Walmart founder Sam Walton famously said: “There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the Chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
In a time of skyrocketing competition and globalization, focusing on delivering an outstanding customer experience has become perhaps the best way for businesses to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.
Increasingly, marketing experts talk about the need to offer a seamless customer experience. Communication plays a central part in this. Zendesk research suggests that an overwhelming 87% of customers think brands need to put more effort into providing a seamless experience, with 90% of customers saying they expect consistent interactions across channels. In this article, we’ll show you how, with examples, tips and tricks to get started.
Let’s start with the basics…
What is a seamless customer experience?
In short, it’s a methodology that allows customers to find, interact and engage with a business across a variety of different touchpoints and channels – but, importantly, all these channels feed into one, consolidated, single source of truth.
From multi-channel to seamless customer experience!
There was a time when the customer journey used to run along a very neat and tidy line – a ‘single path.’ Customers would most likely be engaged by some sort of outbound marketing campaign – maybe an advertisement on the radio, or in the local newspaper – and their customer journey would take them to a physical, in-store environment where they’d buy, or not buy. That would pretty much be the end of it.
However, the 21st century has been a period of profound change. New, exciting technologies, platforms and communication types (which we’ll group to call ‘channels’) have emerged at a dizzying pace. Social media; email; mobile; chat apps, live chat, chatbots and dozens more. Research suggests that, whereas 15 years ago the average consumer typically used two touch-points when buying an item and only 7% regularly used more than four, today’s consumers use an average of almost six touch-points with nearly 50% regularly using more than four.
These channels have created a complex, connected ecosystem for business/customer interaction. Customers use these channels in their own ways, in no particular order – completely unique to their preferences. Unsurprisingly, plotting the customer journey has, therefore, become infinitely more challenging!
Businesses initially adapted to these new platforms with a new focus on ‘multi-channel.’ In simple terms, this meant having a presence across a number of different channels.
Multi-channel might be as simple as having an email address, a website, a phone number, and a physical store. All of these are potential channels for your customer to reach you, and vice-versa. But the problem is, they don’t really talk to each other. They exist in data silos, which can be a huge barrier to seamless customer experience. When different strategies are employed for different channels, you end up with fragmented customer profiles. You know less about each customer profile, which makes it harder to create personalized experiences. The cost of this can be significant when you consider that 40% of customers say they’ve spent more than they planned to because the experience was personalized.
And – to put it bluntly – customers don’t consciously think about ‘channels.’ They just expect their experience to be consistent across all of them, at every stage of their journey.
So thinking in terms of ‘multi-channel’ doesn’t go far enough. In fact, splitting campaigns and communication across your channels is actually the opposite of what you need to be doing.
Instead, you need to focus on ‘connecting’ the customer experience. This means making all communications part of one, cohesive experience with total consistency and flexibility for the customer. Making sure that data about customer preferences and behaviors is stored in one central place, or easily connected, so it can be fully utilized to personalize the approach, and ensuring that each channel is used to leverage its benefits for maximum success.
5 steps to a seamless customer experience
Here are some simple ways to start implementing a seamless customer experience in your business in 2019:
1. Connected channels
We’ve touched on it already, but your customers don’t think in terms of channels. When your channels don’t communicate with each other, and info falls between the gaps, it can be incredibly frustrating for the customer. This means, more than ever, you should have a single interface for customer communication which covers all communication channels–and enables omnichannel communication–based on your customers’ preferred channels in a specific situation.
This allows you to track communication across all channels to ensure an uninterrupted experience. This is especially important in situations where customers are seeking support.
2. Customer profiles
The better you know your customer, the more valuable, conversational and authentic your communication can become. Every possible nugget of data and information should be stored and connected in one place to create a customer profile and an amazing customer journey.
Having one single source of truth about each of your customers gives you the insight you need to make your messaging conversational.
3. Tracking and analyzing customer behavior
Communication, obviously, isn’t a one-way street. It’s important to make sure all interaction with your customers is tracked and analyzed, so that you can communicate with them at the right time and in the right context.
4. Collecting feedback from customers
Some of your most valuable conversations will be instigated by the customer. We’ll show you some examples later in the article but it’s increasingly easy to reach out to your customers for feedback. This lets you gauge and measure the customer experience – giving you valuable feedback to optimize your service offering. But, equally, it sends a powerful message to your customers: that you care about their experience and opinions, and are willing to act upon their input.
5. The right technology
It’s increasingly important to look for a messaging solution that supports all the channels your customer use, easily connects with your customer base, is easy to manage and provides data and analytics for creating actionable insights.
Seamless customer experience in action
Let’s take a look at how the seamless customer experience might look in action in the eCommerce industry.
In eCommerce, providing a seamless customer experience from end-to-end is really important. This extends from knowing enough about the customer to offer them the right products, through to offering great transparency and flexibility during the delivery process.
It all depends on making sure that all data about the customer is connected, and available on any channel at any moment.
So, you let them engage with you across the channels they choose.
You can welcome and onboard them effectively on their preferred channels with personalized messages which invite them to stay engaged.
You can reduce cart abandonment with messages or communications designed to bring them back to your store, in a personalized, dynamic way. It feels like a true-value add for the customer – a reminder, rather than an interruption. For more ideas on how to reduce cart abandonment check out our 4 Alternative Ways to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment blog post.
If an item is out of stock, the customer can ask to receive a notification when it’s available. When the item is back in stock, the customer receives a highly personalized message, over their preferred channel. Again, for the customer, this all feels like a high-touch, personalized experience with a highly competent business that knows and cares about them.
Now, let’s say they go ahead and buy. ‘Job done,’ right? Wrong!
To create a customer experience that stands out you should provide help and keep them informed till the end of their journey.
This includes delivery status updates and invitations to make changes where required.
As a matter of fact, changes can be made almost to the last minute. Everything is within the control of the customer, up to the last mile of delivery.
And then there’s more; checking the customer received the order…
…and requests for feedback, which is so important to so many types of business. It may be as simple as asking the customer to evaluate the experience on a scale of 1 to 10, with different actions to be taken depending on the score they provide.
If the customer had a bad experience and replies with a ‘1’ or ‘2’ – you can ask them why – then, take some remedial action based on their response, like a discount, partial refund or some other goodwill gesture. You might even want to call to find out more and apologize.
Equally, if everything went great and your customer is super-happy, you can provide some kind of positive followup – like us on Facebook, write a product review, tell a friend, sign up for a loyalty card!
And this information is all recorded on the customer profile so we know to pitch our marketing correctly in the future.
Make your customer experience seamless
2019 is set to be a competitive year for eCommerce, and our message is simple: making your customer experience seamless is a mission-critical component to building a base of happy customers.
If you enjoyed this article, check out Infobip’s Ultimate Guide on Messaging – a free, comprehensive guide to supercharging your business with customer messaging.