According to WalkerInfo, by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the most important brand differentiator. WalkerInfo is in no way alone in this theory. According to Gartner, 50% of product investment projects will be driven towards customer experience innovations, as companies come to realize the importance of an experience as a differentiator.
The digital age has brought a much more informed customer base, one that has much higher expectations of what companies can provide. Modern day business must prioritize customer experience as it becomes the key differentiator going forward.
If Uber lets you down, you have Lyft. If Pandora isn’t cutting it, you have Spotify. There have always been numerous competitors for every product, but it has never been easier for customers to explore that competition. Instant access to information, including competitors’ products, prices, etc., has made customer loyalty more elastic – or non-existent. Nowadays, customers will switch between competitor companies in an instant, all for reasons as mundane as a 50 cent difference in price or a 3 minute longer wait time.
[Discover which companies have led the way in customer experience at the 2017 Excellence in Customer Experience Awards – all part of Operations Summit!]
Customer experience is the new battleground for marketing. As loyalty drifts out of the consumer’s vocabulary, companies must focus their efforts on keeping them happy, a difficult task as customers come to expect more from companies. This is the only surefire way for companies to stand out from the crowd. Simply put, if customer experience isn’t your priority, you’ll will lose.
If companies hope to keep their customers coming back, their first priority needs to be placed on customer experience. Below are 4 important areas companies must focus on to create the experience that customers now expect.
The Omnichannel Company
Customers are increasingly expecting companies to provide a truly omnichannel customer experience. It is becoming increasingly common for customers to switch between multiple channels as they travel along their purchasing path.
They will research on mobile while at a store, call an agent for more information, and email if there are any problems. If they find any of these channels to not meet their expectations, you better believe that they will leave to find someone who can meet their needs. It is therefore necessary for companies to scales their customer experience across the global buying journeys, which not an easy task.
However, successful companies will be able to truly differentiate from the rest of the competition, positioning themselves for success in the coming years.
The Importance of Self-Service
Self-service has become second nature for consumers. This is especially true for the millennial generation, a generation that is only growing in purchasing power with 80+ million of this age range in the U.S.
Customers expect to be able to purchase simple products from the comfort of their own home without having to speak to a sales rep. Even for more complicated products, such as in B2B sales, customers are completing around 70% of the journey without contact with a sales professional.
Placing self-service tools in the hands of consumers gives them more power over the buying process, and thus a more complete customer experience.
Mobile has overtaken the desktop as America’s digital device of choice. Although it has been evident for many years that mobile will become the most important channel, there are still many companies that have yet to adopt the mobile first mentality.
Consumers are on their mobile devices more than anything else and it is vital that companies optimize their mobile customer experience. This is especially true for global companies, as many developing countries are seeing their populations jump directly to solely mobile devices for all of their queries and transactions.
The social community is rapidly becoming a very important step in the customers buying journey. Customers trust their peers more that they can ever trust a brand, making it imperative that companies engage customers to become social advocates.
Create social communities through which customers and potential customers can make connections between themselves and your company. Leverage the feedback that customers provide to make the necessary improvements. As customers become engaged, it is then up to the company to listen!
The rise of the digital age has made customer experience the most important differentiator in business. With so many options at the fingertips of consumers, companies need to focus their energies on creating an experience that brings them back. Creating an omnichannel experience, fostering self-service, going mobile first, and socially engaging customers will help set companies on the correct path.
Maria Pergolino is Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at Apttus.