A Successful Customer Experience Strategy Means Keeping it Consistent
Sam travels often for business. On his last trip to London, he stayed at the Lord Rochester Hotel, since his tried-and-trusted Hotel Miranda Grand was overbooked. The receptionist at the Lord Rochester upgraded his room, comped him for food and spa services, and generally treated him like royalty. On his next visit to London, he insisted on being put up – along with his entire team – at the Rochester. However, this time he was given a standard room, no little extras and was treated as a “regular” guest. Was this evidence of a successful customer experience strategy? Will Sam be back?
Delivering a consistent customer experience is imperative for companies that want to drive loyalty. Inconsistent interactions confuse customers and can damage the brand’s reputation. This critical element of any CX strategy should be top of mind for everyone from the C-suite to frontline personnel. This article underscores the importance of creating a streamlined and reliable customer experience and explains several technological approaches that can help deliver it.
Inconsistent experiences do serious damage
With the increasing number of customer touchpoints – email, ecommerce sites, self-service channels, social media, and of course physical locations and phone-based service – companies have more opportunities than ever to interact with their customers. In fact, 95% of customers use three or more channels to connect with a company in a single service interaction. While these connections can deepen the customer experience through provide opportunities for building relationships, they also present risks. Every interaction has the potential to delight the customer – raising their expectations – or disappoint them, lowering satisfaction and increasing the likelihood of churn.
Consumers generally don’t like surprises, with 60% of customers reporting a willingness to churn due to inconsistent experiences. That’s exactly why companies must strive to make sure all touchpoints are harmonized in terms of content, messaging and tone of voice, including marketing communications and customer service scripts, at every milestone along the customer journey. When Sales renews a service contract, Marketing must be made aware of the transaction so their messaging can be tailored appropriately. If Customer Service has not yet resolved a customer’s issue, a planned upsell should be delayed. If Sam was a VIP once, he should be a VIP next time too.
Elements of a consistent customer experience strategy
Crafting a consistent customer experience strategy goes way beyond ensuring that Housekeeping always leaves mints on a customer’s pillow, or that Customer Service is always generous in extending the product return window. It means making the customer feel confident that they will get what they expect during every interaction.
Customer journey consistency: Customers expect a clear path to a successful and satisfying experience right along the journey – presale, at the point of purchase, and throughout post-sale service. Any incongruous interaction can spoil the overall experience. For example, imagine that you’ve recently subscribed to a new lawn service. The onboarding meeting went well, the gardeners showed up on time, and your lawn has never looked better. However, when the bill comes, there is an error, one that is decidedly NOT in your favor. Even if Customer Service apologies and issues a new bill immediately, an otherwise perfect customer experience has been ruined.
Or, imagine you’ve researched smart TVs for months and have finally chosen the right one. The ordering process is smooth, the package arrives on time, and everything is intact. However, the installation instructions are so complicated that the TV sits idle for a week until you have the time and energy to call Customer Service for help. Was that a good customer experience?
Emotional consistency: Consistency builds trust. Customers trust banks that are in the top quartile of delivering consistent customer journeys 30% more than banks in the bottom quartile. Meanwhile, 51% of customers will believe positive information about a company they trust after hearing it just once or twice, while only 15% will believe positive information about a company they distrust after hearing it the same number of times. They are also, naturally, more likely to disseminate positive word-of-mouth about the company they trust. For example, Astroflash Telecom consistently calls its customers to offer them better deals when they become available, while Chronos Telecom offers better deals only when customers request them. Which company is more likely to win repeat business?
Channel consistency: With so customer touchpoints and channels, seamless omnichannel experiences allowing customers to move back and forth from one device to another are vital. Customers want to receive service anywhere, at any time, and any which way they like: web, voice, chat, messaging, social media, video or email. However, it is only when the enterprise delivers an integrated and seamless experience across all channels that it can achieve true consistency.
Take Disney, which leads the way with its omnichannel visitor experience. Starting with a robust and mobile-responsive website, customers seamlessly transition to the travel-planning site, as well as the My Disney Experience tool. Once inside the park, a mobile app helps locate the attractions, provides estimated wait times, and even integrates with the Fast Pass VIP option. Meanwhile, the Magic Band device acts as a hotel room key, photo storage device, and a food ordering tool. It’s hard to be more consistent than that.
Technology as the driver
Achieving true consistency might seem like a lot of work, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. A range of readily available technologies can make the customer experience as frictionless as possible.
Data analytics: 53% of executives are not yet treating data as a business asset and 52% admit that they are not competing on data and analytics. But implementing the right tools to help businesses understand their data and derive actionable insights is key to providing a consistent CX. The use of AI technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing can help analyze customer sentiment and customer feedback at scale, enabling enterprises to find that sweet spot every single time through a consistent customer experience strategy.
AI-based personalization: With 73% of consumers choosing to do business with brands that take into account their personal information and 86% of customers stating that personalization plays a role in their decisions, the ability to treat customers as individuals is a win-win. AI is quickly becoming a priority for companies to boost their CX at scale by providing customers with a consistent and memorable personalized experience. These tools include speech analytics that monitor customer emotions in real time, text analytics for email, messaging, and social media, and predictive analytics, making it possible to apply past solutions to upcoming problems by reviewing performance in areas as diverse as call volume, service level, handle time, and customer satisfaction.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Automation means delivering a clear and consistent UX that takes the uncertainty and the potential for human error out of every interaction. With recent advances in artificial intelligence, augmented reality and computer vision, self-service options and agent decision support can now be taken to the next level by enabling systems to more easily understand the customer’s issue and determine the optimal path to resolution, enabling customers to address issues faster and independently. In fact, Gartner reports that improving the self-service experience is among the top three priorities for companies, and further predicts that by 2020, 85% of all customer interactions will no longer be managed by humans, and the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their partner.
Consistency throughout the journey
Every company wants to create long-lasting relationships, boost retention and increase repurchasing rates. To achieve this, enterprises must find ways to provide customers with a consistent experience through every phase of their lifetime journey. That’s why digital transformation and pan-organizational buy-in are essential when it comes to creating the consistent experiences that keep customers coming back for more.