By Dan Gordon, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Development
It’s not enough to have the best products or the best marketers anymore. Customers are looking to make connections with their brands. They want to feel like they’re cared for and that they got more than just a good deal. They’re looking for the full experience, and you can take a few steps to optimize customer experience at your company in the next year.
Consider this. By 2020, Gartner predicts customer experience will overtake price and product in terms of overall value to brand differentiation. Why? Because in today’s mobile world, solid customer experience represents real money. When you optimize customer experience, you add revenue, decrease costs and inspire loyalty that keeps customers coming back.
As customers continually evolve and fluidly define the types of customer experiences they expect, even some of the most well thought-out game plans are destined to fail because they lack a coherent investment strategy and the necessary resources it will take to execute. The best-laid plans don’t mean much if the execution doesn’t match.
The road to optimize customer experience isn’t an easy one, but it’s necessary for modern-day business success. If you’re ready to get started, here are five steps to optimize customer experience that you can get started on today:
1. Evaluate where you are today.
Technology is changing fast. AI, bots and virtual assistants are all becoming commonplace in our homes, cars and workplaces, but adopting the latest and greatest piece of tech without a proper strategy could be a big mistake.
The first step is discovering where your customer experience currently stands as it is. Avoid putting the cart before the horse and learn from the data currently at your disposal. Focus on current objectives and position yourself strategically to interact with customers at all stages of the customer experience life cycle.
Pay attention to all channels your customers use and create a holistic experience that transcends devices, functions and time. Exceptional experiences don’t happen by accident, and you can’t optimize customer experience unless you know where you are today.
2. Get to know your customers.
Are you meeting your customers’ expectations? How do you know? The best strategies are designed from the outside in, through the lens of your customers, yet there has been a grand disconnect between what consumers are asking for and what companies deliver.
For example, 86 percent of customers expect brands to let them choose a method of follow up or proactive engagement, but only 37 percent of contact centers think customers care about that. And 60 percent of customers believe they’re talking to the same agent when they switch from web chat to a phone call, but only one in five contact centers share that expectation. Essentially, customers want three things:
- To be recognized and remembered
- To be given choices
- Moments of delight
Use customer-journey mapping to discover how different consumers choose to interact with your brand. And listen to them through surveys (solicited feedback), on social media (unsolicited feedback) and employee comments to understand their attitudes, behaviors and triggers. Then start small and reduce friction in one area of your business that can make the most impact.
3. Understand how your customers interact with you.
To today’s customers, a great experience comes down to one word: simple. To optimize customer experience, your brand interactions must be:
- Functional (Did I meet my goal?)
- Accessible (Was it easy?)
- Enjoyable (How did I feel?)
Many journey maps cover the first two criteria, but forgetting the emotional aspect ruins the entire plan. Emotion is what creates loyalty.
Use analytics across multiple conversations to learn someone’s preferred methods of communication. Then invest in a strategy that leverages and builds upon customer data to optimize interactions across channels. Data is the key to enabling the experiences your customers desire, rather than forcing them into an experience you thought was best.
4. Look at your metrics.
If customer experience is a train, then metrics are what keeps the train on the track. On average, organizations use 3.31 key metrics to guide their business. These include things like average handle time, abandon rate and customer satisfaction ratings. But remember to look for exceptions. A 17-minute service call could be valuable if an agent resolves a complaint.
Whatever metrics you choose, ensure they help you discover what’s important to your customers. Begin by tracking what happened. Then, take a look through your customers’ lens and see what they think happened. When you know what customers perceive to be happening, you can start predicting what they’ll do as a result.
5. Get your employees on board.
Extraordinary experiences are built from the outside in (understanding customers), but implemented from the inside out. It’s like building a car. You can put a flashy paint job on the outside, but it’s the engine inside that makes the biggest difference.
Building a customer-centric culture begins by hiring the right people. Ask applicants to tell stories about how they’ve created great experiences. Then remind them during onboarding about your standards. And don’t forget about current employees. Help them establish new habits by rewarding good behaviors and making employee training a top priority. If your employees don’t deliver your strategy, then customers won’t experience it.
Listen to our full webcast hosted by CRMXchange, 5 Steps to Optimizing Your Customer Experience, to learn more about what it takes to stay ahead of the curve. And for more help getting your entire organization on the same page, check out the 5 Keys for Exceptional Customer Experiences.
Ready to take the next step towards building a truly connected customer experience? Use this form to schedule some time with a customer experience specialist. Or call or text West Interactive Services at 800.841.9000 to learn how West can help you identify opportunities to make connections smarter, faster and more personal.
Dan has more than 25 years of experience developing successful marketing, sales and growth strategies for the business process outsourcing and advertising industries. Before re-joining West in his current role, he helped build one of the Midwest’s most respected retail advertising agencies, owned and operated his own business, and led marketing and brand management for one of the largest receivables-management organizations in the U.S. Dan graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in economics and finance, and he now helps enterprises engage customers across channels and create exceptional experiences every day.