Forget for a moment about your company’s new-fangled features, your superior customer service and your endless innovation. Soon, your business will be fighting against competitors on a new battlefield: customer experience.
According to a recent report by Gartner, 89 percent of companies see customer experience as the primary basis for competition in 2016. Put simply, it’s not enough to have a great product anymore; customers increasingly expect brand interactions to be convenient, delightful and memorable.
The challenge of crafting customer experiences
Of course, this begs the question: how can you create captivating customer experiences? Luckily, the answer doesn’t require you to make any risky assumptions or take wild leaps of faith. In my experience, you should begin by flipping the outdated paradigm of blasting messages at your audience;instead, start listening to what they have to say.
Once you understand what your customers are thinking and feeling, it’s infinitely easier to provide new and exciting experiences that appeal directly to them.
First, you need to understand how your customers feel about their current experience: what are their expectations, desires, surprises and disappointments? This collection of impressions is often called the Voice of the Customer (VoC), and clearly capturing it is trickier than you might think.
Understanding the Voice of the Customer via data
Focus groups and online surveys aren’t the only way to listen to your customers; in fact, these methodologies often suffer from selection bias, small sample sizes and leading questions. With today’s technology, there’s more than enough data already out there to identify your VoC. In fact, with social media and internal tracking systems, there has never been more customer information available and ripe for insights.
On the other hand, large companies may feel overwhelmed by too much data. How can you intelligently filter out the noise, distill your data down into digestible portions and come away with actionable insights? Here’s how I recommend you go about it.
Step 1: Define a specific goal
The quickest way to narrow down your massive datasets is to provide some direction. It’s difficult to tease out a clear answer without asking a clear question. Start small and constrain yourself to a particular question with a goal in mind.
Here are a few examples:
- How can we get customers to start using Apple Pay on a daily basis?
- What can we do to boost green energy adoption?
- Who should we target to get more customers in the Chicago metropolitan area?
By posing a particular query, you add an impetus to your analysis.
Step 2: Take advantage of technology
You’re faced with an unfathomable heap of data from social and CRM sources — but never fear. Technology got you into this mess, and newer technology can get you out of it by making sense of your data.
At the very least, you’ll want to find a text-mining tech solution that can parse the information and pull out what matters. Stronger solutions go beyond simple text mining, with algorithms that can supply context (e.g., age, location, etc.) and apply meaning (e.g., delight, disappointment, etc.).
It’s critical that you feed the right information into such a solution — the more, the better. Analyzing social media mentions is only one half of the equation; by cross-referencing social data against transactional records and internal CRM sources, you can discern causal drivers and gain a 360-degree view of customer experiences, expectations and behaviors.
Step 3: Interpret and apply solutions
Even the most robust VoC analysis solution won’t instantly spit out clear marching orders to achieve maximum impact. You still need to rely on human interpretation and expertise.
Once you’ve identified drivers and disappointments on the customers’ journey, start brainstorming ways to create new interventions that will enhance the customer journey.
Customer experience examples
How do you actually make that jump from insights to action? Consider Whole Foods, which recently teamed up with Uber to launch a Super Bowl promotion, offering $20 off customers’ next Uber ride if they made a purchase at the grocery store. Such innovative promotions are only possible through insights driven by tracking omni-channel customer interactions.
In another example, car rental company Hertz analyzed its massive troves of data from emails, text messages and web surveys and found that complaints in the Philadelphia area escalated at certain times of the day. Acting on this information, Hertz augmented its staff during peak hours, ensuring a manager was always there to handle questions and complaints. Satisfaction rates increased in response to the enhanced customer experience.
Similarly, the payment processing company First Data deploys an agile VoC program to gather real-time insights on its latest products. This gives First Data the intelligence to react to customers’ input faster and more directly, ensuring new features and policies are optimized early on.
Compelling customer experiences will continue to play a bigger and bigger role in the competitive landscape. The best way to design memorable experiences is by listening to your customers: understand what they want and how they feel.
Thanks to advances in technology, it’s easier than ever to arrange thousands of customer interactions into a single symphonic voice — a voice that can help you enhance your customer experience and gain a clear competitive edge.
Avantika Sharma is partner, analytics at Brillio. She spearheads innovative applications of advanced analytics to solve real business problems. Her unique blend of technology and analytics experience helps render Brillio’s solutions “consumable” for its clients. Avantika brings over 10 years of experience in BFSI, hi-tech and, more recently, retail/CPG, solving a wide array of problems spanning omni-channel fractional attribution, clickstream clustering, credit risk management and fixed income securities among others. Follow Avantika on Twitter and LinkIn.