Amazon recently took online shopping to a new level with the introduction of #AmazonCart – a Twitter (News - Alert) integration allowing users to place items into their personal Amazon shopping carts by tweeting #AmazonCart. This is just the latest step in consumers having more options and faster time-to-gratification than ever before through e-commerce channels. Features like “one-click” and site-to-store make it easy to execute purchases, and next-day delivery is fast becoming the new normal. Brick and mortar stores are also quickly improving their online presence and putting more effort into the omni-channel buying patterns of customers by supporting offerings such as inventory checks, in-store pickup and expanded support for social customer feedback on products.
However, despite this online focus from retailers, the 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) reported that the in-store retail customer experience performed significantly better than online customer experience, which scored its lowest benchmark in 12 years. With the options consumers have for online service, how could the flourishing world of online retail suffer such a staggering blow? The report leads to this and other questions about the force behind customer satisfaction, the importance of an emotional connection with a brand, and the role of multi-channel listening and Customer Experience Management (CEM) in building an emotional connection with increasingly empowered customers.
Expectations have been “Amazon’d”
The ACSI survey may actually be shedding light on “the new normal.” A decrease in customer satisfaction with online retailers reflects the fact that not many businesses are meeting the expectations set by the Amazons of the world. Experiences offered by certain retailers have helped to raise the bar for shoppers to the point that they are only satisfied with stellar customer service, unique features and easy mobile access.
Emotions come into play when a company meets this new level of service; customers become attached and crave the same experience. At this point, a brand consistently meeting expectations becomes family. Customers learn to depend on and trust the brand, ultimately becoming advocates, and then passionate advocates.
Building an emotional connection means being dependable, thoughtful, engaging and anticipatory. When things go wrong, quickly addressing customer needs will ultimately lead to satisfied, and therefore emotionally attached, customers. Unfortunately, there is a gap in how companies understand these needs. In fact, 80 percent of executives believe they are offering an excellent customer experience, but only 8 percent of consumers feel they’ve had one. Understanding customer experience requires analysis of survey data – accounting for an average of 5 percent of customer feedback – in conjunction with all other forms of customer feedback.
Currently, businesses are interested in multi-channel listening as a way to understand the Voice of the Customer (VoC). Multi-channel is the practice of collecting customer feedback from every possible source, including internal sources, such as chat, blogs, associate feedback, emails, surveys, and CRM systems, as well as external sources, such as social media and product reviews, and combining both with structured data from data warehouses to form a comprehensive view of customers.
However, ubiquitous listening is just one part of the journey. Businesses must extend the process of multi-channel and analyze and act on the data. Analyzing data across channels informs a business what actions to take, who needs to take action, and what impact those actions will have. Businesses must then openly communicate the change.
One consumer website found that customers were calling, emailing, and live-chatting about one product feature. The company put the feature front and center on the website to make it easier for customers to find the information and then created a marketing campaign about the accessibility of their website. Simple, effective and high impact.
Seamless Experience through CEM
In order to create an emotional attachment with customers, online businesses must first understand the “new normal.” Brands must provide the level of service shoppers expect, then use unique brand attributes to drive transactions. This is where an investment in Customer Experience Management program comes into play and will allow businesses to intelligently listen to customers and address and prioritize business decisions to increase satisfaction. Ultimately, in a highly competitive marketplace, if you don’t look after your customers, someone else will.
For the sites that didn’t fare well in the ACSI report, the experience that brings information quickly across channels and leaves customers feeling instantly connected and nurtured was lacking. Large vendors known for quick shipping and accessible customer service have already created that emotional connection, something likely done by pushing for that multi-channel experience through CEM. These companies quickly listen to customers and act on the data, showing that maximizing favored features while giving customers an omni-channel experience is what will ultimately be the winning hand.
The seamless customer experience created through informed action is expected, and this truly signals the future of customer experience.
About the Author: Matt Cohen, Vice President of Global Strategic Accounts, has been helping Global 1000 companies leverage consumer feedback, including the vast universe of social media, for eight years. As one of Clarabridge (News - Alert)'s first employees, Matt has helped evangelize and develop the market for enterprise Customer Experience Management (CEM), scalable listening and engagement for business.
In his role, Matt helps businesses listen, understand and close-the-loop with consumers to create a better customer experience, which increases satisfaction and drives loyalty.