You can claim victory in this competitive differentiation war by offering the lowest prices or providing a superior, surprising, and spectacular customer experience! You may win the price battle, but that is only a short-term solution. However, you will always win with better customer-experience: providing a spectacular experience is far more sustainable.
What are Customer Experiences, and Why are They so Important?
Customer experience is your customers’ perceptions of their relationships with your brand. These perceptions result from the collection of their interactions with your brand’s touchpoints during the customer life cycle.
The rules change daily. Customer expectations of experience are set and improved by the best in class in an industry—Google, IKEA, Subway, and many others. So with every new improvement or introduction of a new way of doing things, your customer raises the bar and increases your pressure to deliver. Think Amazon’s user experience setting expectations for a B2B software company or Apple’s for a retailer, and you start to connect the dots.
Five Key Customer-Experience Facts
- 80% of U.S. consumers would pay more for a product or service to ensure superior customer experience. (Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs)
- 68% of businesses plan to increase their spending on customer experience. (Source: Call Center Executive Priorities)
- 44% of consumers consider customer loyalty to be a relic of the past. (Source: Avaya and BT Research)
- Shoppers use an average of 10.4 sources of information to make a purchase decision. (Source: Google)
- Referred customers deliver 16% higher lifetime value. (Source: Wharton School of Business)
Connect the Dots in the Customer Journey Touchpoints
Each customer journey includes touchpoints—dots you need to connect to draw a holistic experience. You need to increase the value of your relationship currency at every section of the sales funnel—using social media, content marketing, and traditional interactions to connect these dots. The question is, do you have the resources and know-how to connect the dots to draw a winning solution, or does what you provide draw a scary picture?
The Customer’s Customer Requires Ten Key Experiences
Customer experience manifests in social selling, content marketing, social media, and every touchpoint on the customer journey. Your customers don’t want it: they require it. Here are ten experiences your customers demand in today’s economy.
1. Keep the experience simple and easy.
Forrest Gump couldn’t have said it any better: “Simple is as simple does.” Brands providing an integrated experience across channels make it simpler and easier for customers to engage. Whether it’s the one-off Google search experience or ordering a sandwich at Subway—two of the most highly ranked “simple” brands, a simple and easy experience differentiates your business from the competition. Making it easy to find your brand and consume your content is the key to winning their hearts!
2. Educate and communicate with your customers.
Your customers do not want to be sold your stuff. They want to be educated on how your stuff can help them. Then they will buy! The Home Depot builds a great customer experience by giving away expertise during its “Do-It-Yourself, Do-It-Herself and Kids Workshops“! And Stitch-Fix, the woman’s subscription clothes service, presents possibilities by providing custom combinations printed on in-box instructions.
Customers are self-educating, so integrate education and relevant content into their experiences. Roughly 82% of U.S. digital buyers prefer to research products from multi-channel retailers on the Internet (Source: March 2014 study by UPS, ComScore, and the E-tailing Group). If you don’t educate your customers, then your competition will! Take the teaching approach with your customers instead of selling to them, and they will make you a trusted advisor—with sales becoming an exponential by-product!
3. Quickly resolve the bumps in the road.
You can’t make all of your customers happy all of the time. However, you can resolve most of their bumps in the road—the wrong-sized Boden pants, the missing button on your Stitch-Fix jacket, or even the Amazon Prime order that missed your deadline. Your customers expect resolution—from an under 60-minute response on Twitter to reading a blog post to helping self-resolve an issue! Respond to social media outreach and make it easy for customers to find content at 2 AM to resolve their issues, and your brand will quickly become a part of their “families.”
4. Personalize the customer experience.
Smart, connected customers expect personalized experiences. From REI’s persona-based content marketing strategy targeting (tongue-in-cheek) narcissists who love biking to Nike ID’s custom footwear, customers require an experience that is all about them! A data and analytics strategy gives brands a single view into individual customers—enabling a positive customized experience.
5. Make it easy to #humblebrag!
Customers love to #humblebrag since it validates their purchases. It’s part of their brand experiences—both with you and their communities. Brands that strategically integrate a video, pictures, and hashtag strategy into the customer experience score the most points—and social referrals!
6. Deliver a safe and secure experience.
Customers’ heads are spinning with cybersecurity breaches. People will share their details to enable a great experience. Just make sure you explain how you are going to securely handle their identities.
7. Surprise and delight your customers.
Marketing automation has created “bland-compliant” messaging. Customers want a little personality and delight with their relationships with you. You have to work hard to differentiate yourself from the competition. Surprising and delighting can be as simple as Netflix’s season-two House Of Cards tweet chat with the actors to Mastercard’s #PricelessSurprises campaign featuring Justin Timberlake! Brands can combine a little bit of big data and creativity to create priceless connections with customers!
8. Be “always on” to be in the hearts and minds of the customers.
FOMO (fear of missing out) is the Millennials’ number-one fear. So you want to be always on with cross-channel access to your brand—on Instagram and Snapchat, so they never miss out on not missing out. According to a Gartner 2014 report, Gartner predicts that by 2017, 50% of consumer product investments will target customer-experience innovation, so investing in an always-on and brand-to-demand strategy makes sense. Translated to Gen X: It’s staying on top of the newest “thing” to “keep up with the Jones.” BirchBox does this well!
9. Mobilize your experience.
With smartphone adoption reaching 70% in the U.S. as reported by Asymco, providing a mobile customer experience is not an option but a requirement! From mobile banking experiences such as the one TD Bank offers or content updates from The Wall Street Journal‘s app, customers want mobile access to your brand. As the man in the old Verizon commercial says, “Can you hear me now?”
10. Create a circle of trust for your customers.
Roughly 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, reports Bright Local.The fact of the matter is many customers begin their customer journeys within their circle of trust. This activity means your brand needs to build trusting relationships with great brand experiences—using social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (SMAC) technology, making it easy for others to communicate their trust. Consumers will continue to build their trust by using Yelp, Trip Advisor, Amazon Reviews, and their social-media networks. How do brands build trust? Listen, respond, and do what you say you are going to do—just like any good relationship.
Do you have another customer experience you think customers require? If so, then please share below.
As Jimi Hendrix kind of said, “Are you [customer] experienced?” If you aren’t, then you aren’t adding value to your customers, and you will lose the battle and the war with your competition.
This post originally appeared on MarketingThink.com.
Disclaimer: All company names, trade names, trademarks, trade dress, designs/logos, copyrights, images, and products referenced in this blog are the property of their respective owners. No company referenced sponsored this blog or the contents thereof.
Opinions expressed in this blog are of the author and may not represent Cognizant's point of view.