Customer experience is the top priority for businesses, irrespective of size, sector or location. The reason is simple. Organisations that develop and invest in a customer experience (CX) infrastructure reduce churn and increase revenues – paving the way for higher profits! found that customers are willing to pay more for a better experience.
CX is the interactions and experiences customers have with your business throughout their entire customer journey, both online and offline. From the displays in the shop window, television or radio advertisements, to your social media activities on Facebook, Instagram or TikTok. Moreover, interactions with a call centre or user experience on the website all contribute to their perception of a brand or company.
Customers become loyal because they are emotionally attached and remember how they feel when using a product or service. A business that optimises for an emotional connection outperforms competitors by 85% in sales growth. The Journal of Consumer Research noted that more than 50% of an experience is based on an emotion. Emotions shape the attitude that drives decisions.
Ultimately, the challenge for business is to knit together the people, resources and technical infrastructure that nurtures the creation of products and services people want. Appropriate communications, a positive staff attitude and an open ‘can do’ company culture encourages superior customer experience.
As a result, CX impacts all areas of business. Building a superior customer experience and continuously improving it requires a company-wide commitment. This involves a fundamental cultural change within the business, where customer interactions, opinions and engagement are elevated into every fabric of the organisation, its technical infrastructure and all third party relationships. It simply can’t happen with just a handful of breakfast meetings. Organisations need a comprehensive strategy that gets everyone on the same page.
This blog highlights the five crucial steps businesses must consider to develop a superior customer experience.
1. Understanding the customer journey
The traditional customer journey is no longer linear. Footfall through the doors, phone calls to customer service, website analytics reports are no longer solely an accurate measurement of customer journeys. Customers can now interact with your brand or company on a range of devices and channels. It’s the norm for consumers to reach for smartphones over computers and tablets to browse and buy. Customers increasingly raise product concerns on Facebook or Instagram before they reach for the toll-free number. Enterprises must therefore understand customer preferences:
- What do customers expect from the brand?
- What are their online or offline behaviours?
- Which channels do customers prefer?
- What are the contexts in which customers are interacting with your brand?
All these business activities generate data from multiple sources. These need to be synthesised and integrated to form a single view of the customer.
According to Suvish Viswanathan, Head of Marketing, Zoho Europe, “Understanding, empathising, and supporting new customer expectations specific to any industry or market requires bespoke insight. Businesses now must adopt a hybrid model to support relationships with customers. A holistic view of the customers at every touchpoint is needed to deliver excellent CX.”
2. Privacy and Trust
Consumers are concerned about data privacy and security. They will grow wary of enterprises that overstep boundaries. Brands must strike the right balance between respecting privacy and delivering personalised experiences for customers.
New legislation like the California Privacy Rights Act and European Union’s GDPR is pushing many companies into an era of greater data transparency. However, organisations need to embrace a privacy-first approach to collecting data. A permission-based approach helps build trust with customers, particularly when they feel they are in control. Such an approach also makes it easier to comply with government regulations. As privacy regulations emerge in various countries, a multi-country operation needs to evaluate tools that provide compliance protection and flexibility to customise based on the needs of law.
3. Dynamically orchestrating the customer experience
This step will be the most challenging for businesses – to dynamically orchestrate CX. It entails blending in the appropriate response as customers interact with your brand, whether it is digital or even in a physical store or location such as:
- Wishing customers “A Happy Birthday” at the POS, or by email or via social media
- Call centre staff reminding customers they can redeem a free gift before it expires
- Quickly responding to customers reviews and ratings
- Free room upgrade for guests celebrating an anniversary staying at a hotel
- Catching signals from various interactions to customise the offer
Traditional CRM systems are transactional by nature. They record the details about the customer and transactional history. However, they don’t explain much about the context of the customer, particularly during those interactions. The next generation of CRMs, such as Zoho CRM Plus, are hybrid systems that maintain traditional CRM data and also contain all customer records of engagements.
Viswanathan says, “The customer experience and employee experience should be intertwined. Businesses must ensure employees have access to the right balance of collaboration tools – a single pane of glass. A single-screen that contains ALL customer information, both transactional and contextual engagement. This information should be available to all employees to enable more effective decision making.”
To provide a superior integrated customer experience, businesses need a platform that unifies marketing, sales, support and retail outlet teams. It means giving employees the toolset to engage with customers across all stages of the customer lifecycle.
4. Audit your technical infrastructure and operations
McKinsey believes businesses must now develop digital initiatives in days or weeks. Previously, they had one- to three-year timing plans. The report highlighted data silos: 33% of business leaders revealed a lack of connectivity between existing IT systems, applications, and data as an inefficiency when it comes to delivery. Many businesses have a legacy infrastructure that does not allow interoperability and integration with new tools and enterprise systems. It is particularly challenging for those responsible for developing the customer experience. They need access to data to create cohesive experiences for customers across an increasing range of touchpoints.
As a result, businesses need to review their technical infrastructure to innovate constantly across their CX eco-system – to support how customers want to acquire, use, and pay for solutions and services. They need an efficient, highly automated back-office running in the background all the time. The back-office can then better support an agile front office where employees are freed up to collaborate and innovate, supported by real-time insights. This improves the employee experience, making it easier for them to manage customers, build relationships and engagement and provide superior CX.
A change management approach may be required to empower employees to embrace and maximise the use of CX platforms to support customers. Employees may be familiar with the existing legacy tools and processes and resistant to change. Furthermore, many CX tools have been designed by vendors from an organisational workflow logic and not from a customer or employee perspective. Viswanathan suggests, “An employee experience focus has been missing in the design of CX platforms to date. A business will find that a more tailored solution, both in design and functionality, that aligns perfectly with its sales team, will drive more success within the organisation.”
5. Do not sit on your laurels! Always look for improvements
Constant and continuous improvement has always been the central focus for business since the beginning of time. It’s what creates customer loyalty, competitive advantage, profitability and product innovation.
Businesses must continuously know and understand the societal and consumer trends and issues taking place outside of their organisation. Furthermore, they must remain agile enough to adapt to those changes. 2020 certainly taught many businesses lessons in agility. Many enterprises had to pivot their business model to deal with sudden increases in demand, remote working, supply chain issues, Covid-19 restrictions, social distancing and other issues.
Businesses must incorporate feedback mechanisms to improve customer experience continuously. Customer surveys, observing customer interactions, both online and offline, social media monitoring are all vital channels for getting honest feedback. Viswanathan adds, “It’s all about continuously innovating and creating value for customers. It’s about being honest and persistent so that ultimately, customers want to remain loyal to the brand.”
The most adaptable businesses survive
Speaking at Zoho’s ‘Build the right experience to thrive in the era of extreme Darwinism’ webinar, Jeremy Cox, founder at CX-Create, noted Charles Darwin’s famous observation, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” What is true in nature is also true in the world of business.*
Consumer fashion, taste and trends are constantly changing. Customers have high expectations that businesses must always deliver. Furthermore, customers are empowered and have all the tools at their fingertips to elevate a brand or punish them for poor CX. Thanks to social media, they also have the loudspeakers to amplify their message. And they know how to use it!
Companies must pay real attention to customer experience. It is an area that needs constant nurturing and care underpinned by a CX strategy. A proficient understanding of customer insights will help companies improve personalisation and targeting. It will lead to better business decisions. Smart companies that embrace a CX platform across every channel and ensure it is one that contributes well to employee experience, too, will realise its positive impact on customer loyalty, higher retention and increased revenue growth.
With 50+ apps in nearly every major business category, including sales, marketing, customer support, accounting and back office operations, and an array of productivity and collaboration tools, Zoho Corporation is one of the world’s most prolific technology companies.
Zoho is privately held and profitable. Zoho respects user privacy and does not have an ad-revenue model in any part of its business, including its free products. Zoho operates its own datacentres across the world, including two in Europe. More than 60 million users around the world, across hundreds of thousands of companies, rely on Zoho every day to run their businesses, including Zoho itself.