Customer experience is talked about often - but very rarely nailed. As consumers become more and more hardened to brand marketing and crave more genuine engagement with brand communications it becomes even more difficult to please the customer. So what has changed over the past few years, and what must brands with an online presence commit to, to deliver great customer experience? Here we look into these questions and also note the most common mistakes brands make, which lead to negative customer experience in a bid to help you avoid such pitfalls.

The biggest change and therefore challenge we have identified over the past five years for brands has been the demand from customers to have 24-hour access to brands. Consumers now seem to expect a real time, 'always on' response to their queries, thanks to the multiple engagement channels a brand must now provide and actively monitor in order to satisfy a basic standard.

An enquiry email and phone number simply doesn’t cut it these days. Customers will find a way through a basic internet search and if they don't get satisfaction they will vent their frustration wherever they think it will hurt the most, be it high visibility social media channels like twitter or an inconvenient bad App Store review. Reputation management will become more and more important for brands and equally just as difficult to manage as the digital engagement opportunities grow.

Playing the game

To deliver great customer experience, brands must commit to understanding their customers better. They must give them what they want - attention.

It’s essential to understand what the fundamentals are that customers want and to then work out how they can be delivered really well. The biggest recent trend has been a shift to optimising the foundations of the digital product - stripping back the digital 'noise' and delivering change in increments rather than constant reinvention.

Truly great digital executions always focus on the basics and avoid the controversy of a diluted experience driven by budget limitations. Don't worry about the edge cases, offer an opportunity for them to get in touch rather than building the experience around a minority. A Minimal Viable Product (MVP) launch is the current buzzword for what is essentially a tough process - working out what to take out rather than the easy route of adding more in. A client of mine used a great phrase - we want to avoid creating "a digital cupboard under the stairs" where all the department requests no one wants to turn down get delivered in a badly thought through, confused strategy.

Dangerous ground

The most common mistake brands make which lead to a negative customer experience generally involves not understanding the customer journey and the messaging hierarchy. It's amazing the number of times brands cannot understand why conversion rates have dropped when over a period of time every message they want to push ends up on the homepage.

A great exercise with a legacy site is to count up the potential calls to action a customer is expected to navigate. Choice is great but ultimately creates inertia. Digital platforms require clear journeys delivered in bite size chunks. Don't try and cross sell to a customer before you've made the first sale - leave that until you've sealed the deal!

The second biggest mistake is committing to a platform they cannot actively support - this happens all the time with social media. There is no point in blanketing your website with a hundred social media icons if you only ever monitor Facebook. Do your research well and understand what your customers are most likely to use - then make a long-term commitment to support that platform well. It takes dedication, bright people and ultimately budget.

 

By Dom Howe, client services director at Bolser


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