The CX problem and how to solve it
Google Maps is a good model for customer experience (CX). It anticipates personal needs, it adapts and manages expectations. Ian Gerrard believes that understanding intent is key to giving every customer a Google Maps experience and using CX to make brands more meaningful.
There’s a global problem with CX and it can be summed up in two intersecting statistics: 91 percent of CEOs think their companies are customer-centric, but only 13 percent of consumers would describe the brands that way.
That’s one of the key insights from Havas CX’s X Index, a proprietary global report into how consumers view their customer experience. It shows that, despite a recent PWC report revealing that 86 percent of customers globally would pay more for a great customer experience and 74 percent of Australians say customer experience helps them decide between options, the corporate perception of what constitutes ‘good CX’ is failing to match the reality in the eyes of the consumer.
Research shows that people wouldn’t care if 75 percent of brands disappeared overnight. For existing and potential customers to care about you, they have to believe you care about them.
A carefully planned, deliberately executed and properly targeted CX strategy is essential for closing the engagement gap and making brands meaningful.
Reimaging CX for the modern consumer
The term ‘customer experience’ was coined in 1994 by Lou Carbone. Focusing on the retail space, he spoke about a world of “discontinuous change” in which “customer engagement, loyalty and advocacy are no longer driven by the products you sell or the service you offer; they’re driven by how well the experience you provide meets your customers’ ever-changing emotional needs and wants.”
It’s a definition that, broadly, still hits the mark. But unlike in 1994, those needs and wants now have to be met – at an individual level – across multiple channels, at a time when variety is greater, competition is more intense and digital technology is constantly changing expectations.
There is a telling finding in the X Index:
“Consumers [have] become less tolerant of imperfection in their consumption journey. Why put up with glitches and delays when so many choices of brands and retailers are now available? People expect companies to understand and even anticipate their needs and adapt quickly to cater to them. Too many brands are falling short on this score.”
Which is why every company should be thinking about Google Maps when developing/refining a CX strategy that guides people along the customer journey.
When Google Maps knows where you want to go, it not only identifies all possible paths, but anticipates your personal needs by suggesting the quickest and/or cheapest way of getting to your destination. It adapts to both external influences (an accident, for example) or new personal requirements (an impromptu side trip) and it manages expectations at every turn and traffic light to deliver a personalised outcome.
Doing that successfully through CX depends on three things.
The three CX essentials
- Understand intent and meet it on a personal level
Thanks largely to digitisation and data, we know so much about our customers. In fact, many companies make the mistake of thinking collecting massive amounts of customer data is enough to make them customer-centric.
But data doesn’t let you anticipate individual customer needs. However, when properly interpreted, data does let you understand and influence customer intent. And with that, you are in a position to deliver real value to customers.
- Meet intent with an efficient, convenient, consistent experience across and between touchpoints
For CX to be effective in the omnichannel age, there must be a seamless transition from tablet to smartphone to desktop to human – and back again. At Havas, we use our digital capabilities (from data insights to conversational chatbot design to customer service centre scripts) to help our clients deliver that across all non-face-to-face customer interactions. It not only delivers a consistent experience, but ensures customer intent is captured, understood and met in real time across all channels.
- Use intent to keep people in the funnel for longer – and with purpose
Successfully retaining and getting repeat business from customers is often seen as the best (and sometimes only) CX success measure. However, by understanding and meeting intent, you can turn retention into a progressive, whole-of-funnel benefit rather than something that only happens after the Conversion stage of the customer journey.
That’s because great CX happens at a journeys-within-the-customer-journey level, which is also where personalisation happens.
To move from Awareness to Consideration in the top-level customer journey, every individual needs to weigh up if they actually want to progress. Then, if they feel like their intent has been properly met, they will move on to the next customer journey stage – and the next and the next, up to and including Advocacy.
Unfortunately, though, companies often apply a time limit – from split-seconds to days – to how long they feel individuals should take to make those deeper-level decisions. It’s a limit that is invariably based on product rather than the person buying it, and it’s a limit that means revenue is always being missed – sometimes equating to tens of millions of dollars worth of leads that have been closed too early.
If you have a customer who intends to spend longer than average in any given stage of the journey, because they want to do more research or they need to get their finances in order or (to return to the Google Maps analogy) they’ve decided to switch from car to bike halfway through the trip, you need to be able to a deliver a CX that lets them do precisely that.
It requires a lot more work, but the rewards are worth it. We see the results every day in terms of client brands enjoying increased engagement and conversions as a result of making their customers happy. Moreover, we are increasingly seeing CX as the decisive factor in what makes a brand meaningful.
Ian Gerrard is the senior digital strategist at Host/Havas.