Four Pillars to Exceed Customer Experience Expectations
By Caitlin Morrison, Senior Strategist
Companies are striving to develop relationships with consumers where every interaction is desireable and fulfilling. In return, consumers expect this enhanced experience regardless of the channel. As the explosion of digital transformation impacts every industry, the digital customer experience (CX) now drives business, and with that, comes increased competition.
Consumers are in the driver’s seat and expect – even demand – curated journeys, in conjuction with a cohesive service across all touchpoints, at all times. In fact, a large majority of digital consumers believe that the experience is almost as important as the product they’re purchasing (Salesforce 2018). We first saw this with the rise of personalization, yet now a personalized experience is commonpace and the consumer expectations have evolved accordingly.
To respond to escalating consumer expectations the Big 5 (Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft) are rapidly innovating and delivering enhanced experiences. Their accelerated advancement of delivering CX across industries is forcing competing companies to double down on their customer-first approach. Therefore, CX is becoming a primary driver of increased revenue. But are companies staying ahead of consumers expectations for the customer experience? It appears not.
Understanding the desired experience
Despite the increased attention to innovating digital customer experiences, over half of consumers (53%) feel as though their expectations for great experiences are not being met (Salesforce 2018). Consumers expect companies to understand their needs. Any failure to deliver an outstanding experience, either through providing irrelevant suggestions or poor customer service, inspires consumers to take their business elsewhere. The challenge is that while technology has helped to provide smarter, more convenient customer experiences, they haven’t yet figured out how to replicate the subtle magic of human-to-human interactions. It is imperative that companies use technology to design an enhanced digital customer journey that offers a comparable level of personalization and adaptability afforded by in-person human interactions. But how?
Building a digital experience that meets the need for human-like connections
Companies must design an experience that delivers a hyper-relevant and hyper-personalized journey for each customer. Customers want experiences that are flexible and adaptive. They want interactions to seamlessly adapt to their changing needs, and shift based on the context of their interaction. Consumers have come to expect experiences that reflect the way humans inherently behave and respond to, and with, one another.
In order to provide an experience that lives up to expectations, companies need to ensure their digital experiences speak to four fundamental human desires.
Humans want to feel liked.
Everyone wants to feel liked. Everyone wants to feel that others enjoy their company and their perspective. Everyone wants to feel welcomed as if people are excited to see them. A positive experience like this is powerful. It’s more than just knowing someone’s name, what they’re searching for, or what they bought recently. In fact, consumers ranked a friendly experience as more important than either personalization or human interaction (PwC 2018).
While a friendly experience is incredibly powerful, the same is true for an unfriendly experience. 67% of consumers ranked unfriendly service as a cause for taking their business elsewhere. Companies that build experiences aimed to fulfill this human desire will develop strong relationships with individuals for sustained engagement.
Humans want a supportive dialogue.
Consumers want to be able to access and digest information about a potential purchase in a meaningful timeframe. They want to explain their needs, explore options on their terms, and ask questions without feeling pressured or rushed.
This supportive experience requires the trifecta of service: knowledge, availability, and speed. Consumers value information being available; they want to ask as many questions as necessary without feeling like a burden, and receive answers instantaneously. This experience opens the door for repeat engagement.
Humans want to feel heard.
It is standard practice for companies to solicit feedback from customers. There are a myriad of ways to measure and collect customer satisfaction data. But what consumers want is an experience that is adapted to their feedback.
Consumers want to be able to suggest additions and exclusions, which could be content, communication, or services. There needs to be a two-way digital dialogue where consumers are aware of, and can control, elements of the experience they are receiving.
Humans want to know that you respect their boundaries.
Consumers are struggling to decide between privacy and personalization. For example, consumers like personalized messages apologizing for a poor in-store experience, but they don’t like when companies track their physical location to send them targeted advertisements. Consumers expect companies to understand their needs, but they feel uncomfortable with how some companies use their personal information (Salesforce 2018). How can this be?
The truth is consumers don’t believe companies have their best interest at heart. In order to enhance the customer experience companies need to invest in building trust. Trust is a complex dimension of CX and should be considered when designing a new experience or enhancing an existing journey (Read about Designing for Trust in Digital Banking). One place companies can start making headway is by prioritizing transparency for consumers and their data. By clearly communicating how a person’s data will be collected, analyzed, and put to use, companies demonstrate their appreciation of their relationship with customers and relate to them on a human-to-human – not business-to-consumer – level. Transparency with data is one way to show consumers you value their business and respect their boundaries.
As advanced technologies continue to enhance customer experiences, companies need to ensure that the experience aims to fulfill these four human desires. Ultimately, companies will know they have succeeded if their consumer base feels liked, supported, heard, and respected in a digital environment. In other words, if the experience makes them feel human.