A recent Forrester report, “The ROI Of CX Transformation,” reveals that revenue growth for Customer Experience (CX) leaders outpaces CX laggards by more than five to one. It’s no coincidence so many companies are either planning or executing customer experience initiatives!
Providing a great experience is difficult, especially in the era of digital transformation. Modern customers demand engagement on their own terms: anytime and anywhere it’s convenient. This is why it’s table stakes for companies to offer web and mobile applications for digital self-service.
But great customer experiences aren’t just about apps. They’re about putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and seeing your business through their eyes. Many companies fail at customer experience because they erroneously think inside-out.
How can we take our current services, systems and processes and allow the customer to interact with them digitally?
This sounds like a solid customer experience question, right? But the truth is, it’s backwards. Never design a digital experience from your own point of view. Instead, you need to take an outside-in approach and assume the customer’s viewpoint.
As a consumer, what am I trying to accomplish from my business interaction? How can the company help me accomplish my goal in the most efficient and pleasant way? What type of experience will yield the greatest satisfaction? Conversely, what might cause frustration?
We can take this a step further by accounting for different customer types, each with different preferences and situations as they interact with our business. This introduces a level of personalization to our digital interaction offerings and takes us beyond single channel interactions (e.g. a website) into the world of intelligent omni-channel experiences.
So, what is the best way to approach building intelligent omni-channel experiences?
An all-encompassing strategy is required across the organization. We refer to this as a 360-degree approach to Customer Experience. And it’s rooted in four key competencies: Experiences, Technology, Insights and Process. We’ll introduce each of these pillars below; subsequent posts will dive deeper into each focus area.
“Experiences” represent the actual interactions between you and your customers. In the digital era, customers demand convenient engagement options at every touchpoint. Depending on their contextual situation, the consumer may wish to engage via web, mobile, email, chat, voice, kiosk, or even using their smartwatch. Regardless, digital interfaces should feel familiar and intuitive across these channels. The user experience should be task-oriented while still connecting with customers on an emotional level, using modern aesthetics and fresh content.
Further, each engagement should be guided by Intelligent insights. A wealth of information to help create more personalized, desirable experiences is right there at our disposal. Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence let us go beyond simple rule-based personalization. Digital engagement channels can proactively assist your customers with helpful recommendations, smart reminders and “next best action” suggestions. Prescriptive guidance based on known personas and situational intelligence should be built into every digital application to make each interaction more contextually relevant.
One way to approach the development of cognitive experiences is to think in terms of signals that trigger dynamic customization of the interface. Internal signals come from all the things we know about the consumer—their application usage patterns, preferences and profile. External signals are derived from the surrounding environment—the consumer’s location, weather and time, for example. External signals are also generated by ongoing social media and call center activity. By proactively “listening” to these internal and external signals, we’re able to build digital interfaces that minimize the distance between having a need and taking action.
If all of this sounds like wishful thinking, consider this fact: all the technology required to build these amazing experiences is here right now. You don’t need to hire an army of data scientists wielding PhDs. You can leverage mainstream services available in the cloud with highly approachable APIs that can be integrated into your digital applications and services.
It’s important to think of the technology powering your digital experiences as an ecosystem of integrated components. No single vendor or application can bring all the needed components. Instead, what’s needed is a Customer Experience hub, one that consists of a suite of open and extensible components. Each component provides a critical function, such as content management, eCommerce, authentication, cognitive services, preference management, journey tracking, and so forth.
Of course, no amount of consumer-facing technology can overcome poor internal processes and enabling systems. Thus, the final competency in our 360-degree approach is process. “Process” refers to optimizing the internal workings of your organization to enable a great customer experience. This includes empowering employees with intelligent applications to enhance their understanding of the customer. Process also includes reimagining operations and workflows designed around legacy capabilities and out-of-date market dynamics. Within IT itself, any legacy processes that don’t promote rapid and continuous innovation, such as DevOps and scaled agile, should be a near-term priority.
Better customer experiences result in better business results. According to Aberdeen Group, companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak CX strategies. This is why CX initiatives are increasingly becoming a larger component of corporate strategy. A good starting point is to assess your organizational maturity in a few key competencies that drive customer experience. This will identify any weaknesses and gaps holding back your CX, helping guide your strategy towards CX leadership. And a great way to assess your maturity is to simply take a moment and check out our new Customer Experience Maturity Assessment Tool now!