“No matter what industry you’re in, you’re being measured against the best customer experience a consumer has had in any environment,” said Andy O’Kelly, chief architect at Irish telecommunications operator Eir.
He was speaking as part of a panel discussion titled “The Future is Dominated by Customer Experience,” at the latest installment of Dublin Tech Summit, held Apr. 17-18 at the city’s convention center.
And companies that fail to deliver risk losing business: a recently released PwC report found that 59 percent of U.S. consumers will walk away from a brand or product they love after several bad experiences; 17 percent will do so after just one.
How digital transformation is driving customer experience
So, what exactly makes for a good experience? Despite the rising demands of increasingly connected consumers, only 32 percent of those surveyed pointed to technology as central to a business’ ability to meet their expectations.
In fact, PwC discovered that in this era of instant gratification, most people only make the connection between technology and customer experience when the former “fails, is slow or disrupts the process.”
Given that artificial intelligence (AI) and automation featured heavily during day two of DTS, you would be forgiven for disregarding those findings.
And yet: “I think it would be very foolish of anyone to take the human out of their business plan when they’re considering the customer experience,” Andy continued.
Particularly when Gartner predicts that chatbots will be integrated across 25 percent of all customer service and support operations by 2020—a technology that currently falls far short of expectations. A Chatbots.org survey of 3,000 consumers revealed that repeating information and context to a live agent after explaining the situation to a chatbot was a major frustration for 59 percent of people.
“Humans get exasperated with bots pretty quickly,” confirmed Leonie Barry, customer experience expert at online market research platform Qualtrics, “but if you train the bot to say sorry and apologize, people are incredibly forgiving.”
She continued, “I think the principle behind really great automation is taking away that repetition and leaving space for human communication.”
Indeed, making technology more human is key to enhancing the customer experience. It sounds counterintuitive, but smartphones and social media have shortened consumers’ attention spans, making them less tolerant of frustrating online experiences. And while chatbots can help companies cut response times and provide an around-the-clock presence, it’s all for naught if customers can’t get the answers they want, when they want them.
Customer experience is the new battleground
“A lot of us technologists tend to try and reduce the world to problems that can be resolved with algorithms—the real world is much more complicated than that,” Andy said. “Sometimes things that are presented as algorithmic problems are not problems at all. Maybe they’re just part of human experience that people enjoy on a day-to-day basis, not to be resolved.”
Indeed, technology can’t replace the human touch in customer experience, even in today’s digital world. Rather, they should be combined to improve the entire journey.
After all, it’s been three years since Gartner declared customer experience the new competitive battlefield and Walker Consulting predicts it will overtake product and price as a key brand differentiator by 2020. So you need to nail it now.
“It doesn’t matter what you manufacture, it doesn’t matter what business model you come up with, it can be copied. The one thing you cannot copy quickly is company culture,” Leonie said. “And it doesn’t have to be super meaningful—sometimes it’s as simple as making it easy for the customer to get on with their day.”
Think saving time, not seizing it; providing a personalized experience in an authentic way that makes each of your customers feel valued and appreciated.
The power of personalization
“When you talk about experiences versus expectations in relation to personalization, it’s often less about the customer wanting the product personalized to them, it’s more about them wanting to feel heard,” Leonie continued. “Recognizing someone so that they don’t have to explain who they are all over again is not the same thing as over-personalizing your product offering.”
That’s where an eCommerce help desk can step up your customer service game. Whether you sell on your own online store or on multiple marketplaces around the world, eDesk by xSellco pulls order details and any previous messages from all your sales channels (it integrates with over 60) into one place so you can stay personal when communicating with your customers at scale.
Despite high profile data breaches such as Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, consumers are increasingly willing to share info with companies—as long as there’s something in it for them.
A 2017 study conducted by YouGov discovered that 43 percent of the 1,145 consumers surveyed agreed they would exchange personal data to save money through personalized promotions, discounts or deals. Meanwhile, 39 percent would do so for speedier problem-solving. Bottom of the barrel: irrelevant retargeting, which 32 percent dubbed “an invasion of privacy.”
“That sense of creepiness, of adverts following you around the internet, that’s something that everyone is aware of and no one can escape,” Leonie said.
Méabh Redmond, head of customer experience design at Irish fintech startup Rubicoin, echoed this sentiment: “Personalization is very impactful but it doesn’t need to be acutely felt by the customer. It should just make things easier,” she said.
Consumers agree. The aforementioned YouGov study found that 47 percent of those surveyed had higher expectations about their customer experience as a direct result of sharing personal data with companies.
The bottom line
Essentially, information is power and online retailers that use it correctly—and consistently—can improve the customer experience and deliver personalized service in a way that doesn’t feel intrusive.
“I think that kind of choice, where the customer is dictating how they’re going to interact with you, at a time that suits them, on a medium that suits them, it’s got to be context specific, it’s got to be continuous and it can’t differ in terms of the information that’s coming back, whether it’s on a web page or a tweet,” Andy said.
Moreover, the customer’s preferences and needs should dictate how automation is implemented into the shopping experience in the first place to ensure it’s a help, not a hindrance.
Whether you’re sending out a promotional email, creating an exit intent pop-up or updating a customer about their order’s whereabouts, it’s in your best interest to speak to everyone on an individual level.
As Andy put it, “You need to get to the point where customers are happy for you to engage and I think to do it in an intrusive way would be absolutely counterproductive in terms of the overall customer experience.”
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