It seems like every day, there's a new technology popping up. It's tempting to try every new advancement and follow every new trend, but it can be dangerous. Not because of the cost, or the energy involved (though both can be daunting), but because it may cause you to lose sight of the most important aspect of business... the customer experience.
It's important to remember that technology is a tool, not a goal. If you are focused on the shiny new toys, rather than serving your customers better than the next company, technology won't save you.
The following marketing trends are meant to improve your customer's experience, streamline their buying process, and resolve their challenges. You may not see a return on your investment (ROI) immediately, but if you keep your customer's satisfaction at the forefront of your goals, your bottom line will benefit.
The Top Customer Experience (CX) Trends to Watch for This Year
Customers want solutions to their individualized problems, and they want them quickly. Hyper-personalization allows businesses to understand and utilize customer preferences to market directly to them, make specific suggestions based on previous purchases, and to anticipate the customer's needs. Companies like Amazon and Netflix have been leveraging the power of hyper-personalization for years and making the customer experience more tailored, intuitive, and need-specific, now it's your turn.
The challenge with hyper-personalization is that many companies don't have the resources to properly dedicate to it. This type of marketing requires a committed team to understand and target the different segments, and the technology to be constantly improving what they know about their customers and how they use that information.
2. Widely Available AI Agents and Robotic Assistants
As artificial intelligence improves, businesses have more options for serving their customers. AI is being used to review and act upon customer feedback, allowing companies to improve their service and their products in a timely fashion. AI is also being used to handle simple low-level tasks so that sales agents are freed up to work on larger, more complex issues.
One of the major challenges when using AI or Robotic Assistants in your customer experience, is that they lack emotional intelligence and are unable to display empathy. They can be used to answer commonly asked questions and fix simple issues, however when emotions are necessary (such as calming an irate customer), human interaction is still best.
3. The Rise of Chatbots
While it may sound like a horror movie, the increase in Chatbots on websites has made providing quick answers to the customer a much easier process. Customers can interact with this service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to get simple solutions. Imagine having an online salesperson to walk each customer through their shopping experience.
The biggest challenge with chatbots may be a lack of personality. If you'll be using them in your business, keep in mind that customers don't want to feel like they are talking to a computer, even if they know they are. Give your chatbots humor and the ability to discuss off topic concepts like weather or news.
4. Move from Multichannel to Omnichannel
As more stores increase their online presence, and more customers shop with their smartphone in hand, the omnichannel approach is becoming more important. This allows customers to inspect a product in the store, search product reviews online, and then make the purchase in the store, or wait until they get home and then order it on their computer or iPad. It streamlines the purchase for the customer, providing access to everything they need to make a decision.
However, if not done properly, the customer may be distracted from making the decision, costing your company millions of dollars in revenue. If the company doesn't understand the customer's unique buying process, they will be unable to guide them towards the next right step. Hyper-personalization can help with this as businesses learn more and more about customer preferences.
5. Frictionless Experiences
We are now operating in a time of "instant gratification" and when a customer is faced with a challenge or slowdown during the buying process, they are all too happy to find another retailer to do business with. The easier you make it for your customer to do business with you, the more likely that they'll click the Check Out button today and return in the future for another purchase.
Some of the challenges to a frictionless online experience are poor website design, poor customer service whether due to a lack of training or a poor attitude, and negative customer reviews. Streamlining your processes and making the customer experience as simple as possible will help keep your customers happy and returning.
6. Location-based mobile customer communication
When a customer checks in at a specific store or restaurant, location-based mobile customer communication offers several options to improve the customer experience. Businesses can send coupons or special offers, salespeople can be alerted that a potential customer is entering the business, and after the transaction, customers can share their experiences so that others will want to do business there - assuming you've done a good job. If the customer is dissatisfied, you may have the opportunity to rectify the experience because you've found out so quickly.
One of the challenges to location-based mobile customer communications is that they must opt-in, and check-in in order to receive discounts or offers. For customers that do not want to turn on this feature, you won't have the opportunity to communicate with them in this way.
7. Hands-On CEOs
Despite what you may think, customer service does not begin with your front-line employees, rather it starts at the top and trickles down. Many CEO's are now realizing that their attitude, behavior, and priorities will set the direction of the entire company. There is no positive customer experience without a positive employee experience. For this reason, many CEO's are choosing to become more hands-on in the day to day processes.
If the CEO doesn't consider CX a priority, the company is destined to fail in that arena. There are three reasons that customer experience programs don't work: problems with organizational culture, organizational structure, and the processes put in place. All three of these are guided by the CEO.
What's Next?: CX Beyond 2018
As technology continues to evolve, businesses must recognize that CX will ultimately control their bottom line. When you put your money and energy into making your customers lives easier, you will see a return on your investment. The customer is king in business and you should be doing everything within your power, both technologically and customer service-wise, to improve their shopping and buying experience. This trend will never go out of fashion.