Successful digital transformation starts with the basics - better conversations with your customers
I have one business prediction for 2017.
Actually it’s less of a prediction and more of an opportunity.
Businesses that thrive this year will have strategies to ensure their customer engagement becomes more ‘human’.
Technology continues to drive huge impact on the ways in which we deliver great customer experience but cloud software still can’t pick up on the specific mood of a customer.
Consumers expect you to deal with them as individuals with distinct needs. For complex or big-ticket purchases they have questions that they want answered before they’re prepared to reach for their credit card. They want to know that you’re listening and treating their questions personally and as a priority.
Technology entirely unsynced from a human connection between customer and vendor will only do half the job. And doing things by halves - delivering bang-average, industry standard experiences where algorithms allow you to get it ‘almost right’ - will be the thing that renders many brands irrelevant.
Consider three separate but related statistics that tell a scary story for consumer-facing businesses.
According to a recent study by West Unified Communications poor customer experience in the UK alone costs businesses £234bn a year.
Meanwhile, Accenture contends that 66% of consumers have recently switched brands due to bad customer service. More alarming perhaps is that of that 66%, more than 80% of respondents said there was something simple their original vendor could have done to prevent them from switching.
Here’s the third statistic: the Havas Meaningful Brands survey spoke to 300,000 consumers in 34 countries in 2015 and reported that people wouldn’t care if 74% of all brands disappeared for good tomorrow.
In other words, no business has a God-given right to survive.
What’s more, if your customers, each of whom sees themselves in a segment of one according to Trendwatching’s Five Trends For 2017, can’t see you working up a sweat to perfect their personalised experience, they’re willing to put you out of business.
It’s worrying. Especially as, and this is purely my contention, most businesses haven’t defined for themselves what really good customer experience really looks like.
Many businesses who think they do know often end up finding that they haven’t been ambitious enough in defining it. Either that or businesses make the mistake of standing still while they try to figure out who should own customer experience internally and how best to execute it.
Meanwhile, customer expectations do anything but stand still. They evolve. Your customers continuously judge you against their growing expectations for what is possible. That means whatever experience you’re delivering today probably won’t be acceptable tomorrow.
All this is costing you countless revenue. If you’re anything like the industry average, 98% of your online customers leave your website without doing anything. Each one of them is a potential sale.
Why are they leaving? Why did they come to your website in the first place? What did they want to see and why didn’t they stop long enough to engage with you? Do you know?
Maybe you just didn’t make it easy enough for them to ask their particular question via your website. That question may have opened up a conversation that would have turned a visitor into your customer.
Few things are more powerful in helping chart the future of a business in such uncertain times than hearing a customer’s question.
Few things are more powerful in driving customer satisfaction than being able to respond to that question in a timely and relevant manner.
As the industry explores better customer experience there is plenty of talk about customer-centricity. Being customer-centric means building your entire business around what is best for each customer.
Most companies instead build their business processes around delivering their product as cost-effectively as possible while driving shareholder returns. Similarly their customer experience is moulded within a framework that their teams and departments find convenient to deliver.
They figure out their strategy and use technology to deliver it. This algorithm-driven customer experience is good rather than great. Such a shortfall will be enough to kill you in 2017. Consumers won’t stand for good when they’ve experienced great elsewhere.
The opportunity we all have in the coming 12 months is to make our customer experience delivery instinctive, intuitive, flexible and personal.
Successful businesses will connect with customers. Context will be everything. They’ll match each of their customer’s curiosity, commitment and concern for finding them the best deal and correcting any mistakes. In short, the best of customer experience in 2017 will feel human.
In the marketing industry we’ve spent much of the recent past years talking about digital transformation. Defining it is hard. Executing it is much, much harder.
If you don’t know where to start with your digital transformation programme then simplify.
Begin with your customers.
Go back to basics. Have more and better conversations with them. Get human.