Prioritizing the Customer Experience

Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
More and more companies recognize customer experience as a competitive differentiator as traditional markers like price and product features fade.

More and more companies recognize customer experience as a competitive differentiator as traditional markers like price and product features fade. Consumers are demanding better experiences, control, and choice across industries. In response, companies are investing in tools and technologies to give them insights into customer behavior and prioritizing customer experience initiatives in pursuit of their goals.So how far along are companies in improving the customer experience? The answer is not that far. Forrester Research surveyed 216 professional in charge of their company's customer experience efforts and uncovered several trends that suggest companies are still in the early stages of transforming the customer experience.

Coming Soon: Optimized Websites
Websites have come a long way from the clunky interfaces of the early 90's but there's still plenty of room to optimize the experience. After search engines, company websites are often the next place where consumers go to get information about brands. It's therefore critical that the website engages users by providing them with the information they need and drives conversions. As a result, websites remain a top priority, with 60 percent of respondents identifying website interfaces as a focus for this year, according to Forrester.

Rethinking Native Apps
While there's an app for nearly everything, native apps are a low priority for customer experience leaders. Only 23 percent of respondents pointed to developing native mobile applications as an important area of focus for 2015.

"It's no fluke that native mobile apps rank low on CX pros' priority list," according to the report. "Mobile apps can be undeniably popular and engaging, but barriers to discovery and low usage after download mean that it's challenging for an app to gain wide adoption." Instead of designing new native apps, companies are shifting their focus to mobile-web features that are often more affordable than a standalone app. Some companies are also enhancing their app experiences through partnerships. For example, Uber's integration with Google Maps along with other transit options provides users with more choices seamlessly.

It's All About the Data
Customer experience strategies are useless unless they're tied to data-driven insights about customers. Unsurprisingly, many survey respondents indicated that they're spending money on tools for data collection, integration, and analysis. The majority (49 percent) said they were investing in CRM tools, followed by customer data integration (38 percent) and behavioral web analytics (36 percent). Social media listening technologies and feedback tools also received strong interest at 36 percent. "Firms crave insights," the report notes.

Low Priority: Cross-Channel Experiences
Despite the buzz about the importance of offering omnichannel experiences, businesses have yet to support cross-channel offerings. Only 18 percent said that cross-channel analytics will get attention this year. As for integrating physical and digital experiences, only 5 percent indicated that they're investing in location analytics.

In regard to change management, customer experience leaders continue to work on helping employees adopt a customer-centric outlook. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents said that they are building customer-centric cultures with employee training and communication efforts.

While business leaders understand the value of the customer experience, optimized experiences won't happen overnight. Customer experience leaders are focused on gaining insights about their customers and meeting their immediate needs through websites before working on advanced offerings such as native apps and cross-channel experiences.