Whether we’re aware of it or not, everyone is a customer for something today, from purchasing a product online, searching on Google, to booking a doctor’s appointment. As more businesses enter the market contending for consumers’ attention, engagement and loyalty, companies must find a way to differentiate customer experience strategy, and quickly. According to findings from a recent study by CustomerThink, 74% of respondents agreed that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
Bearing this in mind, customer experience management (CXM) should not be solely a post-checkout ritual, rather an ongoing practice in which a company takes an active role in learning about a customer’s profile, purchase history and preferences prior to conducting outreach. In order to generate meaningful results to an organization’s bottom line, companies need to learn how to connect and engage with their customers by monitoring and measuring sentiment throughout a customer’s entire journey. In today’s value-driven society, it is critical for chief marketing officers (CMOs) and customer experience officers (CXOs) to leverage CXM technologies to drive customer acquisition and retention. We have seen that successful CXM is difficult to achieve due to the amount of data available and the myriad technologies that do not speak with one another.
This article will highlight strategies, metrics and technologies for engaging with and analyzing existing and potential customers, based on my experience in online reputation management.
The traditional methodologies for capturing customer preference and experience data are no longer a solution, they are a starting point. Tracking and analyzing customer sentiment after a purchase or an appointment is helpful to understanding the customer experience; however, if companies are serious about making operational improvements to their processes to obtain and create loyal customers, they will need to drill down below the surface level to isolate the root cause of a customer’s experience. For instance, what expectations of the product or brand did the customer have before the experience? Were those expectations met? Where did the company fall short in meeting the customer’s expectations? Knowing the answers to these questions can help companies better understand their customers’ mindsets to enhance customer experience.
One common practice for capturing customer sentiment is through surveys. In the healthcare industry, patient satisfaction is most often determined through Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys. Although this method sheds light on a patient’s experience, the results fall short of understanding the “why” behind the issues and lack the analytics to identify “how” to fix the problem for the future.
Another traditional practice for measuring customer feedback is through Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures customer loyalty on a scale from zero to 10. NPS tags customers as either “promoters” (who score between nine and 10), “passives” (who score between seven and eight) or “detractors" (who score between zero and six). Although NPS is a trusted method to evaluate a customer’s affinity toward a particular brand, it does not provide detailed insight into a customer’s persona. Additionally, Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores, Quality of Customer Interaction (QCI) scores and Customer Churn Rates are linear attempts for capturing customer feedback. With the inability to provide actionable insights on customer feedback, companies need to shift from the traditional methods of compiling customer data and look for innovative ways to measure and evaluate their existing and future customer base.
Today, there are many advanced CXM solutions and technologies available to help businesses understand their customer base and increase profit margins. CXM is more than an isolated customer experience or conversation, it is about capturing a full view of the customer journey. In order to satisfy the level of personalization consumers expect, CXM solutions must be able to compile and evaluate unstructured feedback to obtain in-depth insights on customers. Based on a comprehensive analysis of customer feedback, organizations can adjust their business operations accordingly — from changes in outgoing digital marketing campaigns to better training for their employees and more.
When investing in CXM systems, CMOs and CXOs need to search for and deploy advanced technologies that will not only identify customers’ needs but also offer elements of machine learning and/or predictive analytics such as chatbots and Natural Language Processing (NLP).
Chatbots have proven to be a useful tool for time efficiency, customer service and reporting. With chatbots, companies can provide accurate and instant responses to customers’ queries, freeing up human customer experience representatives to handle more complex customer concerns. Additionally, chatbots not only respond to inquiries but also collect pertinent data on existing and potential customers to build personal profiles on users. Over the last three to five years, the technology has advanced tenfold, and Gartner predicts that "by 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will spend more per annum on bots and chatbot creation than traditional mobile app development."
In addition to chatbot technology, industry-specific NLPs are able to track, monitor and ensure customer satisfaction based on unstructured comments and feedback. With the ability to understand actual human sentiment, NLP solutions have become exceedingly valuable to companies. By leveraging NLP, companies can now see and manage their brand’s digital reputation as well as identify insights and concerns from individual customers and groups. With the advancement of machine learning, these technologies will continue to play a vital role in closing the loop between customers’ expectations and businesses’ ability to predict and meet customers’ needs in real-time.
Focusing on the customer experience is not something a company merely says but should be reflected in how they find, engage and treat their customers. Companies need to invest in CXM tools if they wish to compete in the convoluted online marketplace. In today’s “experience economy,” engaging with customers requires more than simply tracking their actions from one click to another, it entails digging deeper into the data to understand and act on customer psychology. Once the appropriate tools are integrated and deployed, companies will see a sharp spike in customer satisfaction, which directly correlates to increased visibility, brand loyalty and sales.