Last week I attended Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, to check out the latest trends, challenges and best practices for CX design and strategy. Across a diverse range of topics, the consensus was clear: It’s time for businesses to take their experiences to the next level.
These days, delivering engaging experiences is essential to sustaining competitive advantage and earning lasting loyalty. But many brands find themselves struggling to keep up with rising consumer expectations and an ever-growing array of channels and touchpoints.
Fortunately, I snagged a few key insights from the conference that should help businesses not only keep up, but move their CX strategy forward…
1. Your customer is not their purchase history
Consider a customer, Emma, who recently bought a handbag from a fashion retailer. Because of this purchase, the retailer sends her an email to recommend some shoes that match the bag – after all, that’s what many of their handbag purchasers buy next.
A few weeks later, Emma receives an app notification telling her that a new line of handbags is in store; after that, it’s an email promoting other accessories purchased by people who bought the same bag… Soon, every interaction she has with the brand ties back to that one purchase.
What the retailer doesn’t know is that Emma, while not a bargain hunter, isn’t a huge spender either. She sticks to a budget, and won’t splash out again when she’s just made an “investment” purchase. Not that any of that matters, because Emma bought this particular handbag as a gift.
All this means that not one of the interactions the retailer has initiated since purchase has really appealed to her, or had any chance of driving more spend.
It’s a scenario that happens all too often – as one speaker pointed out, entire customer journeys are often personalised based on a single data point, like a purchase.
Now that’s not to say that the retailer in our example should have known that Emma’s purchase was intended for someone else. Rather it’s a call to go beyond individual data points when delivering tailored experiences.
Instead, brands should draw on a wider range of insight, including a customer’s preferences, sentiment, behaviour, and even the context of each interaction (like the time of day or the weather).
This may require more advanced technology, both to analyse incoming data in real-time and work out what to do with it. But any investment will be worth the value customers will give back in terms of their engagement and loyalty.
To do: Assess your current customer journeys and decide: are you “personalising” too much around single points of data? If so, take some time to research platforms that take a more holistic view of your customers – particularly those that use machine learning, augmented intelligence and real-time data processing.
2. Big players set the bar
It’s easy to look to your competitors as a benchmark for the experience you’re delivering. After all, as long as you’re better than the other options, you should be OK… right?
Well… yes and no. Sure, you might win out over competitors in the short term. But the bar for great experience isn’t necessarily set by others in your industry.
Customers’ expectations are influenced by a much wider array of brands and interactions – they don’t differentiate between your brand and CX giants like Amazon. Rather, for a customer, the expectation for a great interaction is set by the best buying experience they’ve had.
That doesn’t mean you have to deliver faster than Amazon or offer the same level of real-time personalisation. But it’s worth remembering that, just because a direct competitor’s CX is dismal, businesses can’t return on their laurels.
Unless you continually optimise and improve your experiences, customers will always be on the lookout for someone who can do it better – and you can bet that someone will come along sooner or later.
To do: Carry out regular audits of your customer experiences across various touchpoints, to see where customers might run into issues – or simply where things could run more smoothly. Keep an eye on what other industries (not just direct competitors) are doing in terms of CX, and look for strategies you can translate to your own business.
3. GDPR is not the enemy
GDPR: it’s the acronym on everyone’s lips, the hot topic at every conference. Most marketers – even those who don’t have an “end-of-the-world” perspective on the coming regulations – are at least a little worried about how they’ll continue to engage with customers effectively.
But speakers at Forrester’s forum emphasised the fact that GDPR doesn’t have to be the enemy. Instead, it could be the catalyst for greater trust and more value – for brand and customer.
For one thing, being more transparent about the way data is used to personalise services helps brands build trust into the customer relationship, right from the start. And according to research from Rare Consulting, trust is one of the top 3 factors that drives long-term, emotional loyalty.
GDPR also forces businesses to consider the value exchange. In other words: what benefit do customers receive from sharing their data with you? How will you actively use that data to create better experiences?
Businesses who can answer that question well, through relevant interactions, will find customers more willing to part with their information. GDPR may make brands more accountable to customers regarding what they do with data – but those who take privacy seriously and provide real value will be rewarded with long-lasting (and profitable) customer relationships.
To do: Get familiar with what GDPR will mean for your business – not just the legal requirements themselves, but what these will look like when applied to your own customer journeys. Check that your CRM, loyalty and marketing software has (or will have) the tools you’ll need to be compliant.