For many marketing leaders, improving the customer experience (CX) is one of the most urgent challenges in 2016 and in the years ahead. In fact, according to the consulting firm Gartner, 89 percent of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of CX in 2016.
Unfortunately, most marketers don’t feel ready for this challenge. A 2015 study by The CMO Club and Oracle Marketing Cloud, for instance, found that only 13 percent of CMOs feel that they are truly delivering a personalized and engaging customer experience across channels.
In a recent webinar with advocate marketing software company Influitive, Nick Stein, SVP of marketing at Vision Critical, explored what CMOs really need to know about the customer experience. An on-demand recording of the webinar is now available, but we’ve also highlighted some of his key points below.
When it comes to CX, the empowered customer is in charge.
Delivering a great customer experience starts with having a deep understanding of today’s customers.
“Your customers are becoming their own intelligence ecosystem,” Stein says. “They’re assembling knowledge about your products and services and giving their opinions in real time.”
More than ever, customers today have the power to change the course of business. As Stein points out, “One angry social media post can affect stock price and damage brands.”
But instead of looking at the empowered customer as a threat, companies should seize the opportunity. “When I look at Uber, what I see is a company that knows exactly what its customer wants,” explains Stein. “They haven’t ran afraid from the empowered customer; they’ve actually embraced the empowered customer.”
Uber has done that by empowering customers to get what they need (in this case, a ride) at their fingertips, when they want it. Uber’s success is also driven by customer feedback and engagement. By providing their ratings and feedback, every Uber customer is watching, evaluating and improving Uber. Essentially, the company connect peoples, empower them and learn from their interactions.
RELATED: For strategies on how to improve the end-to-end customer journey, check out The Enterprise Guide to Customer Experience, an ebook authored by Tyler Douglas, chief sales and marketing officer at Vision Critical.
Stein says every industry will see its own version of Uber—companies that innovate based on an understanding of the empowered customer. Getting a holistic picture of the customer—by using data and by engaging with customers directly—is critical to delivering better experiences and thriving in the age of endless disruption.
"The only way to truly connect with your customers is to redefine the relationship you have with them and start thinking of them as people rather than as data points."
Companies need to dig deeper.
Companies are investing heavily in marketing technology in the hopes of improving the customer experience. But Stein says many companies are missing one critical tool in their stack: customer intelligence. (READ: Why customer intelligence needs to be a bigger part of the marketing technology stack)
While many conversations about martech have focused on predictive analytics and big data, the need to engage directly with customers is, in fact, just as crucial. Although big data is able to quantify human behavior, it can’t explain motivation.
“You need a way to dig into the peaks and valleys in your dashboards,” points out Stein.
At the same time, the tool that many companies use to listen to the voice of the customer—the traditional survey—is also falling short. For the most part, marketers use ad hoc surveys to interrogate their customers, missing the opportunity to make a genuine connection. When marketers use ad hoc surveys to spam people, it sends a message to customers that they don’t matter.
“Your customers want to feel like they matter to you and to your brand,” explains Stein. “But in the age of the empowered customer, the traditional survey technology that you use to understand the customer is alienating them and pushing them away.”
Improving the customer experience is all about human relationships.
In the end, improving the customer experience requires companies to re-evaluate their relationship with their customers. For CX managers and directors, it’s critical to gain a more proactive pulse on customers—something they can only gain by engaging with people directly.
“The only way to truly connect with your customers is to redefine the relationship you have with them and start thinking of them as people rather than as data points,” Stein says. “That really only begins when you start engaging with your customers in regular, ongoing conversations that deepen over time.”