It is becoming increasingly difficult for organisations to differentiate their commoditised products from the competition, and even offering additional minor features no longer helps secure a sale, according to Ingrid Froelich of SDL Web Content Management Solutions, who here explains how marketers can succeed with a comprehensive customer experience strategy.
Organisations are now seeing the need to differentiate through customer experience as key to gaining customer loyalty and building reputation. For an organisation, to truly prioritise customer experience as a value or vision, involves more than just the idea. It needs to become central to decision making, processes and inter-departmental communication. This is because the customer experience comprises every interaction a customer has with your brand-from advertisement to transaction, from your website to a review on a 3rd party site, from the phone call with customer support to an app on their mobile.
The cross-channel and cross-media complexity not only requires a customer interaction strategy, but a fundamental organisational belief that puts customers at the heart of every action, as a means of driving sales and loyalty.
A recent Forrester report said: "To build a customer-centric business, it's imperative that customer understanding doesn't become another siloed activity. While it's appropriate for a central customer experience team to manage repositories for customer insights and retain mastery of the skills necessary to conduct effective customer understanding initiatives, successful efforts are shared services."
But the question remains: how can organisations best fulfil customer expectations? A customer wants to buy a car, rent a carpet cleaner, learn more about their new camera, participate in a community that shares their passion for desserts, and go to the movies. Each of these scenarios presents great potential to engage customers by providing an excellent experience.
A customer experience strategy is born out of a culture in which the customer experience lies at the centre of all processes. Employees need to be engaged with information about who their customers are and what they want and need. This includes not only customer-facing employees but also those who build things that affect the customer experience.
Part of this is using customer information to transform passive data into actionable insight. This includes understanding the customer journey to determine what, where, when and how they buy. When you combine this with demographic information, lifestyle data and transaction data, your organisation becomes much more equipped to engage with customers by appreciating their preferences.
As all marketers know, a unified voice and approach is vital to a strong brand. Because it is the culmination of every experience, it pulls together product experience, website interaction, advertisement, the purchase process, the delivery process, customer support and more. All of this creates a powerful brand identity. There is tremendous power in understanding the customer associations with brand and letting this permeate every part of the brand experience.
As the economist John Kay said: "I am irresistible, I say, as I put on my designer fragrance. I am a merchant banker, I say, as I climb out of my BMW: I am a juvenile lout, I say, as I down a glass of extra strong lager: I am handsome, I say, as I don my Levi jeans."
The value lies in relevance
You need to fully understand what customers want to do. Where do they want to do it? What channels are they engaged in? Which channels deliver value to my customer at this point in time and in this location? And finally, how do I create a differentiating value for my customer?
Creating customer knowledge and alertness throughout your organisation, partner network and stakeholder community connects your internal activities with your customers' experiences. The customer-centric organisation can then support customers by personalising communication, offers and services by aligning activity with even a customers' subconscious wish list.
Equipped with accurate customer insight, marketing activities can be personalised to provide added value that increases their belief in your organisation and encourage long-term loyalty. You can provide points programmes and bonuses, based on their activities and you'll also be able to respect your customers' communications preferences.
Being customer centric means that you'll understand customer-purchasing patterns and be able to offer them similar or complimentary offerings. You can employ engagement channels to create a consistent experience that matches a customer's stage in the buying cycle, presenting the right content via web, mobile, print and tablet. And, crucially, you will be able to quickly respond to their requests for support and resolve their issues.