Growing up, some of my earliest lessons in customer experience (and patience) came from agonizing hours on calls with a customer service hotline. Clutching the handset, I listened to the same elevator music track on loop, waiting for a human voice on the other end. Back then, expecting a positive corporate customer experience was laughable.
Oh, how things have changed. As of 2019, both customers and companies are treating customer experience (CX) much more seriously. According to Salesforce, 7 in 10 customers have higher than ever expectations for a positive customer experience. At the same time, almost 90% of marketers also expect to make customer experience a key brand differentiator. As a whole, corporate industries are definitely experiencing a period of heightened relationship value.
Customer experience management (CEM) is a set of processes used to manage all of a customer’s interactions with an organization. The eventual aim is to build a long-lasting, positive relationship with every customer.
It is important to note that CEM should be applied to all touchpoints throughout the customer lifecycle. For instance, imagine I owned a car manufacturing company. CEM should be used to optimize every step of the life cycle: from how the customer discovers my car brand, to the actual purchase process. For example, I could let customers customize their car design from the homepage of my website and link them directly to a payment portal. This creates a seamless experience from product discovery to purchase.
Even how customer service is managed after the customer drives that car home is important to account for in this cycle. One great example of this is the BMW Genius initiative, where BMW owners are given 24/7 access to product specialists after they have purchased their vehicle.
There are three key reasons why businesses today should prioritize customer experience management.
In today’s competitive landscape, customer expectations have never been higher. The experience a business provides can immediately make or break the relationship it has with a customer. In fact, one in four customers will stop purchasing from a company after just one negative customer experience incidence. After two or more negative experiences, a whopping 92% of existing customers will do the same.
The quality of the customer experience has also proven to directly affect repeat purchases, and how much customers spend. In fact, purchasers with the best past customer experience will spend up to 140% more than those who experienced mediocre service.
Finally, a great customer experience affects how customers feel and speak about your brand.
We live in a post-digital age, which means customers are more willing and equipped to share their experiences. According to Forbes, 80% of existing customerswill recommend a company to friends and family after a positive experience.
At the same time, 1 in 2 customers are prepared to use social media to negatively impact corporate reputations, and persuade others from using a company after receiving poor service. A clear PR disaster for any business.
The rise of the Relationship Era in marketing has also made managing the user experience especially important.
In recent years, breakout companies such as Airbnb, Amazon, and Spotify have fundamentally changed the way businesses market to customers. These companies have focused on developing intimate, personal relationships with every single customer. Suggestions include related products users might like, or introducing completely new products that may delight them. Such customer-centered strategies have equipped these companies to successfully disrupt their respective industries and emerge as market leaders.
The success of such strategies has made building strong customer relationships the norm for businesses of this new era.
Before we can start developing a positive experience for customers, it’s crucial to first understand their preferences and pain points. Customers also expect as much. According to Salesforce, 8 in 10 customers want companies to be aware of their needs and preferences.
Building a better understanding of customer needs can help you:
● Create more effective customer personas
● Better understand end-to-end customer journeys and address any UX issues
● Develop customer loyalty and improve customer retention
Beyond conventional methods such as surveys and face-to-face focus groups, new tools can be utilized to understand customer insights. Some examples include:
Another key customer experience strategy is using this improved understanding of customer needs to build a more personalized experience. Customers today are being confronted with more information and options online than ever before.
More personalized products and services can improve the user experience by:
Netflix is a great example of a company that is constantly making the user experience more personalized based on customer data.
Netflix provides hyper-personalized recommendations for users that constantly adjust based on their real time viewing patterns. Even the movie and TV thumbnails that users see on their dashboard are personalized. This allows customers to easily find other shows they may be interested in.
Such intense customer focus has helped Netflix remain the most popular streaming platform in the world. To date, there are 150 million subscribers on the platform.
Establishing emotional connections with customers can be a crucial way to build long-term customer relationships. Research has shown that up to 95% of purchase decisions occur in the subconscious mind. That means understanding customer perspectives is key to directly closing deals. Emotionally connected customers have also proven to be more than twice as valuable than even highly satisfied customers.
A key part of building connections is understanding the emotional motivators that drive customers. For instance, customers of the relationship era are increasingly invested in social issues. That means consumers are also drawn to brands that support the same causes.
An example of an organization that has built its success around building an emotional connection with consumers is charity: water.
(Source: charity: water)
At its inception, charity: water recognized that donors had two clear emotional motivators. Donors craved a sense of optimism, and wanted transparency in donation transactions. In response, charity: water distinguished itself by centering its marketing around a message of hope, as opposed to sobering statistics.
The charity also actively updates donors on how their donations are being used, giving donors access to GPS and sensor data on the wells that donations help to fund. This strategy is much like an annual report given to stockholders at a publicly traded company. By actively involving donors in their work, the charity fulfills the need of customers to feel like they are part of something bigger. This strategy also encourages repeat donations and donor retention.
In the relationship era, customer experience management is more crucial than ever to foster both brand loyalty and retention, and drive ROI. By actively understanding customer needs, building personalized experiences, and creating emotional connections, long-term relationships can be built with every single customer.
Want to learn other strategies for managing customer experience? Check out our guide on segmenting and taking action on customer feedback.