7, December 2016
Customer experience may be defined as the sum total of the emotions evoked and the senses stimulated during a person’s interaction with the brand. This interaction as we know could be interactive (chatting with a contact center executive) or non-interactive (listening to or viewing a campaign on social media) for the customer. Nevertheless interactive or non-interactive, each experience of the customer with the brand, is going to play an important role in shaping the image of the brand in the minds of the customer, and thus aiding him decide whether he should continue doing business with the brand or move on.
This becomes all the more important when you are dealing with markets strife with cut-throat competition and high customer acquisition costs. So it all boils down to that particular interaction or set of interactions that the customer has with the brand, that ultimately shapes his experience and his perception about the brand.
Customer Experience is already the buzz word in the C-suite. If you are not providing a great customer experience, you are simply not in the race.
With everybody already focusing on providing the best in class experience to their customers, what’s the next big thing? How does one stay ahead of the curve? How do you retain your existing customers and more importantly how do you constantly acquire new ones?
The answer is simple – “Catch them young”- Engage Proactively
So what exactly do we mean when we say “Engage Proactively”?
Let’s start with first trying to understand what it does not refer to, and that will help us get a better understanding of what it actually means.
Engaging proactively does not mean mindlessly bugging the customer with unnecessary sales calls for new products or that you can intrude into the life of your customer. Rather, you can proactively identify the problems or questions that the customer might have at each stage of the customer journey (Pre-Purchase, Purchase, Post-Purchase), and then reach out to them with a relevant solutions before they feel the need to reach out to you.
An example here could be of a person who has an account with an ecommerce site and is browsing for a new category – let’s say watches. Now if the person has been an existing customer and data is available regarding his buying preferences, once could easily use analytical models to come up with relevant suggestions for watches. This would help save customer effort, seal the deal and of course create a very positive personalized experience for the customer.
The experience could be further enhanced by prepopulating the delivery address and payment details from past purchases to make the purchase process easier and effective. Once the payment is made, details of the delivery can be intimated to the customer and regular updates sent till the customer receives the delivery.
Similarly in case the customer has any feedback/complaint regarding the product post purchase, a proactive approach in terms of acknowledging the complaint and keeping the customer updated about the progress and resolution of the complaint, can go a long way in creating an enhanced customer experience and increasing customer loyalty.
How do brands go about creating a proactive customer experience?
A customer journey at a high level is typically split into three stages.
Brands would need to focus on all the stages of the customer journey, if they are to provide a holistic and proactive customer experience. Below are a few pointers to creating a desired customer experience at each stage of the customer lifecycle
a) Deploy analytics to personalize the search experience for the customer
b) Suggest relevant choices for the product the customer is looking for
c) Have easy to understand and exhaustive FAQs
d) Offer to interact with the customer via the channel of his choice
e) Provide information about substitutes for the product that the customer is looking for
f) Offer consultation on helping him choose a product
g) Provide information on competitor’s pricing on the same product
a) Proactively identify the best payment method for the customer based on the past buying pattern and current order value
b) Send complete delivery details and regularly update the customer about the progress till delivery is complete
c) Have flexible return and exchange policies.
d) Seek feedback from the customer on how to enhance the experience further
a) Seek feedback from the customer on the product/service usage experience
b) Keep the customer posted about product/service feature upgrades
c) Immediately acknowledge a complaint or a service request
d) Be empathetic and understanding towards the customer’s needs
e) Provide regular updates on the status of the complaint and possible resolutions
f) Be accessible. Provide the contact details of relevant stakeholders to enable the customer to reach out in case he wants to
g) Be Omni-channel. Enable the customer to reach out via the channel of his choice
h) Once a complaint is resolved, close loop with the customer to seek his feedback as to if the resolution has been effective and up to his satisfaction
So why do brands have to bother about creating a “Proactive Customer Experience?”
Proactively engaging with the customer helps in the following ways
a) It makes the customer feel valued, thus enhancing customer lock in and loyalty
b) Proactively engaging at an earlier stage helps in reducing customer acquisition cost
c) It helps in reducing the customer effort , thus increasing the likely hood to recommend and spread a positive word of mouth
d) It helps reduce the contact per unit ratio thus effectively reducing customer service cost
e) It reduces customer dissatisfaction and thus helps in controlling customer churn
Needless to say that in today’s age of customers, brands may risk not being proactive, at their own peril.
Delivering a great Customer experience is not a onetime activity. Successful brands who boast of high customer loyalty have made this into a habit. If a brand wants to achieve sustained customer loyalty, it should take care to ensure that the promise it is making to its customers, successfully gets translated into its customer engagement strategy. Having a proactive and holistic customer engagement strategy can go a long way in building customer loyalty and achieving a sustained competitive advantage.