback. The benefits of using a sentiment analysis tool include the ability to automatically compound data, visually organize results and efficiently distribute insights to stakeholders.
Customer feedback software
Customer feedback software helps you gain real-time customer feedback, and delivers it to the people that need to hear that feedback the most (frontline teams). While old school surveys and focus groups have their purpose, they can be expensive, manual, reactive and by the time you get the results they might even be obsolete. On the other hand, feedback software solutions should be automated, proactive and designed to help frontline teams take action on the feedback they receive.
Take the next step in evolving your customer experience
Customer experience starts at the frontline. AskNicely is the platform for service businesses to empower their frontline teams, make every customer experience awesome, and accelerate growth. Using technology!