Customer Experience News & Trends

5 customer experience trends you should act on now

The customer experience is ever-evolving. If you don’t stay in stride with the trends, your customers will likely find a company that’s in sync with their changing needs.

As technology alters customers’ expectations and plays a pivotal role in how service and sales are delivered, customer experience professionals want to be aware of emerging trends and how they’ll impact customers.

Granted, not every trend will affect every type of customer. B2B customers often have different expectations and needs than B2C customers, for example. The later type of customer usually favors high-touch, personal experiences, while the former tends to want a high-tech, efficient experience.

Consider the shelf life

Some trends have a very limited shelf life, while others live on for decades. But one thing remains constant — companies increasingly believe in the importance of providing a better customer experience. More than 75% of executives say the customer experience is a top priority in their organizations, rating it a 5 on a 1-to-5 scale of business priorities, according to the Customer Management IQ’s Executive Report on Customer Experience.

Digging deeper, their top customer experience priorities are improving customer service and the ease of doing business with their companies, researchers found. That’s important because those are major factors in whether customers view their experiences as positive or negative — and how much they’ll spread the word.

To that point, in a Zendesk survey, 87% of customers said they share stories of good experiences with friends, family and colleagues. But more take their bad experiences to the streets, as 95% tell others when things don’t go their way, the survey found.

So how can leaders ensure front-line professionals deliver far more positive experiences than negative experiences? Respond to current needs and stay on pace with these top trends:

1. Engagement is key

168372833It might be time for companies to get rid of their call centers — at least the name “call center.”

“Call center and contact center focus on the channel,” said Lauren Ziskie, customer engagement officer at Dialogue Marketing in Troy, MI. “But the focus should be on the kind of engagement customers have with the company and its people.

“Employees do things that affect customers’ days,” Ziskie said when she presented at the recent ICMI Call Center Demo and Conference. “It is a big deal.”

In fact, front-line professionals who have one-on-one contact with customers may be a better business investment than advertising and marketing. “They get customers’ undivided attention, maybe for five minutes. You can’t get that with any ad campaign,” Ziskie said.

So every one-on-one customer interaction — whether it’s over the phone, during a chat session, via email or an actual sales call — should be an opportunity to surprise and delight customers.

One easy way: Identify special situations and recognize them — like, celebratory or circumstantial cases. If it’s a customer’s birthday, anniversary with the company or milestone purchase, congratulate him or her. If a customer is facing special circumstances — perhaps a personal or professional trying time — listen longer and do something to make the transaction easier.

2. Digital concierge services are in

153999235Social media has a bigger impact on people’s perceptions of companies, their employees and products than ever — and that will only likely grow as an increasing number of people embrace the online tool. So companies must allocate resources to monitoring and responding to social media, Ziskie said.

The good news: It’s not a full-time, 24-hour job (at least not yet). Yes, social media needs ongoing attention and fast responses, but it can still be managed in extended business hours (and in this global economy, who doesn’t already have “extended” hours?) As long as you post when employees are available to respond to social media requests — say 7 a.m. ET to 11 p.m. ET — customers will accept a slower answer in the twilight hours, Ziskie said.

In many cases, customer mentions on social media — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, plus industry and community blogs — don’t need attention. Sometimes, users actually help each other with troubleshooting, and other times comments are neutral.

Some things to consider when deciding if you should act on social media posts (whether they’re positive or negative):

  • When was it posted — five minutes or five months ago? Quick responses will garner admiration. Better late than never does not apply in social media.
  • How many followers or friends does the author have? If it’s thousands, keep in mind that many eyes are on how you respond. So act as if you’re on stage when responding — even if it’s a “thank-you” message for a positive mention.
  • Does the author need help? In online communities, other users often help hash out issues, or your company and products are mentioned as part of a conversation that doesn’t need a resolution. Getting involved in those situations can look like you’re just interested in self-promotion.

One of the best forward-thinking ways to be a digital concierge is to provide customers with a social avenue to interact with your company and then taking a listen-and-observe role — only jumping in when customers need help.

3. Customers want a multi-device experience

80608334More than 90% of American adults own a cell phone, and 56% of them are carrying smartphones, according to a Pew Internet survey. It shouldn’t be a surprise that you need to be available to customers on their phones in ways far beyond just answering when they call.

The must-do in the coming year: Optimize your website so it is mobile phone friendly. Nearly a third of smartphone owners use them as their primary device to access the Internet, the Pew study found.

You’ll want to give mobile users the ability to:

  • pay bills
  • view status updates of outstanding orders or issues
  • get questions answered via FAQ, and
  • contact a person for help.

Another emerging technology that will likely evolve into a must-have: one-way video agents.

Amazon provides them now. Customers can see the agents, but agents don’t see customers. It allows companies to build relationships without invading privacy, Ziskie said.

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