There’s a trendy coffee shop near my house, with terrific coffee and a friendly owner. Nevertheless, I go to Starbucks because it offers mobile ordering so I can request my drink and pay ahead without waiting in line while holding my 2-year-old.
In today’s digital economy, consumers now tend to compare companies less against competitors and more to their sense of what constitutes an ideal experience. If your business isn’t providing that, good luck. There’s another one out there that does or will soon.
Every company with a clue (and a future) understands that digitally delighting customers and winning them over on an emotional level are the modern keys to success. What a far cry from the non-customer-facing factors that helped differentiate companies in the old economy.
Putting customer experience at the center of everything may seem obvious, but making it a reality requires a strategic approach to ensure strong, consistent execution. As you draft your strategy, keep these four pieces of advice in mind.
Embrace Technology To Digitize The Customer Journey
Plain and simple, companies these days compete on customer experience. Digitization has created an entirely new dynamic where companies are competing against a customer’s best experience ever—and the best experience wins.
I use the mobile payment service Venmo. As far as I can tell, Venmo’s functionality isn’t a whole lot different from more established payment services; it just created a better mousetrap with a simple-to-use phone app, social media features, and an appealing cash register sound.
Companies need to examine every touch point with customers and see what has the potential to spell the difference between a good and a great experience.
Build A Customer Experience-Obsessed Organization
It can be surprisingly difficult for businesses to put themselves in the shoes of all of their different customers. It can be easy to become internally focused so that, say, a new app feature that may seem valuable to those inside the company doesn’t appear to users to solve any problem and is just clutter.
Businesses need to develop a Golden Rule: “Do unto customers as they would actually like done to them,” then rigorously enforce it in the company’s culture and day-to-day operations. They must instill a mindset of true empathy with the customer, looking at every single aspect from every conceivable customer experience angle.
Take, for example, online music and audio gear retailer Sweetwater. The company regularly wins industry awards for its meticulous customer service, including assigning every customer a “client amazement specialist” who helps with orders, follows up, handles any issues, and in general aims to make it easy and comfortable for the customer to buy from Sweetwater again and again. The result? While many music retailers struggle, Sweetwater recently announced a $76 million, 1,000-employee expansion.
Personalize All Customer Interactions
Two decades ago, consultants Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review in which they said any business in any industry can create “a memorable event” for customers that exists “on an emotional, physical, intellectual, or even spiritual level.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same. A personalized, immersive customer experience is the way to get there, and it’s what customers crave. They don’t want to feel like a number, that they’re merely spokes in a brand’s wheel, rarely recognized as individuals.
Apple is a company renowned for its strategy of carefully managing each touch point of the customer journey so customers feel valued. As Steve Jobs once said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.”
Create A Seamless Experience Across Channels
Regardless of the channel a customer uses to reach out to a company, it must be an easy and seamless experience. Conversely, companies must recognize that a poor customer interaction on any channel is a costly mistake and take a holistic view of the customer experience.
It’s crucial for businesses to remember that the journey may start with mobile, but it doesn’t necessarily end there. Call centers, brick-and-mortar presences, what have you, are all part of the mix.
A company that uniquely understands this is the online vehicle marketplace Autotrader. According to the company, 83% of consumers perform research and some buying steps online, but 89% want to go to a dealership to complete the deal. Autotrader has set up a system that starts the process online. Once a shopper has chosen a vehicle, the person can calculate a monthly payment, get a trade-in value, and secure financing before entering the dealership. Only then will the consumer go to the dealership to take a test drive and execute the paperwork.
By following these four steps, businesses can thrive in the new app-driven, digital world. Embracing the experience economy is more vital than ever.