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Being Customer-Centric Is a Requirement, Not an Option

Best of ICMI Articles in 2020 - #3 

Albert Einstein once said, “The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” Wise words. When it comes to evolving customer expectations, companies cannot meet the needs of customers today with what worked in the past.

A decade ago, customers expected decent service at a fair price. They also were more accustomed to brick and mortar stores, using a landline to call for support, waiting for answers, and staying loyal to a brand; they stayed loyal not because they loved the brand so much as they dreaded the hassle and time to switch to another company. Just as importantly as all of this, most customers did not grow up with cell phones in their back pocket.

Today, customers expect proactive and personalized service, companies to communicate with them via their channel of choice, and a timely response to their concerns - we’re sometimes talking seconds on this last point. All in all, they want to feel known, heard, and valued.

Further, customers are no longer comparing customer service standards within an industry as much as comparing companies to the best customer experiences they’ve ever had. And, when your customers connect with your company, regardless of the channel or department, they see you as one frictionless company. Keeping pace with rapidly changing expectations is essential to the success of your business.

This article will explore three key topics facing customer experience (CX) in 2020, including:

  • Prioritizing expectations
  • Knowing your audience
  • Exchanging tackiness for stickiness

Prioritizing Customers’ Expectations Is No Longer a Choice

In The Customer of the Future, Blake Morgan, CX futurist, writes, “Amazing customer experiences happen when customers have to do very little work...companies can create seamless conversations across the entire customer journey, pulling everything together to create a better experience for the customer.” Without the expected, seamless, and easy experience, the bottom line suffers, both in the short and long term.

In the short term, poor customer service causes consumers to abandon purchases they intended to make. Those abandoned purchases translate to $75 billion in lost sales each year. A negative experience also propels your customers to your competitors. More, social media allows your customers to share their experiences with the world in a matter of minutes, for good or for ill.

Generational expectations, technology advancements, and the increased pace of life all feed into the need to be customer-centric and the need to prioritize customer expectations. Each interaction influences the customer experience and sways brand perception.

Know Who Holds the Purse Strings

It’s time to stop talking about millennials – or if you’re a millennial, it’s time for the attention to finally shift – because Generation Z is entering the marketplace with a unique set of expectations and characteristics.

This generation, ranging from age 4 to 24, is larger than the Baby Boomer or Millennial groups and has a significant influence on their parents’ buying habits. This generation is native to the on-demand economy, and technology is a way of life for them. Multiplying the on-demand nature is the immediacy of communication via text and social media. This overall environment has cultivated a demanding customer who expects little or no wait time for goods and services.

Generation Z, even more than millennials, expects an efficient, simple, and fast consumer experience because they know nothing less. This includes the ability to engage with companies via online chat and texting. In fact, a quick, omnichannel experience is not a nice thing to have; it’s an expectation.

Mark Mathews, VP of research development and industry analysis at the National Retail Foundation said, “They really expect things to be frictionless. Their world is one of immediacy and convenience, and they want their interactions with businesses to be just as seamless.” This expectation raises the bar and requires companies to invest in solutions to provide that ‘frictionless’ customer experience. Make sure your company is investing in the proper technology solutions to keep up.

Exchanging Tackiness for Stickiness

Technology’s advancements are exponentially increasing, so much so that technology from a decade ago is obsolete and largely incapable of delivering on the customer expectations of today. Today, customers want to communicate with a company in the way they prefer, and they don’t want to repeat themselves if they have to switch from one representative or channel to another.

To deliver on customer expectations, provide a high level of customer service, and improve contact center service levels, companies need their business strategies to reflect digital priorities, including omnichannel capabilities. Customer service can be your company’s biggest competitive advantage.

A holistic digital strategy should consider channel stickiness. Channel stickiness is about building a channel to serve the customer need, so they don’t have to seek out another channel. In The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty, Matt Dixon found, “nearly 58%  of all inbound calls are from customers who were just on the company’s website, in many cases trying unsuccessfully to solve their issue.” By increasing channel stickiness, a company can increase channel effectiveness, gain efficiencies, and build rapport with customers.

Ending Friction, Churn, and This Article

Successful companies make it a strategic priority to retain customers because they know retention has a significant impact on their bottom line. When considering a company’s assets and liabilities, customers should be viewed as the greatest asset, and diligent work and time should be dedicated to making sure losing customers doesn’t hold much weight on the liability side of the balance sheet.

In a world of abundant (and sometimes overwhelming) choice, customers are empowered to select or ignore brands easier than ever and the customer’s experience with a company is what most defines the company’s brand. A customer’s experience is his or her perception of and sentiment toward your brand, and this feeling trumps price and product. Top-performing companies take customer experience to heart, and are much more likely than competitors to have a customer-centric journey with a seamless experience.

Customers expect a seamless, fast, and personalized experience. Roger Dooley, author of Friction, says it best: “Now, put on your friction goggles, grab your can of metaphorical WD-40, and eliminate some friction!”

Topics: Customer Experience, Culture And Engagement, Strategy