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Customer experience (CX) leaders who are looking for a happily ever after with their customers don’t need to get down on one knee. Instead, they need to show customers they care by providing relevant interactions at every touchpoint along the customer journey.
More than 90% of the 11,000 consumers surveyed for “The state of customer experience” report said the most important attribute of a service interaction with companies they regularly engage with is to be listened to and understood. And more than 80% not only want these companies to anticipate their needs and proactively offer solutions, but they also don’t want to repeat themselves when interacting. Sounds a lot like any close relationship.
Unfortunately, these expectations often are scuttled. Instead, there’s a misalignment between what customers care about and what businesses prioritize: Globally, CX leaders are more focused on professionalism and friendliness than understanding what customers need and delivering it.
Companies that do get personal will feel the customer love.
More than half of consumers appreciate it when a business tracks their purchases to anticipate their needs. And 80% of consumers will recommend and buy more, more often, from companies that consistently personalized their interactions.
Like any relationship, building loyalty and long-term commitment requires empathy — not just niceties and supportive conversation. Companies also must put themselves in their customers’ shoes to understand what they need and expect — and then provide it.
Companies that long for that true customer love must prioritize CX. This includes having the data, technology and skilled staff in place to listen to and understand their customers — wooing them and cultivating ongoing loyalty. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
One of the most effective ways to place empathy at the heart of every interaction is to leverage the power of your data.
While data privacy is still a sensitive area, consumers feel positively about data collection that enhances their service; two out of three consumers say they receive better service from companies that collect their data. And nearly half of respondents feel more connected to companies that remember them. Still, only 18% feel uncomfortable about a company’s use of data.
If people are willing to share their information in exchange for a better experience, CX teams need the right tools to convert that data into exceptional interactions — whether self-service or agent-assisted and preferably in real time. And because more than half of consumers appreciate when companies retain their purchase history for future personalization, ideally, that data-led experience should be personalized.
The through line is clear: Having the right tools to collect the right data to simplify and personalize interactions makes customers feel listened to. And it’s a first step of empathy on the road to loyalty.
However, regardless of what processes you use to get closer to customers, those processes must be stress-free and customer-centric — not business-centric. That means meeting customers where they already are and prefer to be. Often, this is on smartphones and digital channels.
When asked what the top challenges are to implementing a better customer experience, the most frequent response and foremost concern for 39% of CX leaders was “maintaining quality of service while operating aging technology.” The limitations of existing platforms and processes were recently exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, as businesses scrambled to scale quickly, develop new channels and services, and implement remote working — herculean efforts when decades-old, legacy technology constrains a company.
One way to deliver the seamless, relevant customer experience people now expect is using cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and digital technologies that guarantee you can bridge silos, use data in real time and be agile.
CX leaders say the greatest benefits of moving to the cloud are gathering insights across channels and adding new features more quickly. Both factors are essential to the exceptional digital experiences that cultivate the empathic processes and staff needed to foster loyalty.
Moving your tech stack to the cloud is table stakes in a CX game that’s fast becoming the main differentiator between competitors. But behind any suite of digital tools are real people operating them, CX staff who are ostensibly a brand’s frontline ambassadors.
There’s a direct relationship between employees, the tools they use to perform their jobs and customer satisfaction. An unsupported staff is a disengaged staff. And without the tools to get the job done properly, they’ll feel unappreciated and frustrated as they face a mounting workload — a situation ripe for declining morale and poor customer service.
Speaking to this, 39% of business leaders noted that “maintaining staff engagement and service quality” was as challenging to their CX functions as aging technology — citing the two as their biggest obstacles to delivering a superior customer experience.
But with the right tools in hand, staff are invigorated to deliver the loyalty-building empathetic experiences customers crave; for example, a platform that instantly transfers customer data across channels lets CX employees see interaction history and provides them with the context to enhance and personalize interactions. And having the technology to route a customer to the employee who’s most skilled to address their issue ensures customers feel understood.
With data, AI and cloud-based tools, as well as with training to deploy them, agents are supported to handle complex customer problems. Providing your staff with tools that enhance their working experience will also enhance CX.
Nearly two-thirds of consumers surveyed say a company is only as good as its customer service. Still, there’s a considerable gap to close, as one in three believes dealing with customer service is always a hassle. A CX strategy built to listen to and understand what customers want and are trying to achieve becomes cornerstone of not just exceptional interactions but also repeat and long-term business.
As with any relationship, building a solid foundation requires an investment of time and resources. In particular, building customer relationships requires relevant data and the right set of digital tools that empower CX staff to dedicate themselves to creating empathetic customer experiences.
Meet customer needs and expectations and you’ll see improvements in engagement, loyalty, and the top and bottom lines. Show customers some love and they’ll return it tenfold.
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