I firmly believe that the more opportunities you have to reinforce your brand promise with customers, the better your balance sheet. So, I see the proliferation of customer touch points as a positive development for businesses. Organizations that are committed to cultivating a customer-centered culture can gain a significant edge over the competition. Recent research proves my point.
According to the Watermark Consulting 2013 Customer Experience ROI study, customer experience leaders outperform laggards by 43% when indexed against the S&P. That’s a massive difference and a major opportunity to leverage the art and science of customer experience to distinguish your company from the competition. Innovation will always be important, but customer experience is clearly the number one factor in determining your market valuation and validity as a business partner in today’s digital marketplace.
It’s never been more important to empower employees across the board with the information and inspiration they need to live the brand promise in every customer interaction. Making that happen will require more than expanded and enhanced resources. You must build an integrated organization that is infinitely capable of delighting customers consistently across multiple channels. New strategies, culture change and different corporate governance processes are necessary to keep pace with the multi-channel customer.
Specifically, following are four areas of disruption in the realm of customer experience where attention is needed:
The Rise of Customer Voice: Every social conversation is a real-time reflection of your brand promise. And, there’s a lot of them going on. The key question is this: what do customers say about your brand and which of those versions of the truth are most discoverable by others? Consider that Google ranks customer conversations higher than your content. Know that people will believe other customers before they believe you. Customers feel it’s their civic duty to report a negative customer experience. Do you know what they are saying about your products and services and how to change the conversation if you need to?
Fractured Customer Experiences: One of the great things about social is that there is no barrier to entry. Anyone can create a Twitter handle in seconds, for example. Ironically, also one of the worst things about social is that there is no barrier to entry. The paradox produces a governance challenge. Who at your company should be entitled to create channels to engage customers in conversations and how can you responsibly handle that volume? Who should manage the channels?
For example, marketers consistently find that their Facebook pages turn into customer help centers. As a result, marketers feel like they’ve failed. They haven’t failed. They’ve simply discovered an unmet need for increased customer interaction that the business can take advantage of. Marketing and customer service can work together. To build relationships with multi-channel customers, you might need to tear down silos between departments, develop new skill sets and change how operations are managed.
Big Data, Small Insights: We have more data about customers than ever before, but data is not the same as insight. What’s really hard about data isn’t gathering it. The real challenge is transforming information into insights that we can leverage to provide customers with a superior experience. Equally important is the capacity to distribute insights to the right employees at the right time so they can make the best decisions and provide unparalleled customer service. Unfortunately, in PwC’s Digital IQ survey, only 44% of business and technology executives said they have a sufficient pipeline of talent to turn data into insight.
Customers that are Always On: Mobile devices account for well over 50% of the traffic to web sites today. What are the implications for the business as customers are “always-on”? How do we scale for that? How can we beat other companies to the punch as everyone struggles with breaking through to the mobile customer? Mobile is an area where companies need to experiment and adopt what’s working and drop what’s not. Eventually everyone will explore and evolve in this area. Getting there first will give you an advantage.
There’s never been a better time to set and work to achieve lofty customer loyalty goals. You have a range of communication tools at your disposal to deepen relationships with your customers and draw a distinction between you and the competition. Always remember that every customer interaction is an opportunity to exude your brand promise.