Customer experience (CX) is a broad term which can cover many areas: Acquisition, content, conversion, and, of course, ongoing customer service.
Through all of these areas, though, there are some guiding principles which marketers can use as they seek to improve CX using digital channels.
To find out what guidelines marketers are currently using for CX improvement initiatives, Econsultancy, in association with Epsilon, invited dozens of client-side marketers in Shanghai to discuss the future of customer experience. Through moderated roundtable discussions, a number of themes emerged which are summarized below.
1) Improve the whole customer experience, not just the purchasing funnel
All participants agreed that the companies which provide a ‘good’ CX made it easy for customers to buy from them.
Yet some marketers felt that this wasn’t enough. In addition to making products and services easy to buy, companies who want to be CX leaders needed to improve the entire customer lifecycle.
As an example, one attendee noted that many brands have a hard-sell approach and aggressive salespeople. While that may make it easy for the customer to buy, it degrades the overall experience.
Additionally, while most companies have post-purchase customer service, if the agents do not have customer data or are not empowered to make a decision, the whole customer experience will not be good.
Instead, attendees agreed, companies need to be more customer-centric and less ‘organisation-centric’. That is, they need to avoid just ticking the CX boxes and do much more to ensure that customers are getting a truly excellent experience through the whole customer lifecycle.
Suggested initiatives to help improve CX included:
- Asking customers if they have had a good experience after every purchase
- Offering a genuine feedback loop with follow-up communications
- Making refunds and cancellations as easy as purchases
2) Use customer data to improve CX
Participants also noted that many people confuse improving the ‘user experience'(UX) by redesigning the website or optimizing ecommerce with improving the overall CX. But, they noted, UX improvements focus too much on individual moments and not on the customers’ overall impression of the brand.
Instead, brands need to think about the systems which support the customers and how they can use customer data to improve the experience.
For B2B and other high-touch sales industries, agents and salespersons need to have access to CRM data and how to use it when dealing with customers. If a customer ever thought ‘don’t you already have this information’, noted one delegate, then the company would be delivering a very poor CX.
B2C companies which sell to mass audiences can use customer data to improve CX as well, but participants admitted that its much more difficult.
Some attendees said that they have tried chatbots but were not enthusiastic about their effectiveness. The problem with automated customer service via chat is that customers have trouble understanding what options are available to them, don’t know what to ask, and leave confused and unhappy. Often, one noted, the customer’s need can be addressed with a single click away, yet chatbots have trouble figuring out what customers are really looking for.
3) Unique, personalised CX may not be possible – or even desirable
Finally, participants discussed the possibility of brands delivering a unique experience to each individual customer.
Everyone agreed that personalised CX is not currently possible at most companies. Most brands are now only able to deliver CX at a ‘group’ level which is, at best, a segment of a few thousand customers.
Others indicated, though, that the personalised CX may not even be desirable. Consumers are already unhappy with how much institutions, especially financial services companies, know about them and how firms use personal data to decide what products to promote.
So, while using data to offer personalized experiences and offers may seem like good marketing, CX, overall, is probably not improved by offering bespoke, individual experiences to consumers.
A word of thanks.
Econsultancy would like to thank the table moderator for The Future of Customer Experience, Mark Rory Logan, Assistant President, Overseas Spokesman and GM for International Affairs, Sanpower Group and the sponsor for the event, Epsilon.
We would also like to thank all of the marketers who attended on the day and offered their insights about how they are improving the customer experience at their brands and offered a glimpse into the future of CX.
We hope to see you at all future Econsultancy events!