10 Ideas to Take Your Customer Experience to the Next Level

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Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
Creating the perfect customer experience is a challenge for many of us. In recent years, we've seen many customer experience blunders. J.C. Penney, for instance, stands out as one of the most well known when it overhauled its operations without asking many customers what they wanted. The company changed the layout of nearly every store, overwhelming and losing long-time customers resulting in a 25 percent sales loss in one year.

Creating the perfect customer experience is a challenge for many of us. In recent years, we've seen many customer experience blunders.

J.C. Penney, for instance, stands out as one of the most well known when it overhauled its operations without asking many customers what they wanted. The company changed the layout of nearly every store, overwhelming and losing long-time customers resulting in a 25 percent sales loss in one year.

Lululemon is another example. CEO Chip Wilson, who, after it was revealed that the company's yoga pants were see-through, responded to reporters by remarking how some women's bodies just actually don't work for wearing Lululemon pants.
Then there was Papa John's pizza which faced a $250 million lawsuit for sending out 500,000 text messages to unwilling recipients.

Finally, there were the crop of companies like Borders which failed to see how the emergence of digital wasn't just a change in marketing but also a change in business and consumer models. Rather than see digital as a way to distribute media like Amazon did, the company only saw the Web as a marketing and sales channel.

As 2015 approaches, let's make sure we're not falling in these footsteps. Instead, let's make sure we're talking to customers about change and integrating those insights across the enterprise. Let's pay close attention to all digital channels and work to enable that true omnichannel experience. Finally, let's get our organizations on board to deliver consistent, personalized and optimal customer experiences. Here are my 10 ideas on how to elevate your customer experience across your organizations.

1. Be Proactive

Brands that provide proactive customer service and reach out to consumers when potential issues are first detected and before they escalate into full-blown problems report a more loyal customer base and show positive word of mouth.

Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, emphasizes in this article that proactive service has the power to keep consumers satisfied, strengthen loyalty, and increase revenue. For instance, financial institutions that alert customers of limited funds not only cut costs on their end, but they prove they've got the best interest of the customer at heart. By engaging in outbound notifications via an array of channels--phone, text, email, or social--brands also position themselves as content creators, for they have the opportunity to share information with both consumers and contact center agents in an effort to disseminate personalized, proactive assistance.

Thus, companies must develop a well-balanced approach that allows them to engage proactively while maintaining personalization.

2. Provide Seamless Interactions"Omnichannel" is no longer just a buzzword. Having a single customer view is the Holy Grail for marketers and customer service leaders who are working to engage customers across different channels and provide a seamless and relevant experience in each one.

But a report from Experian Data Quality reveals that many companies are struggling to enable the seamless view: Only 24 percent of the respondents said they have a single customer view.

Walgreens is one of the emerging best practices in omnichannel experimentation. The drugstore chain is correlating actual revenue to seamless interactions. The company released data last year that showed people who engaged with the brand through several channels were likely to spend more. Customers who engage with Walgreens in person, online, and via mobile apps spend six times more than those who only visit stores,
according to the company. And those who used a Walgreens app before visiting one of the stores, but not one of its websites, generated four times the sales of store-only customers.

3. Give Customers Control of Their Data
With the growing number of weekly data breaches, giving consumers some control over the data that marketers collect about them is an essential part of the customer experience. Eric Bradlow, marketing professor and chairperson of the Wharton Marketing Department at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, notes that "More people are beginning to realize that businesses are able to track them and so giving people options lets you appeal to those who care about data privacy and also those who want offers that fit their interests."

Some companies have built customer portals, or preference centers, to enable data control. Senior Writer Judith Aquinio highlights here how Michaels and The Home Depot are letting customers create profiles about their preferences and interests to receive relevant messages.

4. Collaborate on the C-Level

The CMO Council's 8th annual "State of Marketing" report polled 525 global marketers to develop an in-depth view of marketing vitality and direction worldwide. As 1to1 Media staff writer Anna Papachristos pointed out in this article, chief marketers are confident that they will meet management's revenue and market share goals for the coming year, as the economy continues to pick up pace. However, many are still struggling to obtain their desired level of influence within the executive suite.

Papachristos makes the case that by working closely with CFOs to make the case for marketing spend and CIOs to ensure marketing automation gains and ROI, CMOs are poised to build partnerships that will enhance the enterprise from the inside out. Supportive internal relationships are the backbone for outward success. Thus, within the next 12 months, both CMOs and their C-level peers must make an effort to break down the barriers that hinder collaboration as they work to build one cohesive enterprise.

5. Don't Ignore Mobile
In recent years, widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets has left businesses tasked with creating a mobile-friendly user experience, including responsive websites and location-based search engine optimization.

A recent infographic from Vision Critical highlights how companies that use tools and strategies that improve customer experience outperform companies that don't, with 84 percent of CIOs at customer-centric companies now focusing on the mobile customer experience.

It's important to ensure mobile customer experiences are optimized going forward and include functionality like geo-location-based search, the ability to seamlessly transition to live help when necessary, and the technologies to easily optimize mobile sites.

6. Test, Test, Test

It's important to develop a policy of testing every campaign and customer experience strategy that goes out the door.

The goal of testing is that instead of trying to figure out what your audience will respond to the most, you let them tell you directly. By testing varying elements to a smaller sample audience and analyzing the resulting metrics, marketers can gain a clearer understanding of how their audience will interact with their full campaigns and what works best overall, every time.

Split testing involves sending different versions of a campaign, whether via email, social media, SMS or any other medium, to a small segment of your list or to a test group and then measuring the performance of each version to determine what's most successful. By only changing one variable of your campaign during the test, such as the color or subject line, you can easily identify its direct impact in a scientific and statistically significant way. Once you've tested different versions with a small segment or test group, you can then use the best performing version for the rest of your list

7. Tap into the Power of Social
With its low barrier to entry, social media holds the power to help companies of all sizes increase engagement levels and strengthen customer relationships. But social media isn't just for marketing; it should be incorporated into your company's customer service components. Social networks help businesses enable direct contact with the customer in such a way that it improves customer conversion, maintains customer retention, and achieves long-term loyalty. To ensure adequate attention to customers, a swift response is crucial. The speed of response is what will make you stand out from the rest and give your business the competitive advantage.

According to a Forrester report commissioned by Conversocial, 33 percent of the social customer service solutions being used by those interviewed were actually selected by the customer service team, with the rest being obtained solely for marketing purposes. The study also found that 35 percent of social customer service agents have to restart the conversation with a customer agent for every single interaction because they don't have a record of the customer's conversation history.

Hertz has gotten around that by establishing a dedicated social service team to resolve customer inquiries at first contact. Hertz resolves 100 percent of its customer inquiries via social channels before the need to escalate to the contact center.

8. Redefine Customer Loyalty
Go back and review how your loyalty program did this year. What were the successes? The failures? What areas can you definitely improve in? This is the time to change the direction of your loyalty program for the year. Is there a social component? Are the awards experiential and personalized? Is your program tiered? If you repeatedly answered "no" to these questions, it's time to freshen up your loyalty strategy.

Syngenta, a 2014 Gartner & 1to1 Media CRM Excellence winner, recently re-imagined its loyalty program. The company created loyalty programs to reach each of its customer groups--Aliado OTO (OTO Ally) and Programa Mais Valor (More Value). The company aligned its people, processes, and systems across marketing, sales, products, financial, legal, IT, and other Syngenta business units to develop the program.

Now clients accrue points when they purchase products, which can be redeemed for rewards. But these rewards are not the typical branded apparel, sporting event tickets, or future purchase discounts found in most point programs. Syngenta'a loyalty rewards catapult beyond the typical vendor relationship to offer real value-added services for customers.

Syngenta tracks the program's success by measuring individual share-of-customer--the total amount sold to the client, divided by the client's financial potential. In 2013, 33 percent of OTO loyalty members redeemed $US1.8 million worth of services. And 100 percent of clients said they would recommend the services to friends and they would redeem their points for the same services again. Similarly, 30 percent of Focused members redeemed services.

9. Don't Forget the Small Data
Companies may be in constant pursuit of processes and technologies that help to integrate their Big Data, but by also embracing small data, companies can begin to create a more intimate image of the consumer and alter their strategies to meet the needs of those that bring the most value to the organization.

Small data refers to structured data, like demographics, social data, or transactional information. Jonathan Moran, senior product marketing manager for SAS Customer Intelligence, said, "Small data is where the most value lies because of the detail it provides. Marketers often prefer small data because this data helps to round out the customer profile. A richer profile naturally provides the ability to deliver a more anticipated, relevant, and personalized campaign that improves the customer experience."

10. Be Authentic

Every company has the potential to deliver an authentic brand experience regardless of the size simply by enabling the right employees to do the right thing and by being transparent.

Last year The Melting Pot started asking diners whether they'd share their comments and ratings regarding their dining experiences and found that the majority of diners were willing to have their comments posted online.

The result has been The Melting Pot's ability to provide reviews that come from actual diners. This process allows customers to make informed decisions about whether to visit a restaurant and also know what to expect when they walk through the doors. "It's important that we're transparent and customers understand the type of experience they will get when they visit a restaurant," explains President Mike Lester.

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association's Blog Carnival "Celebrating Customer Experience." It is part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day. Check out posts from other bloggers at http://community.cxpa.org. - See more at:
http://community.cxpa.org/blogs/val-moschella/2014/10/07/cx-day-blog-car...

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