In today’s digital world, people are spending more time online as screens become larger, web connections faster, and more people own smartphones. With so many online businesses vying for a customer’s attention, brands need to focus more than ever on making meaningful connections to stand out. Companies that singularly focus on digital tools but do not invest in the customer experience can expect to fall behind.
Forrester Research studies around the Customer Experience Interest shows that making customers feel valued and respected is the number one factor leading to customer loyalty. In the digital realm, that means you remember their names, preferences, and purchase history, and you go the extra mile to offer them something that is relevant and of value. Consumers want to spend their money with companies that demonstrate that they understand and attend to each customer’s individual needs and truly value who they are. We like to call this “humanizing” the customer experience.
Humanizing the Digital Customer Experience The key to “humanizing the customer experience” is authenticity, and creating a true people-focused core in which all interactions are individual. Adding the human element means focusing on long-term relationships and on true partnerships with customers. Companies need to shift their thinking, and replace the immediate sales goals of the past with proactive interactions that align with the goals that customers have for themselves.
Here are 4 ways you can help your company humanize the customer experience.
1. Listen to your Customers:
Do all of your customers have the same wants and needs? Do they have the same income, product affinities and communication preferences? Definitely not. According to the customer experience survey, 63% of consumers who would otherwise not want to share personal information are willing to share these details —if they’re dealing with a brand that has given them a good experience. Retailers have to listen with intention, gather feedback and data, analyze it and then incorporate it into a customer experience strategy.
Slack, a popular collaboration and project management tool, retains 6 million-plus daily users. “Our focus is on making Slack a great experience for individuals — our internal advocates, our ambassadors — since they are the ones who often start using the product, then share it with their teams,” says Ali Rayl, Slack VP of Customer Experience. “We respect our users’ opinions; we listen to their feedback and in turn they help shape the product.” Rayl says that incorporating feedback helped propel Slack’s growth. As the company began working with larger organizations, listening to these customers helped Slack leaders realize they needed to offer a custom product, and they were able to build that into their experience, cementing loyalty.
A company that listens to its customers will aim relevant and tailored messages to the individual customer.
2. Get the Basics: Right Retail basics can prove to be monumental. The fundamentals of a positive retail experience — speed, convenience, consistency and friendliness — are challenging to get right. Touting a shiny new piece of technology or virtual reality dressing rooms is meaningless if a company isn’t getting the basics like delivery, payment and sourcing right. Nearly 1/4 of early digital adopters — who represent 20% of consumers today — expect same-day delivery of goods. This same group also expects to pay via mobile payment in stores. Analysts estimate that mobile payment will surge more than 16-fold between 2012 and 2020 as consumers adapt to this prevalent technology. Apps that offer mobile payment can boost loyalty and customer spending.
3. Become AI-Driven
:Incorporating AI into your customer experience process allows you to have a deeper knowledge of each individual customer that continues to get smarter over time. Feedback from every customer interaction should be fed back into the customer profile. You need a closed-feedback loop to continuously learn from every interaction, which allows you to become smarter about your customers, their needs and their behavior.
Example: You register for a marathon using your credit card. Your bank may provide you with offers from an athletic clothing partner based on knowledge from that registration transaction. Although you’ve never purchased sports clothes from this brand, an AI-driven brand will have some very specific, targeted recommendations for the best apparel you need for the marathon. Offers are made based on your own credit card transaction history but can also take into account what other customers like you have purchased. Your response to the company’s offer will be fed back to optimize the future customer experience.
4. Real-Time Action
: A clear advantage to enhancing customer experience is to act on AI knowledge and feedback in real-time. Every interaction – whether next best offer, alerts etc. – needs to be delivered in a timely manner to ensure impact and results. Customers expect a personalized relationship with your brand and becoming AI-driven not only makes you continuously smarter, it uses the individual customer context to automate many processes. This is important because it means you are instantly ready to respond to and anticipate a customer’s next step.
Let’s revisit the financial industry example: You just called your credit card company’s customer service department due to an unusual charge, and the agent tells you the issue would be resolved within the hour. Ideally, if you were to check the credit card app on your phone, you would be alerted that the issue was resolved. You shouldn’t have to call back the customer service agent for an update. This proves that every customer interaction with the credit card company is tracked in real-time, and the conversation continues with relevancy no matter which touchpoint you engage.
Humanizing the customer experience means connecting with your customer on their multi-device, multi-channel journey, in the digital and physical world and providing a seamless and continuous experience. It’s having an individual-level understanding of every customer, and putting those insights into action. Finding the “sweet spot”, where technology complements the human element of customer experience without creating new frustrations, is how retailers will win loyalty.