Today, customer data, knowledge, and insights are more valuable and of more strategic importance than ever before.
Customers have more options, greater access to pricing information, and greater means to share their experiences with others, both good and bad, yielding more power, choice, and influence than ever before.
Companies that succeed in this environment are those that become obsessed with understanding their customers – Amazon is a wonderful example. It goes to great lengths to exceed customer expectations by leveraging information and insights and can identify cohorts of users such as iPhone users vs Android through to different locations and usage patterns. It uses this information to test, compare, contrast and respond accordingly and is the literal opposite of a ‘one-size fits all’ model.
The trouble with customers
While a trailblazer, Amazon is not alone. There are other companies that are masters at turning data into insights, and making decisions and changes in faster feedback cycles – brands like Netflix, Coca-Cola and adidas. In other words, they find out what’s working and what isn’t and adjust appropriately at lighting speed.
The trouble is, retaining customers is harder than ever in the age of dying brand loyalty. With so much competition in the modern market, consumers can always find a brand that delivers the same products and services – just cheaper and faster. It is also becoming harder and harder to create genuinely positive experiences for customers when the cost to serve them is high.
Strides in mobile technology mean marketers are facing more and more challenges as dissatisfaction with a product or service can be voiced instantly. But, as we know, social media is anything but one-sided. While consumers have high expectations from businesses attempting to engage with them on social channels, the flip-side is that brands have the opportunity to reach millions of potential customers, many of whom may have once been out of their grasp.
Trial and error
A vast as it is, social isn’t the communication channel of choice for the world. Some customers prefer to communicate by email and phone, though both have flaws with long wait times, spam low open rates and customers often being transferred from department to department. This is especially true at the point of purchase. Today, people don’t believe they have bought something until they get the confirmation email from the store. Good ones come through instantly, bad ones send in two hours.
In fact, this element of the transaction is constantly under review as it is perceived as critical to the post-sales experience. However, the moment a retailer sends an email or text, they’re trying to link one session to another. This has greater likelihood of failure as customers expect good experiences and efficient communication by means they already use.
The juxtaposition here being that businesses need to test each part of the sales process, even after the point of sale, and experiment with the testing teams to ensure that the website and processes survive this jump from one channel to another. This in itself is part of a constant experiment, like changing homepage or the number of products shown within a search term, to continually test and improve the customer experience.
Building customer trust and loyalty is vital for businesses that want to succeed. With so many options out there, consumers won’t shop with or stay with a business that doesn’t make them feel valued or where they have lingering concerns about privacy and security.
Any business facing issues with customer retention should look at different personas and test for them and have a view across the end-to-end user experience. It should be asking itself “How can I be more Amazon?”. If traditional companies can innovate digitally and offer some element of self-service, instant responses and flexibility to existing customers that want it, they’ve got a better chance of keeping up with a new digital world and retaining customers who might otherwise shift to the dark side.