Companies that delivered great customer experiences outperformed laggards by a considerable margin for five years running based on a study by the Watermark Consulting group.
The authors of the study attribute the success to customer retention, greater share of wallet, positive word of mouth and lower expenses due to reduced service related costs.
Today empowered consumers, who are on the go 24/7, are increasingly using social media for pre-purchase research, brand comments, complaints, and service related questions to which they are expecting a response. Despite this trend, only about 20% of consumer comments generate brand responses; the average response time is over 11 hours. Emarketer
More than ever, delivering a differentiating customer experience is a moving target; it’s a journey not a destination. And, all it takes is one bad experience to send customers to competitors.
There are a number of ingredients in the customer experience recipe. For this post, I have decided to focus on a few key ingredients that are likely to have a significant influence on the outcome.
Let’s take a look at some of the trends that are likely to affect these ingredients. I’ll provide some tips and suggestions for each of the trend categories.
I expect brands to continue the trend of increasingly investing in resources to improve the customer experience. The rate of investment spending among larger organizations has been steadily increasing year over year since 2011; last year 63% of companies surveyed expected to spend significantly more in customer experience.
Mapping and Measuring the Customer Experience
Consumers want a personal seamless experience. More companies will be creating and using customer journey maps to gain better insight into consumer behavior.
Last year customer experience executive dashboards and journey mapping were the two activities with the largest increase in focus. Expect to see continued interest and growth in these areas with more emphasis on insights and actionable activities.
If you don’t have a customer journey map, develop one. You can read more here.
Identify some important Key performance indicators (KPI’s). For example, get answers to questions like:
How do customers rate their experience?
Are they willing to recommend your product or service to their friends, colleagues or family?
Delivering a differentiating customer experience requires organizational alignment and engaged employees.
- 86% of business and HR leaders believe they don’t have a good leadership development path. Officevibe infographic
- 79% believe they have a significant retention and engagement problem. Officevibe infographic
Involve employees; seek their feedback and perspective.
Allow employees to pursue areas of interest outside their specific job descriptions.
Keep employees apprised of developments and strategies, ensure they have the proper tools.
Although a great deal has been written about personalization, there is little to show for it. While I was writing this post I spoke with a friend of mine who sells print services, he told me his biggest challenge is convincing clients to pay for personalization.
- Campaigns leveraging CRM data performed 19 to 98 times better than average. Neustar
- Only 22% of leading retailers currently use real-time analytics, but 61% plan to implement in the next two years.
Know your customer attributes and preferences.
Personalize what you can control (e.g. email, online where you have the data).
Only collect the data you plan to use.
Here are 4 tips for using CRM data.
Look for insights from the data, provide utility and convenience.
Content is the currency of marketers seeking to connect with today’s empowered and on-the-go consumers. Attention spans are measured in seconds. Images and videos are more attractive than text content, so smart marketers are scripting images and videos to weave engaging stories into the buying journey.
- 72% of marketers think branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine, 69% say it’s superior to direct mail and PR. (NewsCred)
- Videos on landing pages increase conversions by 86%. (Social Fresh)
- 70% of consumers say they prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads. (NewsCred)
- 62% of marketers use video in their content marketing. (NewsCred)
Here is one example of a brand telling engaging stories across multiple channels. Marketers at John Hancock have captured the essence of delivering powerful stories that connect consumers with their products.
Their Life Comes Next campaign is a series of multichannel stories that allow consumers to adapt different scenarios based on life stage and needs. At the center of the campaign is a dedicated microsite. TV and Video ads introduce a story; then consumers are sent to the microsite to complete the story.
The campaign embodies the new omnichannel experience. Using the hashtag #lifecomesnext the audience is invited to join the conversation. A detailed description of the program can be found here.
Brands will continue to use stories and imagery that encompass all facets of the customer buying journey in order to attract and connect with consumers.
Think about the context of your product or service offering. Refer to the journey map you are creating. Write a story that consumers can relate to, allow them to participate in the experience.
Explore visual channels like Instagram and Pinterest.
Here are some visual marketing strategies.
MobiIe is the channel of choice for customer relationships; it helps cut through the clutter. To be effective, the mobile experience must be personal, relevant, timely, and offer utility. Customers increasingly want control over the velocity of the content they receive, and they want their voice to be heard and heeded.
For all the reasons above, I advise clients to think mobility because mobility is all the about the experience rather than the device.
With smart device use well past the tipping point keep your eye on the growth of wearables. As technology becomes more integrated into our lives, marketers will need to make appropriate adjustments.
Mobile will continue to anchor the omnichannel experience.
- 76% of Facebook users are mobile only
- 71% of users access social media from a mobile device
It’s not enough to view your marketing assets on a mobile device, experience the buying journey for your product or service from smart devices. Be sure consumers have a good experience finding, navigating and securing your product or service from these devices.
Email, the channel of choice
According to Strongview Marketing Trends Survey, 61% of respondents say email marketing is the top target for increased investment.
Email marketing represents the best and worst of online marketing. While it continues to provide the best ROI, it also represents the worst in terms of unwelcomed spam content.
Increasingly marketers will have to make these communications more relevant and provide utility. There is increased emphasis on triggered and lifecycle programs. Loyalty and welcome are popular lifecycle programs. There are new techniques and technologies that allow smart marketers to deliver the right message at the right time to the right audience.
One example of an evolving technology is the Intelligent Mail Barcode that allows one to track domestic mail.
Now email and direct mail can be integrated to create a new experience based on data and timing.
Don’t be fooled by the seeming lack of interest portrayed by some of these statistics. Smart marketers will recognize the gaps in the customer experience journey and seize the opportunity to bridge them.
For those who may have a long way to go, don’t be overwhelmed; now is the time to begin. Most important, don’t try to do too much too soon.
During the coming year, I’ll focus on some of the specific ingredients mentioned above. I’d love to hear from you. What are trends you are watching?