“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile”, said Roger Staubach, the Hall of Fame Football player and former quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. This is so very relevant in business, especially in the context of having loyal and happy customers. Going the extra mile in relation to customers is not just a one-off, ad-hoc effort but is a consistent and long-term culture change that requires everyone right from the board room to front line executives to serve customers passionately.
According to Frost and Sullivan, customer experience will overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator. Social media has changed the way enterprises communicate with their customers. Creating a consistently engaging customer experience along the customer lifecycle is almost a sine qua non for any business.
Personalization of Experience: Personalization in this hyperconnected world is paramount. Customers are now connected via multiple devices including their smart phones, laptops, desktops, car entertainment system, home appliances etc. How an enterprise interacts with the customer to create personalized and consistent experiences is going to determine how the customer feels about that brand. Marketers are now focused on personalization technologies combined with analytics technologies to ensure that they profile a customer and deliver unique experiences. Having accurate and adequate data is key to ensure personalization. By leveraging AI, machine learning and deep learning, experiences could be tailor across the customer journey to ensure relevant and engaging customer experiences.
Chatbots: Chatbots allow customers to interact and get instant response without having to wait on long calls or follow up. Customers are used to instant messaging and look forward to the same ease of experience in dealing with the brands they interact with. The opportunity for conversational marketing at scale could potentially generate and convert leads, handle customer queries and complaints. Take the case of Whole Foods messenger bot which could let users search for recipes, provide recommendations based on dietary prescriptions and options for direct shopping. Or the Harper Collins chatbot that can help the user find a book based on their past favorites or literary tastes.
Chatbots could provide rates, discount offers, take bookings and close transactions. A chatbot, however, for customer complaints needs a more careful handling, or could leave the customer even more annoyed. While it could handle simple solutions for standard problems, for more complex ones, the bot could be programmed to direct to a live agent. Similarly, the bot needs to sense frustration in a conversation to then immediately direct that to a live agent.
Social: The connection between brands and customers has never been closer. Customer feedback and mentions of brands constitute about 41% of posts by millennials. Enterprises use social to connect with end customers to make a lasting impact across a customer’s journey. According to Instagram, at least 80% of its users already follow a brand on the network. While another research suggests that 89% of social media messages is ignored, the sheer power of reaching out to end users, if effectively leveraged could be used as significant brand differentiators. Enterprises are leveraging social to create better awareness of their company, culture and products in addition to converting prospects and leveraging customer reviews for driving innovations in their product build.
Omni Channel: The most successful brands today are platform agnostic and try to be as hyperlocal as possible to ensure contextual customer engagement. Marketers have adequate data on hand to decide when and what channels to engage their customers on. They tell their stories depending on the location of the customer, designing an integrated campaign that includes Out of home (OOH) with other digital channels. Successful omni channel strategies drive purchases across various points of sale to generate incremental revenues. Several in store purchases are influenced via customer engagements across multiple channels. Providing a seamless, consistent and connected experience irrespective of the channel of engagement is crucial to providing conveniences such as online / instore returns exchanges, buying online while picking up in store etc. Enabling a continued conversation irrespective of the channel is equally important – customers may be annoyed with having to start the conversation all over again if this is not the case.
Virtual reality: Marketers are working on generating revenues with this interactive, immersive technology. It is expected that by 2020, the economic impact of virtual reality likely to hit about USD 15 billion. Brands are working to provide VR experiences to their prospects and customers in the form of product demonstrations, trainings to use products, installations and self-help for issue detection or small repairs. Companies in the automotive segment are for instance providing test drive with VR.
More than anything, insights from the data coming in the form of usage patterns and heatmaps from the most clicked areas, immensely helps marketers alter the engagement to ensure that they provide customers with what they need most. With these insights, they know what excites customers most, what they like and what they dislike, to then feedback the product organization and differentiate.
All technologies may not be relevant or important for every brand. Like any investment, a due diligence would be required to understand the cost-benefits and put a plan in place. Another important aspect in execution is the way the organization is designed. Providing unified customer engagement is very difficult when technology and organizational siloes exist. Managing the change from a people, organizational and technology side requires a champion who can take this up as a project, bridge siloes and manage from all angles including from a rewards and incentives standpoint. Poor customer experience created because of siloes cause immense customer frustration, with some abandoning their journeys and / or taking their business elsewhere. Getting access to data irrespective of where it resides in the enterprise is important to fuel a more comprehensive customer engagement. Using this data to then derive insights and enable richer customer experiences will help enterprises provide their customers exactly what they need.
Customer engagement should be pervasive across the enterprise. Enterprises will need to ‘listen” and hardwire this process into their business to feedback response to their product development, quality and other teams and respond faster to customers. It is important for enterprises to understand their brand aspirations and curate a plan for inspiring, converting and keeping customer loyalty.