Overwhelming change for customers and marketplaces has characterized the last few years. From supply chain shortages to shifts in customer channel preferences, organizations have struggled to keep up with customers’ evolving needs and expectations.
Such disruptions have also required all types of organizations to engage their target customers in new ways with digital technology — from online car shopping to leveraging self-service. Digital has become ingrained in the customer experience (CX).
But technology is only part of the whole story.
The most effective digital experiences, in our experience, begin with a compelling understanding of the customer — who they are, what they want, what work they must do, and even how they feel about themselves.
Unfortunately, many businesses approach technology first before returning to understanding customers. Automation is being prioritized over customer empathy in their never-ending quest for operational efficiency, which is a problem.
There are no compelling digital experiences without compelling customer understanding. Leaders acknowledge that understanding customers isn’t always their forte. Can this issue be fixed?
The first step in developing engaging digital experiences is figuring out how to support what customers are initially trying to accomplish. It is more important to use customer knowledge to design interactions that give customers more control and self-assurance than they otherwise would have. It is less about cutting-edge, automated technology.
Creating a Compelling Customer Experience
It’s about creating a sincere connection. Brands work to exceed customers’ expectations by streamlining their customer journeys. Still, these initiatives will fail if they are focused on short-term click-through and conversion rates rather than long-term satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. Here’s how they can get there.
1. Start With What Customers Crave
Most businesses struggle to understand what their customers actually value in a compelling digital experience. This isn’t to say that most experiences are bad; the commoditization of digital experiences has rendered most of them unremarkable.
According to a Gartner study, only 14% of consumers had a digital interaction with a brand that motivated them to make a different choice. What is different is when brands alter their strategy to concentrate on how they can help their customers feel better about themselves rather than just improving how customers perceive their goods and services.
Customers want to know more about themselves. Doing this will give them a better chance of achieving their goals or objectives.
Most businesses emphasise “what customers think of us” more than “what customers think of themselves,” which is a missed chance to improve. To support a positive shift in customers’ self-perception, organizations can apply the following three approaches:
- Recognize that not all digital experiences are meant to be frictionless. Depending on a customer’s goal, a better experience can create some friction enabling customers to reflect on their choices by providing a learning path. By learning path, we mean a sequence of brand interactions deepening their understanding of accomplishing their goals.
- Think value over volume. Catalytic brand experiences are unique and emotional and have a personal impact on customers’ lives. In doing so, it changes customers somehow, becoming part of how they see themselves and choose to continue behaving. These experiences have nearly double the impact on brand commitment compared to conventional approaches, such as driving brand distinctiveness, familiarity or authenticity.
- Think beyond the digital purchase experience. Showcase ways for your customers to get the most out of the goods and services they already have. According to research, customers who experience this kind of value-enhancing response are likelier to stick around and make additional purchases.
It’s crucial to remember that, regardless of how cool the technology is, these approaches won’t work unless they are based on understanding your customer personas. Please understand that we adore technology. However, we adore customer understanding even more, which explains why it’s one of the key components of an engaging CX.
2. The Recipe For Delivering A Compelling Customer Experience
Organizations must focus on these key themes: the essential ingredients for compelling customer experiences, cultivating customer understanding and empathy, taking a holistic approach with a total experience and avoiding “engineered insincerity” by ensuring each ingredient is included in the larger recipe, which we discuss below.
A. Cultivate Customer Understanding
Few, if any, brands offer entirely digital experiences; they still deliver physical goods, provide in-person interactions, and offer physical experiences.
This means that rather than treating the digital journey as the be-all and end-all, you must comprehend where and how customers desire digital experiences throughout the customer journey.
Voice of the Customer (VoC), creating personas, creating customer journey maps, and encouraging more customer-centric decisions are examples of effective customer listening approaches that can help you better understand and respond to your customers’ current and changing and changing needs.
Organizations can then concentrate on how they will provide that experience after this point. It’s a skill that must be developed over time to be effective, not just once.
CX programs that surpass management expectations are twice as likely to have end-to-end customer journey mapping in place for more than three years and are 1.9 times more likely to have persona development initiatives in place for over three years.
Given the current macroeconomic climate, brands can reinvest in and enhance their CX capabilities in ways that give their clients confidence in their decision to keep doing business with them.
A key outcome of strong customer understanding is “customer empathy”.
Customer empathy is a customer engagement strategy that balances a deep understanding of a customer’s situation, interest and intent with an organization’s goals. This is difficult, especially when that deep customer understanding isn’t present.
Compelling customer experiences don’t have to involve over-the-top digital capabilities. Small things, grounded in human understanding, can be just as powerful.
B. Take A Holistic Approach With Total Experience
Clients often ask how they should structure their functions to deliver better customer experiences or what technology they should buy. But that is not the complete question.
The pandemic has taught employees a critical role in delivering a great customer experience. Their experiences matter as much as customers, manifesting in employee experience or EX. But in most organizations, the functions responsible for CX, EX, user experience (UX), and the associated technology platforms work separately.
So, the better question is how to organize to deliver a more holistic and compelling digital experience for customers and employees.
Enter total experience, or the deliberate connection of CX, EX and UX, to provide superior shared experiences for all stakeholders.
C. Avoid “Engineered Insincerity”
To avoid the pitfall of what we call “engineered insincerity,” or using automation to simulate interest in who you are as a human being, a compelling CX requires balancing customer empathy with technology.
Engineered insincerity from brands manifests itself in various ways. One of them is a steady stream of emails from a retailer without understanding your current situation, chatbots that use slang and colloquial language to appear human, and daily text messages that make you unfollow. Avoid letting your automation strategy dictate how you interact with your customers.
3. Measuring CX: One Size Does Not Fit All
Without accurate measurements, which should consider your business’s and your customers’ objectives, you cannot claim that your CX efforts are compelling. CX metrics have many applications.
They can be used to explain the justification for prior investments, confirm whether customer experience improvements have been made, establish goals and targets for future improvements, or step in when corrective action is required.
The fact is that every organization uses a different set of CX metrics, which number in the dozens. If you only use one metric to evaluate performance, you run the risk of managing to a score rather than the wants and needs of your clients.
Using various metrics that align with important marketing, IT, customer service, product development roles, and related CX priorities is a better strategy for giving your company a more precise and actionable understanding of customer behaviour and perceptions.
Here are five metrics that are absolutely essential to measuring CX:
- Customer satisfaction (CSAT): The oldest and most widely used CX metric.
- Customer loyalty program participation or retention: A key indicator of the value customers see from engaging with your company.
- The Net Promoter Score (NPS): A widely used barometer of the state of the customer relationship.
- Employee engagement: Recognizes the role of employees in customer experience
- The Customer Effort Score (CES): A more precise way to measure if you are truly easy to do business with.
The measurement of digital customer experiences is not standardized. Adopting a strategy where your business collects various customer signals throughout a customer’s journey is best.
Customer understanding is the foundation of all compelling customer experiences, whether physical, digital, or both. We can connect with customers more deeply, even in seemingly small ways, when we fully comprehend them.
Our assumptions about what customers and, more recently, employees want from experience must be challenged. The key to providing exceptional customer experiences is understanding what your customers do and why they do it, not just knowing every little detail about them.
Show that you know the best ways to support their success and self-assurance at critical junctures in their journey. Context, not technology, is important. You have the ability to influence this change as a business leader.