Wondering why it’s harder to score a sale and keep customers coming back for more these days? Buyer behavior has changed, and companies that fail to change with it will see their profits drop in the months and years ahead. On the plus side, upgrading your customers’ experience could amount to the most affordable and effective marketing you’ve ever done, helping you leapfrog competitors in 2018.
Customer experience as a revenue builder
As it happens, the customer experience now sways more buying decisions than price, quality, functionality or any other factors, say researchers. It’s also “the only truly durable competitive advantage,” says Jake Sorofman, former research VP for Gartner. Sorofman’s assessment lines up with scads of new customer studies, all echoing the same conclusion: Customer experience is now your most important brand attribute, and your company’s financial health hinges on it.
Already, nine out of 10 buyers say they’ll pay more for a better experience, reports Walker, and Gartner predicts half of all organizations are investing in customer experience initiatives this year. To be clear, we’re talking about making your buyer/user experience as easy as can be, removing tripping points — anything that could trigger delays, confusion, frustration or discomfort — and looking for ways to delight customers at every turn.
Last year, Salesforce surveyed more than 7,000 consumers and business buyers for its State of the Connected Customer Report. Respondents reported they want every interaction with vendors to be connected, relevant and convenient, delivering the near-instant gratification they’ve experienced with online shopping and social media.
“If businesses don’t evolve into this new [experience] era, they may find themselves on the wrong side of history,” caution Robert Rose and Carla Johnson, authors of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing.
How ‘bout some specifics?
Some of the ways your peers are upgrading their customers’ experience include:
Want to delight customers? Enable them to interact with you across multiple channels — online, offline, mobile, in person, social media, and more. Researchers at Aberdeen say companies with strong multi-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak multi-channel strategies.
Who wants to call customer support and listen to Kenny G for 20 minutes while holding for their turn to speak with a human? Not many: Seven out of 10 customers say they want self-service options so they can easily resolve issues, reports Salesforce. Gartner agrees: By 2020, customers will manage 85% of the vendor relationship without interacting with a human.
Collect and act on customer feedback
It’s common sense, but not common practice. If you’re not using customer feedback to improve their experience, begin now. On that note, take advantage of evolving tech tools to automate preferences and deliver personalized experiences.
Don’t you hate hit-and-miss experiences when you’re paying for a product or service? So do your customers. In fact, 73% of them will switch vendors due to inconsistent service levels, says Salesforce.
For quick wins this quarter, think through each step your customers take before, during, and after a purchase. What are common sources of confusion or anxiety? What generates calls to your customer support team? What obstacles keep customers from completing a purchase, enjoying your product and coming back for more?
Once you have a list of tripping points, choose one you can eliminate or alleviate in the next few days. Then another, and another. Before long, your efforts will snowball into the kinds of experiences customers crave and will gladly pay a premium for.