The changing face of customer experience

If I were to ask you what your company’s biggest competitive advantage is, what would you say? Quality of products and services? Price? Low operational costs? Whilst one or all of these may be true, a new battleground has emerged in recent years which is proving increasingly influential on business growth – customer experience.

According to a recent Gartner study*, 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, with 50% of product investments expected to be redirected to customer experience innovations by 2017 – a number which we could see increase.

Whilst the idea of creating a positive customer experience is not a new concept, the importance and complexity around it has changed significantly. If you even looked back 10 – 15 years ago, there was a lot of importance and training placed on interacting with customers, particularly in person, by post or over the phone. Whilst some companies did this well and continue to try and adhere to those same standards, the landscape has changed dramatically and what many companies are struggling with now is the changing face of customer experience.

For a start, that face is predominantly virtual. We all know about the exponential growth in social media and e-commerce which means more and more people are interacting online. This means that you need to “get to know” your customer without actually physically meeting or speaking to them, and you always need to be available to them - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means creating a personalised and consistent experience for your customers at all times, wherever they may be, on any device.

You also need to manage their experience across multiple platforms. Customers won’t just engage with you by sending a paper form or calling. They may want to ask a support question via live chat, or hear the latest industry information via your Twitter updates, or perhaps even research your company via your LinkedIn page. Therefore, it’s not only important to have a presence on the platforms your customers are using, but ensure you’re giving them content which is engaging, insightful and useful.

Finally, you need to be aware that customer expectations are higher than ever before, and are measured across industries. Whereas previously customers might compare their experience with say one electricity company over another, they’re now comparing any experience they have. So the support you provide online may be compared to that of a bank, telco, or retailer which means the competitive landscape is now a whole lot bigger.

What this illustrates is that regardless of industry, those that invest in good customer experience across all touchpoints, will reap significant rewards. For those that continue to try and force customers into historic channels of engagement and ignore what they actually want, the chasm will only continue to widen and become increasingly difficult to cross.

James Barrie, Director Business Development, Automic

*http://blogs.gartner.com/jake-sorofman/gartner-surveys-confirm-customer-experience-new-battlefield/