Category: E-Business, Technology

The Customer Experience

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customer-experienceWe hear about it all of the time throughout the corporate hallways, “we need to focus on the customer experience…”  What does that mean and why does it matter?

Well, in short, it does matter and it drives much of where money is being spent by companies across all retail-focused industries in 2015. What’s behind the big push has many different factors.

The background is that core consumer expectations and the customer experience drive brand perception and business. When things like price increases happen, it’s the customer experience that may keep someone loyal to a brand. That is paramount to why the overall customer experience and being in touch with customer expectations is so important today.

In the past, companies only had to worry about the experience via direct mail and their 800 numbers.  We’ve since introduced IVR systems, websites, digital marketing, mobile apps, social media, in-store experience, and all combinations thereof into the mix. In addition, we now have a larger demographic to serve, each with their own unique way of interacting with our companies. If you look at the adoption speed of some of the newest ways to interact, it’s understandable that many firms are having difficulty keeping up.

We all remember a uniquely positive experience we’ve had, either with a retailer or restaurant.  Based on that experience, we set the bar and judge subsequent experiences as just average, or worse. With multiple mediums and different experiences possible in each, it’s very hard to be on top of your game at all times.

So, how do you stay on top of the customer experience in a meaningful way? Here are some high level tips to think about:

  1. Mobile Isn’t Optional and Account for the Touch: Mobile and tablet experiences influence expectations and perception. You need to ensure that those visiting your websites and using your apps have the best experience possible. Sites that force awkward scrolling or pinching to zoom into elements influence the overall brand perception and perceived ease of use.
  2. Keep Up, Make It Easy, and Don’t Waste My Time—Across All Channels: Simply put, you need to ensure that you are keeping up with the Jones’ both within and outside of your industry. Functionality should be available via phone, online and offline channels. It should be easy to use, and you should not be presenting information that isn’t relevant to the specific customer. We have all heard horror stories around how a seemingly simple task can take hours to complete. The beauty of social media is that these stories are now shared in record time and force companies to backpeddle in real time.
  3. Communicate Via Meaningful Channels: Know your customer, and know what channels are relevant to them. Have they actually opened and read your e-mails in the past? Have they responded to a mailed letter? Do they visit your website often? If you don’t know, you are already behind in providing them relevant, useful information and services in the medium that they use the most. Don’t stereotype or generalize (“older people don’t go online…”), but use the data you have and know.
  4. Be Proactive- In the Right Medium: Everyone loves the fact that Google Now will take some educated guesses and be proactive with suggestions of directions, content, news, and alerts as it sees fit. And for the most part, it does a very good job of predicting what you may want to see. You have plenty of data about your customers and what they do, buy, see, etc. Use it, be proactive, and use the right medium (from #3 above), and you will be off to a great start!
  5. Don’t Forget Any Medium: While the web and mobile may drive a lot of spending, recent studies show that all channels are equally as important. In recent studies, 60% of millennials said that they expect a consistent experience across online, in-store, or via phone, but they also want the ability to interact via any of the mediums if they choose. Don’t lose your focus and drift off into the Internet while your other channels fall behind.

Hopefully this has given you some things to think about relating to the customer experience. It’s more important and complex than ever, but that’s the fun part!

I will be speaking with my colleague, Madeline FitzGerald, about the customer experience, expectations, and influence on brand perception at the DST Advance conference this week and welcome your comments, thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

Brian Melter

Brian Melter

Brian joined Boston Financial in 2012 as the Managing Director for the E-Business Solutions Division. Brian helps to advance web, mobile, social media, and emerging technology-based solutions to foster innovation, cost-effective growth, and enhance client and advisor engagement. Brian has more than 21 years of experience in mutual fund technology, operations, marketing, and strategy. Prior to joining Boston Financial, Brian was with Wells Fargo Funds Management, where he led the Operations, Retail Marketing, and E-Business teams. Before Wells Fargo Funds Management, Brian led E-Commerce strategy, design, development, and online marketing for Strong Financial Corporation.

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