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5 Tips for Meeting Ever-Changing Customer Experience Expectations

Over the last year, we’ve seen that adaptability results in business resiliency and growth. In fact, a recent survey of entrepreneurs in America found that 67% of B2B companies and 70% of B2C companies that grew in 2020 changed their business model in some way throughout the year. Being able to adapt on the fly is also essential to meet customers where they are, as customers’ expectations are a constantly moving target.

Many pundits and analysts have predicted, customer experience (CX) has overtaken price and product as a key differentiator for brands. In fact, nearly three out of four consumers say customer experience is a key factor in their purchase decisions. With customer expectations higher than ever, companies really have no choice but to shift to a more customer-centric business model.  

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But doing it can be easier said than done. In today’s constantly connected world where bad experiences spread like wildfire, it’s nearly impossible for brands to control their image the way they used to. Buyers now have much easier access to competitors compared to the days of bricks-and-mortar or catalog-only shopping, blazing fast access to information and reviews to help them make decisions and extremely high expectations for a personalized, curated experience.   

This puts customers in control, which can mean bad news for businesses that aren’t prepared to pivot. Poor customer experience costs U.S. businesses $75 billion a year in lost sales, loss of customer loyalty and reputation damage.  

For those who get it right, it’s a tremendous opportunity to differentiate from the competition. Nearly 90% of buyers say they’re willing to pay more for a product if it’s backed by a great experience, and data shows that companies that invest in CX can double their revenue within three years, which is probably why two out of three companies now say they’re competing primarily on customer experience.  

So, how can you level-up your customer experience when expectations keep getting higher? 

Here are five strategies. 

Create an omnichannel experience.

As the lines between in-person and online blur, it’s essential to give customers the ability to seamlessly move between offline and online experiences. This goes for both shopping — in one well-known example, a Walmart store associate refused to price-match when a customer found the exact same product much cheaper on Walmart.com — and for service.

Customers prefer self-help resources like communities and guided content, so make sure you’re offering both online and mobile experiences and resources.

Delight and surprise customers.

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Sometimes, it’s the little things that can make a customer’s day and unexpected exceptional service can easily turn shoppers into loyal brand advocates. Nearly half of buyers say they’ve made an impulse purchase based on a personalized experience, making it a worthwhile investment. And there’s tremendous potential for your good CX experience story to go viral, as has happened with Trader Joe’s, Morton’s Steakhouse, United Airlines and more.   

Use automation to deliver exceptional CX at scale.

It’s nearly impossible to deliver the kind of experience customers expect without some kind of technology. But, you also have to be careful that it isn’t too automated, which can leave customers feeling like a number instead of a valued individual to the brand. With the right CX automation platform, you can leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to get to know your customers’ needs and send the right person the right information at the right time to keep them engaged and moving through the funnel.

By pulling data from both offline and online channels, CX automation tools can set up automatic, personalized follow-ups or alert sales when it’s the right time to reach out to highly engaged prospects. This data-driven personalization at scale helps you to stay on top of—and deliver on—evolving customer expectations. 

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Reduce friction.

In order to deliver a good customer experience, you have to first be able to make them a customer. With average online shopping cart abandonment at nearly 70%, clearly, there is ample opportunity for improvement when it comes to something so basic: reducing checkout friction. For example, over half of customers say they won’t recommend a business with a poor mobile experience and half will stop visiting your mobile site, even if they like your business. It sounds obvious, but you must make it as easy as possible for customers to buy from you. Allowing customers to checkout without registering for an account is one way. You might also auto-fill a registered customers’ payment method and billing details to speed up the transaction.  

Act on customer feedback.

Customers want to know that their needs and concerns are being heard — that they’re not just screaming into the abyss.

A lot of companies invest a great deal in collecting quantitative and qualitative information from social media and website analytics, but too often they fail to take the next obvious step: acting on it. In fact, research shows that 62% of companies don’t respond to customer service emails and 90% don’t even acknowledge receipt of customer emails. In a time when 1 in 3 customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience and 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions, failure to act on customer feedback is a huge customer experience failure. Instead, listen to your customers, and wherever possible, implement their feedback. After all, your company exists solely to serve their needs. Ignoring them when they’re flat-out telling you what they want is ludicrous.   

If you think it’s hard to keep up with customer expectations now, it’s even more important to prioritize this now because this won’t become less important. In fact, it’s likely that as companies step up their CX game, expectations will only increase further.

With CX as the new key differentiator, your business success depends on your ability to be agile and responsive to — or better yet, anticipate — customer needs. That means you must make satisfying customers your number one priority, and your ability to act quickly before issues have a negative impact can be a valuable competitive advantage.  

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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