Customer experience (CX) became the top brand differentiator in 2018, outpacing price, product quality and everything else. Businesses that offer a superior and differentiated CX have the opportunity to become and sustain market leadership. Those that do not prioritize customer service will struggle to compete effectively in this “experience” economy. One interesting data point that supports this is from ZK Research where it found that, in 2020, two-thirds of millennials admitted changing loyalties to a brand becomes a single bad experience.
The rise in importance of customer experience hasn’t been lost on companies. In interviews with company leaders, everyone from technologists to marketers to sales leaders have put customer experience at the top of their priority list. However, CX today isn’t what it was only a year ago. The pandemic changed more than the way we work. It changed everything — from the way we shop, exercise, travel, entertain and almost everything else in our lives.
Factors that will define a new era of CX
Business success moving forward requires an understanding of what CX looks like in the post-pandemic era. Below are the top six factors that will define a new era of customer experience.
- Maximize the mobile experience. The shift to mobile is the biggest change many organizations will have gone through since the pandemic began. A year ago, mobile was an optional method of interacting with customers. Now, because of social-distancing requirements, it’s the only way we can interact with some organizations and it’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Mobile provides many benefits, such as the ability to tap into location services, push notifications, a simplified experience and other factors. The reality is most organizations have barely tapped into harnessing mobile data. Moving forward, companies should think about CX being mobile-first.
- Eliminate data silos. There’s an axiom in data sciences that states, “good data leads to good insights”. A corollary to this is also that partial data leads to fragmented insights and that’s what most companies are dealing with today. Businesses are generated more data than ever before but most of it exists in silos. This can cause companies to have blind spots in their analysis and make business decisions that aren’t based on the complete picture. The only way to have a complete, holistic view of customer experience is to create a single data set comprising everything from the contact center, sales information, website data, marketing information and anything else that touches the customer.
- Use the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence. When it comes to digital transformation, there’s no such thing as moving slow. The fact is that slow decision-making equates to a broken business and will cause a company to fail faster than you can say “What happened to Toys R Us?” Also, the difference between being a market leader and a laggard is minuscule today. Finding the right insights today is akin not just to finding a needle in a haystack but rather a single needle in a stack of needles. The reality is that people, even the best data scientists, can’t work fast enough to analyze the massive amounts of data being generated today. Machine learning and artificial are the only ways of finding the “a-ha’s” in the data quickly and accurately.
- Be predictive, not reactive. CX has historically been reactive in nature. A customer calls into a call center, is upset and good companies quickly implement a change. Today, customer preferences, buying habits and loyalties change overnight, making it critical for businesses to not just react to customer sentiment but also predict what’s next. This could include the use of social channels, buying patterns or even changes that need to be made to the website. The data is there; businesses just need to think differently and be willing to disrupt themselves.
- Make CX improvement part of the company culture. While there may be a number of departments inside the organization that care about CX improvement, the reality is, it’s something that must be driven from executive leadership down. This is no longer something that’s the mission of one or two departments but something the company as a whole needs to embrace. Making it part of the company mission ensures everyone in the company has a focus on it. Also, company leadership can ensure there’s consistency in CX initiatives, so that one department isn’t overspending while another is underfunding.
- Play the game and not the score. It’s critical that a company sets a vision for CX and then puts a plan in place to execute it. It’s equally important to not be distracted by every move the competition makes. Trying to react to every competitor is akin to focusing on the score in a sports competition and can cause the organizations to make bad decisions. Winning in the area of CX requires a dedication to the corporate mission with changes coming with major market inflections as opposed to trying to make too many changes too quickly.
The pandemic has had a profound impact on how businesses deal with customers, and these changes are here to stay. Organizations that follow the above steps will be set up for long-term success. If you would like to learn more about CX in the post-pandemic era, please join me on an upcoming webinar – “The Roaring 20s: Defining a New Era of Customer Experience.” I’ll be joined by Contentsquare, and we will discuss the above and much more.
Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions. Kerravala is considered one of the top 10 IT analysts in the world by Apollo Research, which evaluated 3,960 technology analysts and their individual press coverage metrics.