While the notion of the “customer experience” is not new, the energy and action that businesses are starting to devote to the digital aspects has reached new levels in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and “shelter-in-place” mandates. Many are contemplating or have launched initiatives and projects that are focused on improving the digital experiences they provide to their customers and those who help them access customers (e.g., channel partners).
More and more companies are bringing on senior executives with the word “customer” in their titles. They are making organizational changes designed to increase the focus on the customer digitally. And, more IT projects are tied directly to improving the digital customer experience. The collective activities of almost every industry truly make the digital customer experience one of the top imperatives for post-pandemic 2020 and beyond.
Businesses recognize that improving the digital customer experience has broad implications in terms of technologies, processes, products and culture. To fully understand the implications, it is instructive to consider the various factors that influence the customer experience.
Customer experience comes down to what an individual or individuals perceive about the business. No matter if it’s insurance, banking, retail or manufacturing, it still comes down to a variety of dimensions that influence an individual or the collective experience of a few individuals. Here are the four main areas that influence the customer:
- Brand Perception – An individual’s perception of a business is based on what the business says about itself (in the form of advertising, social media and the communications received) and what a person hears or reads others saying about the company.
- Value Delivered – The value equation is about addressing the needs of the customer and delivering products and services at a price that the customer believes is fair. The customer considers how products fit their needs, the quality of the products and how related services like billing, warranty and claims are handled.
- Relationship – The relationship a customer has with a business is experienced in two dimensions: products and connections. The more products a customer has with a business, the stronger the relationship and loyalty are likely to be. When friends and family are also connected to the same business, the customer bond also tends to be stronger. It is vital for businesses to understand the nature of these relationships and reflect that in communications and offers to customers.
- Communications – The communication that a customer has with a business forms impressions. A single good or bad experience may have an impact on the customer’s perception, but the aggregate set of all communications certainly has a very large influence on the experience.
All of these areas of influence (brand, value, relationship and communications) result in interactions that the customer has with the business. Whether they work with the business via the website, portals, letters received in the mail, emails, phone calls or other forms, these interactions, individually and collectively, form the customer experience.
The Actionable Insights
Many businesses are now on a journey to improve the digital experience for both customers and channel partners. While journeys are different for each business, there are a few common actions that businesses should consider:
- Listen – Shaping or reshaping the digital customer experience should start with understanding what customers and channel partners really value. Investing upfront in gathering feedback and insights directly from customers will improve the chances that digital technology investments will pay off.
- Assess – Evaluate how interactions are supported today, including the manner in which digital content is created, managed and delivered to customers.
- Analyze – Capitalize on customer analytics to gain new insights and operationalize actionable insights. Combining analytics with insights from customer roundtables, surveys and interviews will provide strong guidance on where the digital experience can be positively influenced.
- Act – Create a plan and roadmap to improve individual interactions through personalization and new delivery options. Continue to listen for customer feedback and requirements, and be ready to adjust implementation as customer needs evolve.
Recognizing the different influencers of the experience and taking action based on listening to customer needs will ultimately enable businesses to capitalize on the digital customer experience and drive improved business results.