We live in a truly digital world. You are on this here website, right now. Due to digital’s pervasiveness and pace of advancement, brands need to make sure their digital experience meets the consumer’s ever-increasing standards (and is compatible with their ever-diminishing attention span). Whether a consumer’s experience is delivered in person or online, it must result in a positive impression of the brand. Research by TrendWatching has shown that a good customer experience (CX) produces the same cerebral response in people as feeling loved. Technology that grows by the day is already reframing customers’ expectations, and to compete, brands need to keep up.
Customer experience excellence can be split into six broad categories:
Arguably, this is the most important aspect. It has a significant impact on advocacy and loyalty. Personalisation involves showing that a customer’s specific needs are understood and their experience will be adapted accordingly.
Netflix is one recent example of this. They famously offered an incentive of $1m for the best algorithm for recommending personalised content. Netflix uses this algorithm to find a user’s doppelganger – another customer with similar interests – who can be used to find content the user will be interested in.
Adobe has utilised new technology to combine online and in-store experiences to offer a truly personal feature. Using Microsoft’s Kinect (a high-tech camera), Adobe will scan shoppers’ bodies, calculating height, weight, hip width, spine length and more. The machine simultaneously pulls data from your account, which contains purchase history and other personal details such as hobbies. An algorithm then combines all this information and can offer tailored recommendations.
Brands need to engender trust, and integrity precedes trust. A key way for brands to gain trust is to stand for something more than profit. United Airlines have taken this on board by providing their customers with help throughout their journey. As a company that simply provides a service of buying airline tickets, they have shown that they care by partnering with Uber to make getting to the airport easier for their customers. Brands also need to understand that trust is a two-way street; if you trust your customer, they are more likely to trust you. For instance, Amazon refund their customers when they report non-delivery, thereby increasing the trust they have in them as a brand.
Always meeting your customers’ expectations and, if possible, bettering those expectations is a fundamental skill of great organisations. Online clothing shop Zappos is an excellent example of this. When they began trading, they decided to put their funding into experience rather than advertising, relying on the quality of their service to generate more custom simply through word of mouth or user references. They set their customers’ expectations for three-day delivery; however, if you order before midnight you will, most likely, receive your product by 8 a.m. the following day. This way of providing a seemingly exceptional service became the Zappos marketing strategy as customers extolled the exceptional service to their friends and business associates.
Companies will inevitably make mistakes, so providing customer recovery is crucial. The best-in-class companies will not only have a process in place to get the customer right back to where they should have been but will also make them feel great about the experience. Ocado train their drivers to deal directly with any issues their customers might have, ensuring resolution at the first point of call and resulting in superior CX.
5. Time and effort
The fifth area that needs to be addressed before companies achieve the title of ‘Best-in-Class CX’ is time and effort. Customers are time-poor, so to interest them companies need to reduce customer friction and create a fluid process.
KLM were the first to solve this problem, by introducing a messenger bot that sends customers their travel documents, such as their boarding pass, booking confirmation and check-in notification. It also sends flight updates, advising if there are delays. This means travel information is easy to find and all in one place. KLM can also be contacted 24/7. The success of this type of service should be measured by the number of other airlines now implementing it.
Uber have similarly taken a lot of steps to reduce the time and effort required to use their service. They have an easy-to-use app that has all the information in one place, including who your driver is and exactly where they are. It tells you the expected length of your journey and the predicted price. If you lose your phone in a taxi, it is very easy to get back; all cars have ID numbers, so you can track the car it’s in and the driver even drives to give it back to you. They have thought through every step of the customer journey to ensure it’s effortless and takes a minimal amount of time. They are now the standard for any other market entrants for this type of service.
The final pillar for success is empathy: letting the customer know that you can genuinely understand what it is like to be in their situation. USAA, an American affinity bank, have built their entire customer strategy around empathy. They market their products to members of the US military and their families. They have specifically targeted every aspect of their business towards seeing the world through their customers’ perspectives. It was this level of empathy that allowed USAA to come top of the US customer experience excellence top 100 list in 2015. USAA membership is open to US military service members, veterans with an honourable discharge, and their eligible family members. Each USAA member has a subscriber savings account, which contains money that USAA holds in the member’s name. If USAA collects more premiums than they pay out in a year, they distribute the surplus to members. They have done all this to make their banking experience as easy as possible for military families who may need extra support.
Jess Carver, Junior User Experience Specialist here at Prophecy Unlimited explains how, by integrating WhatsApp into our aptaclub.co.uk Careline offering, we deliver an empathetic customer experience for Aptaclub, enabling mums-to-be and new mums to contact a dedicated support network of midwives, nutritionists and feeding advisors.
Aptaclub made it really easy for mums to get trusted advice during any stage of pregnancy and post-birth, and by integrating WhatsApp, digitally savvy mums can now contact the Careline using a channel with which they feel at ease. Crucially, the context of these interactions does require a human response at the end, so that mums-to-be get the best possible advice tailored to their personal concerns.
Ultimately these brands have all gone above and beyond for their consumers, and the level of personalisation and humanisation they have added to their day-to-day practice has increased customer loyalty, satisfaction and opportunities to connect. They have kept up with the ever-changing world of technology and customer expectations, and have succeeded in pushing the boundaries of digital experience and setting the standard for everyone else.