Marked by the mass digitalization of networked computers that began in the early 1990s, we are now entering a new “age of the customer,” which according to Forrester requires a new business approach to remain competitive, and foster a culture of “customer obsession.” Early on, many organizations found through studies that high quality websites promoted a competitive posture, and an advocacy of user-friendliness in web design was ubiquitous among such groups. More recently however, the notion of user experience (UX), which is often thrown around as an umbrella term for how design influences a user’s interaction with a web page, put a strong emphasis on improvements to the overall digital experience, such as intuitive navigation, trustworthy content, and an organized information layout. Perhaps even more pertinent now is the need for savvy businesses to devote resources to validating UX, in order to ensure that crafted experiences positively affect customer outcomes. A recent analysis of UX metrics by InspiredMag found that 88 percent of users are unlikely to return to a site after having a poor first experience. It therefore goes without saying that optimizing first-run experiences is key to catering to a newer, more demanding digital customer who desires a discerning, delightful web experience.
While clean and engaging UX is critical for online success with branding, product development, and marketing, thoughtful business leaders may in addition consider expanding beyond UX in order to capture a newly developing bigger picture: the customer experience (CX). Only a few companies are planning for this new digital customer, and devoting the resources necessary to fully harness the emerging concept. But what exactly is CX, and what steps must businesses take to align with the market realities in the age of the customer?
Unlike UX, which for example may account for the time a user takes to arrive at a landing page, CX extends this scenario beyond just the digital experience. Indeed, the overarching premise of CX is to account for “moments of truth” in which a customer decides whether to engage with a product, and eventually convert into a paying customer. Customer Experience is really about the customer’s “lifetime experience” with an organization, brand, or product. In this way, a CX approach captures the new market realities– potentially for a lifetime. Of all the elements that go into CX, UX is just one piece the puzzle.
Businesses wishing to optimize their CX should focus on improving their customer relationships ahead of logistics (shopping carts and getting products to customers) or unifying product offerings. Here are three ways that organizations can evolve their UX into a great CX:
Omni-channel customer support
After conversion, the next best step is to focus on retention and loyalty. This is where customer support channels carry a lot of weight, which are the focus of Facebook’s F8 conference around chatbots. Today’s customers are not willing to wait on hold for their concerns to be addressed; enabling customers to deploy multiple interaction channels through text, email, and video will empower customers to reach out proactively in advance of your business’s promises being broken. All of this will happen on their terms– and often even before they know there’s an issue. The ease of integrating an omni-channel customer support interface is a driving force behind a cloud-based contact center market, which is projected to grow by $10 billion by 2020, according to a 2015 MarketsandMarkets study. A positive customer support experience allows savvy companies to rectify a poor product experience, thus improving retention and loyalty measures.
Not only are today’s consumers more discerning about the products they purchase, but they also desire overt social consciousness and corporate stewardship. According to a 2014 survey from Nielson, 55 percent of global respondents would pay a premium for products and services from companies with a positive social and environmental mission. It is exceedingly important for businesses to choose meaningful social causes that align with their own values, and reach out via social media to advocate such causes, and therefore galvanize their customers. Social conversations around brands that invoke meaningful discussions will improve trust, loyalty, and brand awareness.
Many online businesses have already found ways to improve their CX through incentives. Video and music streaming services such as Spotify, Netflix, and Pandora provide commercial-free usage that interweaves multi-touch messaging about specific customer attributes, such as birthdays and special events or holidays, such as Mother’s Day. Customer data is rich with possibilities and engagement scenarios. Some retailers offer complimentary gifts for purchases over a certain dollar amount for friends who might be considering buying a gift card; coupling mobile applications with incentives where new users can earn additional rewards like with Uber are some notable examples of employing such a strategy effectively.
Steve Jobs habitually reminded his executives that “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology—not the other way around.” While it is essential for businesses to offer a quality product and an exceptional user experience, user interactions with businesses in the age of the customer are of phenomenal importance, and the product itself is only one component in ensuring that companies remain competitive, and foster a culture of customer obsession.