Businesses can differentiate themselves from one another by way of the customer experience. Several exciting innovations took place in 2016, as businesses realize the inherent benefits of delivering an exceptional customer experience. This is evident in the improved profitability that companies are generating with satisfied customers. As technology drives innovation, we can expect customers to see major changes in the way that big brands interact with them. Already, major brands are investing heavily in the customer experience, with an eye to exceeding expectations on every level.
Take a moment to consider all the exciting innovations that have taken place over the past 5 years. The customer experience (CX) has evolved in ways we never foresaw, but companies who embrace these new technologies are reaping the rewards. Within the next couple of years, we can expect dramatic changes in the way that businesses cater to customers. By 2020, customers will be placing ever-increasing demands on your organization. The customer experience is paramount. Businesses cannot be complacent about the customer experience; a proactive approach is needed. We need to keep our focus on delivering an exemplary customer experience, for without the customers there is no business.
Let’s take a look at how these innovative technologies will impact the strategies that you will be using to engage your customers over the next 1-3 years.
1. Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and Customer Experience
We are blessed to be living through the information age. There is abundant data which we can use to give us better insights into human behavior. AI technology allows us to sift through the data in an efficient manner and to simplify complicated material. This makes the process of discovery so much easier. The customer journey becomes one that we can understand. The end goal is to support our customers and offer them the ultimate user experience.
A terrific example of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in action is IBMs Super AI Computer, Watson. This serves as the benchmark for the ultimate customer service experience.
Image: IBM Website
First, what is Watson? It’s a computer that thinks. It’s similar to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. Except, in this case Watson is strictly for business. Now, we have the technology to give commands and ask questions, and Watson will respond in an effective way. It features a document search by plucking keywords from your speech and providing information. Alexa and Siri will help you to find information based on what is available in their database. You could ask for the time, a restaurant or the temperature, and they would respond accordingly. These AI systems are self-learning knowledge bases. Watson comprehends the nuances of requests. That’s the difference. It is a cognitive AI system that is equivalent to a Q&A computer. It processes language and presents info in a human -like way. It is an interactive artificial intelligence system. It is also shaking up the customer service arena.
Instead of calling a support center you may be directed to a computer and lament your misfortune. However, Watson understands accents and dialects and it reiterates info back to you. It talks to you as if it were a fellow human being. It understands your problem and answers you accordingly. It also understands text, misspellings and improper grammar. Routine support center experiences are easily clarified and resolved. Watson understands what a customer is requesting and responds accordingly. Watson may even replace call center representatives, owing to its superior self-service solutions. The CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty believes that systems like Watson are augmented intelligence. It also supports the company by recognizing typical questions and complaints and mitigating or eliminating problems. The difference is that this AI system is programmed to learn about your customers, your company, and yourself.
2. Customer Self-Service with Chatbots
Telecommunication devices like smartphones allow your customers to be continuously plugged in. Customers expect their favorite companies to provide instant responses to their queries and questions. Companies must deliver rapid, accurate and personalized responses at a moment’s notice. Help desks are inefficient in today’s high-tech age. They simply take too long to deliver responses to customers. The disorganized messaging that results from traditional help desks is their Achilles heel. Enter chatbots. These are capable of resolving queries in a simple way. They are designed for rapid responses to stock questions and they allow customer service representatives to field complex questions.
New-age technology allows these chatbots to ‘think’ about questions and responses, rather than simply regurgitating stock answers. Artificial intelligence technology empowers chatbots with the resources they need for deep learning. This is a reference to the analysis of public customer information which is interpreted, analysed and learned by chatbot technology. The goal in all instances is the same: offer the ultimate customer service experience.
Chatbots are effective at communicating between customers and companies. They come to logical conclusions about a customer’s intent, based on their previous interactions with the AI knowledge base. Customers would be able to access information like sale items, flight data, gluten-free restaurants et al, all at deeply reduced costs per contact for the companies.
After Facebook announced the launch of its bot-development platform for Messenger, a torrent of bots (11,000+) found their way to the Internet. And that was just the beginning. Soon thereafter, bots became ubiquitous across all messaging media platforms like Skype, Slack, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Kik.
American Express formulated a Facebook Messenger chatbot that allows its customers to redeem reward points, track charges on cards and request credit card receipts. Organic produce giant, Whole Foods provides its customers the option of using emojis for communicating. Customers can type words like Tex Mex and add emojis to the conversation. Conversable created the Whole Foods chatbot and it’s already paying dividends with increased customer engagement and greater customer satisfaction.
Image: Digital Geniuse
These numbers are truly mind-boggling. We now know that the popularity of messaging apps has far surpassed social media networks. But the most important thing to remember is that these numbers are climbing higher and higher.
3. Real Time Personalization
Customers are always looking for something unique during their browsing sessions. It could be a prom dress, a newsworthy finance article, a gift for a co-worker, or a dream vacation. Most of the time, your visitors will have no inkling as to what they’re looking for, never mind where there are likely to find it. When you make a sale with a customer, it is because a personal connection has been created. Once you have established that connection, the likelihood of completing the checkout process, or increasing the number of page views, will increase sharply. It is important to remember that every customer that visits your site is unique.
It is difficult to segment your target market by using the traditional segmentation approach. Nowadays, marketers are rapidly changing the e-commerce arena with digital marketing. They are adopting a personalized approach to marketing to their customers. This presents a myriad of opportunities for targeted marketing campaigns and personalized messaging to each and every customer. The net effect of this is a rich and rewarding experience that customers appreciate and gravitate towards.
A classic example of this is Amazon.com. This company has successfully integrated digital personalization into its mainstream marketing concept. Unfortunately, Amazon has raised the bar for all other e-commerce sites, making personalization and the user experience an expectation, not a privilege.
Below are several examples of how to fully personalize the customer experience with your company. The data has been divided up into existing users and casual users, for your added benefit:
A Personalized Approach for Casual Users
The tech devices that your customers use are your most important buying signals. For example, a customer who owns the latest iPhone 7 Plus is screaming out: “I want the latest and greatest technology and I don’t care how much it costs!” Whereas a customer from Snapchat or Vine is more likely to be from a younger demographic with an inferior smartphone or tablet. This type of knowledge can empower your marketing campaign and allow you to effectively target the right customers with the best possible offers. As a case in point, high-end customers seeking novelties will spare no expense in the latest technology and available services. These folks tend to adopt cutting-edge technologies before they reach the mass market. If you are catering to this niche group, they will readily respond to your product offerings.
Personalize site content and campaign landing pages according to marketing channel data. This data should be paired up with content elements as per campaign messages. This works across the entire funnel. For high-quality referrals, adopt an aggressive and promotional approach. It is also a good idea to customize different display ads with page variations for the respective creative. This establishes continuity and creates a seamless customer experience in your conversion funnel.
Unique Content for Different Referrals:
It is important to personalize site content and campaign LPs (landing pages) according to marketing channel data and visitor referrals. This data can then be matched up with various content elements according to the marketing campaign messages. This is applicable across the entire funnel. If you have high quality referrals, it is a good idea to adopt an aggressive, incentivized, promotional approach. If different display ads are targeting traffic, they can all be directed to the same landing page by customizing page variations to the requirements of the respective creative. This is an effective way of establishing continuity while simultaneously creating a seamless customer experience throughout your conversion funnel.
A Personalized Approach for Existing Users
Customise Your Calls to Action (CTAs)
Avoid generic CTAs. Targeted CTAs should be used for every visitor. They should be based on a customer’s past buying behavior and/or lifecycle stage. You may wish to offer registered customers a free webinar, or replace that with an e-book download offer.
Personalized Thank you Pages
Generic ‘Thank You’ pages must be avoided. Customers appreciate personalized ‘Thank You’ pages. Add the customer’s name and the name of a contact person at the company if the customer has any comments, or questions.
Establish Auto Logins after Signup and Registration
Nobody likes to fill in login information when they visit a page on site. Users who have active login sessions should have auto login functionality available. This streamlines the entire process.
Third Party API Data for Personalization
Personalization is built on data. Collect the right data for the most effective personalization. Consolidate data into a single personalization platform. This should include identity data, historical data, and behavioral data. This should be included in your CRM along with third-party software to enhance your marketing campaign. This way you can target the right customers with the right messages at the right time.
4. Go Mobile or Go Home
This year, we saw 33% of purchases made after Thanksgiving (Black Friday and Cyber Monday) conducted over the telephone. The more pertinent question should be: Why do we call it a telephone? Nobody is actually talking when they are buying. Black Friday was the first day in history to generate $1.2 billion + from sales over mobile devices. This represented a 33% increase from the 2015 figures (Adobe Digital Insights). The research confirms what we already know to be taking place in e-commerce. The crowded in-store experiences are being avoided in favor of online shopping platforms. Due to the multitude of options available at the customer’s fingertips, sophisticated e-commerce platforms like Amazon.com are preferred over traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers.
According to a Salesforce State of the Connected Customer Report, customers are increasingly moving towards mobile purchases. Some 38% of millennials have researched a product online from a mobile device while in store, while 23% of millennials have bought products online from a mobile device while in store. The short and sweet of it is this: companies need to adopt a mobile-friendly approach to the customer experience. You cannot engage customers if you’re not on the same playing field. Mobile must be the go-to option; it cannot be an afterthought.
Companies that don’t value the customer experience will find it difficult to focus on the best ways to engage their customers. Business transformation strategies must be complimented by cutting-edge technologies to leverage their potential. As we have already outlined, there are companies that are taking the initiative and forging ahead into the future. Companies that fail to adopt these technologies will become obsolete. Fortunately, AI augmented intelligence is the answer and it,s readily available.
Geico is a terrific example of an innovative mobile web app that offers 'mobile first' functionality. Geico promises customers car insurance in under 15 minutes. To facilitate this, their web app requires just 4 quick and easy steps to deliver a quote. This reduces the number of page loads, and improves the overall customer experience and conversion rate.
We may well be in our infancy stages, but we are on the right track towards perfecting an AI system capable of maximizing the customer experience. Many of us understand the frustrations of having to deal with inept customer service personnel. Lengthy wait times, unnecessary transfers, and poor service are detrimental to the shopping experience. AI technology eliminates many of these concerns by way of intelligent communication. Siri and Alexa may have initiated this new course we are charting but Watson is perfecting this communication. The future is certainly bright and the customer experience is front and center.