Adam Wilson, regional channel manager for EMEA at Vonage, explains why outstanding customer experience hinges on the entire customer journey.
Customer experience (or CX for short) has come a long way since the days of local in-store shopping and limited options. Modern customers expect businesses to provide 24/7 access to personalised services and help, with contact options ranging from email, social messenger, SMS or phone call to suit individual preferences. There’s a strong correlation for companies that offer a superior customer experience with profitability and market success, and this is born out by research.
According to Dimension’s Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report, 96% of customers say customer service is important to their choice of brand loyalty whilst 84% of companies that work to improve their customer experience report an increase in their revenue. It’s clear businesses must step up to meet these demands if they are to be successful.
And it’s not just about consumers – great customer service also has an impact on employee engagement. Companies that excel at customer experience have 1.5 times more engaged employees, and according to Gallup, this engagement helps customer-centric companies outperform their competition by 147%.
It can no longer be denied that customer experience must form a key part of any strategic planning, and there are several steps businesses can take to ensure they are providing excellent service and meeting, even exceeding, expectations.
Cover the basics
It may seem obvious, but a surprisingly high number of businesses don’t meet basic customer service standards when it comes to online experiences. In the UK alone, 70% of businesses are not compliant with accessibility laws, excluding nearly 12 million potential customers from using their services. Accessibility can quickly be improved by adding captions, screen reading, and making websites clear and easy to use.
Many of us will have also been in the frustrating situation of searching for a number to call or encountering a glitch with an automated chatbot. With Pega’s 2019 Global Customer Service Insights report revealing 75% of consumers have severed ties with a brand due to poor customer service, it’s vital to stay on top of the minor issues to ensure that they don’t evolve into bigger problems. Consistency is key to reducing customer churn, and covering the basics gives you time to focus on areas to deliver the next level of service.
Harness data to personalise the customer journey
The modern customer expects high levels of personalisation, context-driven services, and intuitive interactions throughout their customer journey. While it’s not always possible to speak directly to customers to understand their needs, data provides a clear window into the best way to interact with and approach both individuals and subsets of customers. For example, those who are active on social media may prefer access to incorporated messenger services and in-app purchasing, while others will prefer to speak in-person and will value this option highly as part of the customer experience.
Understanding the preferences of your customer base allows businesses to direct resources to the areas and channels customers value the most, and can help to inform strategy when it comes to planning marketing, products, and online interactions. With 65% of companies agreeing that improving data analysis has been very important to delivering a better customer experience, this is not an area to be neglected.
Provide an integrated omnichannel experience
Customers expect to be able to contact a company through their channel of choice, at a time that’s convenient to them. This means that companies must provide a seamless, frictionless transaction no matter which channel a customer has selected. Whether it’s SMS, email, automated chat or a phone call, agents need to have the correct information on hand to identify and handle each query effectively.
Agents need a platform where they can view the customer’s details and history in one place, and there needs to be a solid infrastructure to ensure that, if necessary, customers can be moved from one channel to another without difficulty. It may also help to provide additional training in niche areas of the business and for handling complex cases. This can save complaints from being escalated and will help agents to feel confident in delivering an excellent level of service regardless of the medium.
Investing in technology
The advent of new technologies is also playing a vital role in driving an enhanced customer experience. AI-powered chatbots are now able to answer frequently asked questions and handle simple tasks, freeing agents to deal with more complex cases and reducing call time and queues for customers. As technology continues to advance, tools such as voice and augmented reality (AR) are increasingly going to play a role in the customer experience.
Businesses need to keep up with the expectations of customers when it comes to technological advancements. The rate of change means that innovations are arriving almost daily, and it’s important to keep one eye trained on these developments in order to stay ahead of demand and predict what customers will want in a not-so-distant future.
Ultimately, providing an outstanding customer experience hinges on understanding the customer journey in its entirety. From the first click to a resolution or purchase, maintaining a consistently frictionless and smooth process across channels will ensure that customers return time and time again.