We have previously explored how forming a strong customer experience will make them more likely to buy your products, use your services and view your brand in a positive light. Today though, digital technology has transformed the concept of customer experience, taking it beyond simply the provision of support and allowing brands to build real, meaningful experiences with their customers.
There’s no set approach or single moment in which to make this happen. Businesses must see their customer relationships through the lens of several different touchpoints and aim to provide a rewarding experience at every stage of their journey.
The opportunity that digital technology poses is for businesses to actively influence each of these touchpoints. It allows organisations to take ownership of the entire customer journey – from brand awareness, to consideration, purchasing and the post-purchase experience – and develop an understanding of how to meet their customers’ needs at each stage.
But how, exactly, should a business go about building this journey?
Understand the people
To build a strong relationship with a customer requires knowledge of people. While demographics are important, data can only take you so far. Understanding people is more of a qualitative process than a quantitative one. A brand needs to understand what people are doing at each of the stages of their customer journey. What are they thinking, or feeling? What technologies people are using, what are their motivations and who influences them? Understanding these “human” details is imperative to creating a meaningful relationship.
Understand the path
Acquiring different services and products requires customers to tread different paths. A travel company or even a hotel, for example, will attract customers who are planning a holiday, and the path that customers must follow to reach that company involves comparing services and booking a trip. The journey continues long after a customer has bought a holiday though. They must travel to their destination, arrive, check in and spend a week or two at the hotel.
There are several touchpoints on this particular journey that a brand could use to interact with a potential customer, but it’s a very specific example. Brands must understand the path that their own customers have to walk in order to use their product or service, in order to interact in a meaningful way.
Many models of customer engagement fail to consider time, for example, as an element within the journey. It’s vital to consider not only how the perception of the customer changes at each step, but the time between each step too. A relationship between customer and brand is ultimately an exchange of values, and the customers’ perception of value changes with the amount of time that might pass with each step.
Understanding the context
Depending on which services are offered and what step of the journey the customer is on, there will be a specific context to their brand engagement. Using an ATM is a touchpoint for a bank, for example, which has its own context. It’s a specific place to engage with the business, yet there are a lot of things happening in the surrounding environment. Users might be in a busy street, in a rush, or have other things on their mind.
Understanding the opportunities
Once a brand has an idea of the context in which the customer is approaching them, it can start to find gaps and opportunities in its journey, which can be leveraged in order to build a relationship with them. The brand must determine how it is attending to this journey already, where it should improve its existing interactions and where it could add more value to its customer relationships.
This should be a collaborative process, involving marketing, customer relations, and technology. In the digital era, many of those touchpoints will be enhanced by technology.
How can tech help each of these stages?
During the journey, there are numerous opportunities to form effortless relationships with your customers. Specifically, these opportunities can be seen as a means of either making customers’ lives easier, providing support or delivering more meaningful experiences.
In a digital retail environment, for example, a brand could make the browsing and purchasing process easier by creating a digital experience that replaces an in-store retail assistant. Technology in this environment would allow the customer to compare and choose the right product.
Alternatively, technology can be used during customer onboarding. In a banking context, new clients could scan documents with an app, where Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take in the necessary information, and then take a selfie for authentication purposes. As a result, customers can open a bank account without even leaving home.
In terms of providing support, good customer service is essential to a strong customer relationship. AI facilities like Sophie, one of Stefanini’s solutions for digital transformation, can provide human-like interactions tailored to a business’ individual customer service needs.
Finally, digital technology has huge potential as a means of delivering a more meaningful experience. Earlier this year, Stefanini created an Augmented Reality (AR) experience for Arctic, allowing customers to visualise the benefits of a washing machine. Often, solutions like this don’t necessarily help to make decisions, but make the process of selecting a product more exciting. It creates an experience that brings a ‘wow’ factor to shopping, inspiring customers to come back to a business.
Digital technology has undoubtedly made the task of creating strong customer experiences more complicated, but more exciting and immersive, too. With the help of the right technology, suited to business requirements, the customer journey can be both simple and enjoyable for both a brand and your customers.