Is your customer experience this broken?
A Walmart shopper noticed a Lego set cost 35% more in the store than on the brand’s website. He asked an in-person team associate to match the online price. Unfortunately, they refused.
So, using his phone, the shopper purchased the product from the company’s website and requested in-store pick-up. But because the shopper didn’t receive the email confirmation, he couldn’t bring the item home. The shopper had to go back to the store the next day to pick his item.
Big-box store Target used browsing data to determine that a shopper was pregnant and started sending the individual promotional coupons on maternity items. The problem? They exposed the pregnancy of a teen who hadn’t told her parents yet. Yikes!
Lastly, in 2018, beauty brand Glossier faced a federal lawsuit for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. A customer who is legally blind claimed she was denied “goods and services” because she experienced “multiple access barriers” while navigating the company’s website.
Are you meeting your customer expectations, or falling short?
Customer journeys are messier than ever — but customer expectations have never been higher. It’s simply not enough to provide a good customer experience. You need to create a great one!
Let’s explore why customer experience expectations are so high—and how you can meet the ongoing demand.
Why are customer experience expectations so high?
We’re in the middle of a shift toward customer-first businesses.
In the digital age, businesses can’t control their brand images in the same way they used to. Every competitor is a few clicks away. Every negative review is front and center. Consumers have more information—and can make more informed decisions—than ever before.
Mark Schaeffer, the author of Marketing Rebellion, argues that this is the third consumer rebellion:
- The first rebellion: The end of lies. In the early days of advertising, messaging made sensational, outrageous claims. Regulation forced advertisers to stop lying to consumers.
- The second rebellion: No more secrets. As the internet took off in the 1990s, brands couldn’t hide their products. Information abounded, and it was easy to uncover product defects.
- The third rebellion (today): The end of control. The internet has matured. Social media is everywhere. Consumers are talking to each other, and the era of brands being able to control their own messages is over.
The end of control can be bad news for big business. But for your business, this shift presents new opportunities for marketplace differentiation and customer loyalty.
Today, your customers have superpowers. Below are the three superpowers your customers have.
The power to switch to the competition
The old business model restricted the customer experience. Companies used undesirable tactics to retain their customers, like:
- Year-long contracts
- Expensive termination penalties
- Evasive customer support or return policies
Businesses had a stronghold on the customer relationship. As a result, most customers felt stuck and just dealt with the frustrations.
Now, with more competitors in the market, these barriers have slowly lifted. Customers have more power to control the brand relationship—because it’s so much easier to cancel their monthly subscription or return a product within 30 days.
Your customers don’t feel the need to “wait it out” or “stick around” until your brand values their business. Instead, they seek out your competitor to get a better price or more value.
Your customers have options and they aren’t afraid to take them. So, you need to make sure your customer experience is better than your competitor’s.
The power to quickly find information
If your friend randomly asks you the definition of ‘onomatopoeia,’ you might not totally recall the word’s meaning from your high school English class. But luckily, you have a smartphone with the Internet, and can quickly find the definition with a simple Google search.
Your customers search online to learn more about your business. People read reviews on third-party sites and scroll through social media to get insight from your previous customers. Kristen McCormick, a former content marketing manager for ThriveHive, agrees:
“Today, a good marketing footprint still follows that same principle of visibility, but the busy physical location is now a busy digital location…Digital marketing is not just about finding customers online, it’s about getting found online by your customers.”
And with that information, consumers form opinions and set expectations about your brand. Your team is now responsible for building a positive brand presence and creating content to help consumers make better purchasing decisions.
The power to demand personalization
According to Smarter HQ, 90% of consumers are willing to share behavioral data for a cheaper and easier shopping experience. Consumers feel comfortable with your team collecting their data — purchasing history and product page views — in exchange for personalized experiences. Your customers are interested in receiving special discounts, back-in-stock notifications, and product recommendations.
Brands across multiple industries are taking note of this trend. In fact, companies are building a big portion of their business model on offering bespoke experiences. For example, Trunk Club is a personalized mid- to high-end men’s and women’s clothing service. Their personal stylists build one-to-one relationships with their customers to understand their styling preferences before hand-selecting merchandise.
The demand for personalization isn’t going away. Task your team with finding new ways to offer your customers a high-touch, customized shopping experience.
What does a bad customer experience do to your business?
A bad customer experience spreads like wildfire and can have a negative impact on your brand’s bottom line and reputation.
How can you avoid a bad experience? You need to make sure you understand all the ways you interact with customers — so that there’s never a moment where customers expect something and don’t get it.
How do bad customer experiences affect the customer lifecycle?
The customer lifecycle spans from nurturing your customers all the way to developing brand advocates. And along that journey, your customers will interact with several touchpoints in your lifecycle that will impact their overall experience.
The customer journey is a squiggle with multiple touchpoints.
Think of bad customer experiences as roadblocks or distractions within the lifecycle. Instead of leading the customer to the desired action, like signing up for a trial account or purchasing your product, these poor experiences stop the customer from moving forward in the journey.
Bad customer experiences include:
- A broken link to a landing page
- A missing coupon code in a promotional email
- Unanswered questions during a live chat conversation
- A checkout page with several form fields
After unblocking these obstacles, you streamline the customer experience and make it easier for customers to interact with your brand.
What are the consequences of not meeting customer expectations?
You don’t set out to create a bad customer experience. But, despite your intentions, a subpar customer experience can still hurt your business. Below are a few of the consequences your brand may face for not meeting customer expectations.
- Loss of revenue: Customers don’t want to buy products and services from brands that fail to provide a high-quality experience. So much so that research shows bad customer experiences cost U.S. businesses $75 billion a year.
- Loss of customer loyalty: Businesses can jeopardize their relationships with brand advocates when they consistently don’t reward or recognize their customers. Frustrated advocates will research your competitors to see what benefits they offer.
- Loss of brand perception: Customers are empowered to leave comments about their brand experiences. Negative online reviews scare new customers away.
How can you meet ever-increasing customer experience expectations?
Customers’ expectations will continue to evolve. Your team’s challenge is to create a customer experience that matches (and exceeds) their expectations, regardless of changes in consumer behavior, new technology, or limited resources.
So, what makes a great customer experience? In short, it’s any experience that satisfies your customers’ needs and wants as they continue through the customer journey. It’s a seamless experience that doesn’t hinder the customer from taking action in your sales cycle. Here are three components of a great customer experience:
- Omnichannel integration: Customers can easily move from online and offline channels to find brand information or make a purchase.
- Personalized offerings: Customers receive tailored offers based on demographics and shopping behavior.
- Little to no friction: Customers can navigate through your channels with ease and without wasting precious time.
How can you improve the customer experience?
Now is the time to create great customer experiences. What are the biggest trends in customer experience to focus on?
1. Enhance the mobile experience
According to a Cisco report, global mobile data traffic is projected to increase by 700% between 2016 and 2021. Consumers are constantly using their mobile devices—smartphones and tablets—to learn about the latest news, shop their favorite brands, and communicate with family and friends.
Your business can stay ahead of the curve by optimizing for the mobile experience. This process may include simplifying your site menu for easy navigation, minimizing the number of steps to complete a form, or compressing images to reduce page load time.
2. Revamp the checkout process
The Baymard Institute reports that the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate is 69%. Experts contribute this high percentage to several issues in the customer journey, including the lack of free shipping, product unavailability, or just customer browsing.
Another major challenge causing cart abandonment is friction in the checkout process. Your team can fix this problem by allowing customers to proceed to the checkout without registering for an account. Or auto-filling a current customer’s payment method and billing details.
3. Surprise and delight customers
People are creatures of habit. On a daily basis, you go through the same activities: going to work, ordering the “usual” latte, and watching the same Netflix shows. It becomes so routine that we sometimes forget to break out of our mold.
Your brand can break the consumer’s routine with a little surprise and delight. The goal is to nurture the consumer relationship by providing an unexpected reward. You could offer customers a one-time 10% discount or send them an invitation to an exclusive VIP online event.
4. Offer multiple customer service options
Your customer service strategies also should align with consumer behavior. In the past, when customers had issues with a product or service, they would visit the brick-and-mortar store or make a phone call and talk directly to a support agent.
Online shopping has created the need to expand your customer service options. According to Aircall’s research study, 67% of online shoppers prefer brands that offer self-help resources. So, consider creating a FAQ page, knowledge base, or community forum for your customers.
5. Act on customer feedback
In this tech economy, brands have access to a variety of MarTech tools to track consumer behavior and elicit customer feedback. From social media to website analytics, you collect quantitative and qualitative data to help your business make more informed decisions.
But most companies fail to take the obvious next step: acting on customer feedback. For your brand, action may look like deploying a new feature, changing a customer return policy, or offering a new support channel.
What are examples of companies exceeding customer expectations?
Going the extra mile makes a big difference in the customer experience. Use these examples of brands exceeding customer expectations as inspiration for your business.
1. Rosetta Stone helps the community
During the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Rosetta Stone extended their services to help parents. The education tech company offered three months of free language learning to all elementary, middle, and high school students worldwide. This new offering gave parents peace of mind that their children could continue learning a language while at home.
2. Trader Joe’s delivers exceptional customer service
An elderly man was snowed in at his Pennsylvania home around the holidays. Concerned about getting him food, his daughter called several stores to see if anyone would deliver items to her father. Trader Joe’s broke their own brand policy to help the gentleman; the store even suggested grocery items that fit his low-sodium diet. In less than 30 minutes, a team associate delivered the food—all free of charge.
3. Four Seasons Hotels delights its guests
Want an afternoon snack? This luxury hotel and resort chain delights its guests with afternoon snacks. But not pre-packaged treats. Four Seasons Hotels has a chef available in the lobby to hand out fresh goodies, like s’mores. It’s a small gesture but adds a big impact to the customer experience.
What’s the future of customer experience?
Customers will continue to demand more from brands. To remain profitable and competitive, your business must develop solutions to exceed customer expectations.
Whether it’s optimizing your entire customer lifecycle or simply revamping your checkout process, your team is now charged with pinpointing any issues before they have a negative impact. Satisfying your customers is your brand’s number one priority.