As Gartner reported in 2016:
- 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on customer experience, versus 36% in 2012,
- Fewer than half of companies currently believe their customer experience capabilities are superior to their peers, but two-thirds expect CX skills and processes to be industry-leading or much more successful than their peers within five years, and
- By 2017, marketers will direct 50% of consumer product investments to customer experience innovations.”
Is this reality or wishful thinking? Perhaps a bit of both. But Marketers must take note, especially given some of the research about the public’s take on customer experience. Customers demonstrate time after time, that they value (and will pay more for superior) customer experience, that they will “vote with their wallet” and move to your competitors if they don’t like your customer experience, and that they will share their CX dissatisfaction widely through social media. Companies are mandated to improve their CX to remain competitive, much less to grow and increase profitability.
One of the tools that marketers are looking to help them improve CX is technology. Here are four ways that your CX can benefit from the appropriate and timely application of technology:
- Omnichannel. While this trend started in retail as integrating online and offline purchasing into a cohesive customer experience, it now has grown to apply to nearly any online/offline experience. If I give you information about a problem I am experiencing with your website, and then speak to or chat with a “live” service rep, why should I repeat everything I have already told you on your website? If I order a pizza from your mobile app and it arrives late and cold – why can’t your driver pull up my order through an app to do something about it? Response is not just getting back to the customer. Response must be timely, informed, and generous.
- Individualization. One size no longer fits all. Data analytics (and everyone’s darling Big Data) help marketers tailor the CX to meet individual needs. And treating customers as individuals helps create strong relationships with better loyalty and retention. At its best application, data analytics can even help you anticipate what the customer needs and deliver it proactively. It can also help you more easily understand customers’ passion and pain points. One example of this is Southwest Airlines, who is using speech analytics to evaluate recorded interactions with service agents. By evaluating the sentiment content of these recordings, Southwest has been able to create a better understanding of pain points – and to coach agents to respond appropriately.
- Artificial Intelligence. While the benefit of artificial intelligence may be longer-term than the other technologies discussed here, there are companies who are experimenting with AI technology to improve the customer experience. As explained by Donna Peeples of Customer Think, “With AI, companies can learn more from their interactions with customers, and further empower the customer care team with more useful information. Ultimately, more advanced AI systems will imitate the decision-making ability of a human to provide proactive, actionable responses to each customer.” The major benefit of AI will be for companies to scale their customer service operations to serve customers better.
- Transparent, Real-Time Communications. Real-time, conversational communications are the lifeblood of excellent CX. That is why mobile messaging will be a fundamental tool in the marketing communications arsenal. Currently, 2.5 billion people around the world use messaging apps – and that number is expected to exceed 3.6 billion by 2018. But companies have not leveraged this trend to support CX improvements. Using data analytics and AI, companies will have to deliver improved, more relevant, and timely messaging to consumers.
So perhaps the vast projected improvements in CX will be possible for marketers. We will need to do many things differently to make this leap, and technological innovation will lead the way. Maybe Mercedes-Benz USA President and CEO Steve Cannon was prescient when he said in 2014, “Customer experience is the new marketing.”