New technologies are transforming businesses at a rapid pace and elevating the services on offer to consumers.
In the past ten years alone, the way consumers select and receive services has changed dramatically thanks to developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and omnichannel service. Today’s consumers can order a taxi and purchase their groceries with equal ease from their smartphones, opt for same-day or even same-hour delivery, receive personalised updates on their delivery status and access virtual customer support for instant resolution.
This change is being spearheaded by innovators such as Amazon and Uber, who are making bigger and better experiences by which customers now set their standards.
New era of consumer expectation
The result is a new-age of consumer accustomed to fast, simple and tailor-made services everywhere from retail to transport. Brands must now go beyond price and product when it comes to securing customers; they must deliver a complete customised experience which reflects the value they place on the consumer.
It is perhaps unsurprising that 75 percent of customers today demand a response within five minutes of contacting a business online and a recent PwC report found that customer experience is a crucial element in 73 percent consumers decision to purchase.
The impact is especially visible in retail. Facing pressure from ecommerce competitors, physical stores are looking to create in-store experiences which entice digital consumers. For example, Nike launched its flagship ‘House of Innovation’ store in New York last year, which includes an exclusive floor for Nike Plus members where they can customise products. Underpinned by the Nike App, the store encourages a seamless and rewarding shopping experience.
Meeting the Customer Experience bar
Customer-obsessed brands not only set the expectation standard, they encourage consumers to push the bar upwards for other companies. For this reason customers expect the same high-level service from a hotel as they do from their insurance provider. Businesses are no longer competing in their own crowded sector but across industries to win customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The question is, how can businesses ensure that the reality matches increasingly great expectations for customers?
For businesses to succeed in today’s competitive climate, they must turn customers’ cross-sector experiences to their advantage. If customer expectation is shaped by other companies, then businesses too can mould their customer approach according to the practices employed in other industries.
‘My’ customer is also ‘your’ customer
The basic principles of customer experience apply across the board: reliable and personalised services which create value, whether that is in healthcare or financial services.
Bricks-and-mortar organisations for instance are already learning from ecommerce and investing more in digital transformation, to provide mobile services which suit the needs of busy consumers. Driven by a demand for convenience, the NHS has been developing a suite of apps which allow patients to easily schedule appointments, quickly access health information and make prescriptions.
Similarly, firms such as Lloyds Banking Group are investing heavily in AI to create more intuitive, efficient online banking for customers. Consumers will walk from companies who fail to provide fast digital service, as illustrated by the 1,076 banks and building societies which closed over last year.
Hospitals and high-street money lenders ultimately share the same customer, one whose expectations have been heightened by customer-centric service enjoyed in other industries. While retailers, financial services and healthcare have traditionally relied upon physical consumer interactions, the appetite for mobile experiences confirms that these sectors can and must evolve for customers.
The key for businesses is to look at the wider, cross-industry picture of their customer. Once businesses understand their customers in this universal context, it becomes easier to deliver the services and experiences which delight and engender loyalty.
Leveraging consumer insight
Implementing techniques borrowed from other customer-centric brands can reap great rewards for businesses. Still, the success of this depends critically on the company’s own customer knowledge. Those innovative brands who excel in customer experience do so because they have an ingrained sense of what their customers want now and will want later.
This is made by possible by taking a scientific approach to your data. Amazon’s famous customer obsession model hinges upon data and using innovative technologies to process this information, with the company’s Prime service being one result. Prime’s one-day delivery service anticipated the desire for faster and easily-tracked deliveries and has since expanded to include film, music and audiobook streaming services which add value to the customer experience.
Consistently analysing consumer behaviour reveals exactly what makes that person tick and above all, what makes them spend. Each customer interaction with a business, from the products they regularly purchase to whether they prefer SMS or email communication, builds a rich customer identity. This insight enables brands to tailor their services and anticipate customers’ changing expectations, helping to determine the best product offer vouchers for one customer or to time insurance renewal mail for another more effectively.
Importantly, these insights allow your company to provide an overall enhanced customer service which builds lasting relationships and repeat revenue. Delivering on great expectations is about making customers feel connected to, and valued by, the brand they use.
Consumers are changing, so you should too
In the digital age consumer expectation knows no boundaries or limits. While this creates something of an uphill battle for businesses, they have the power to meet consumers’ evolving demands each step of the way. By looking at the customer through a wider lens and understanding how their behaviour is shaped by external industries and brands, businesses can more effectively respond to their needs, using consumer insights as the tools to enact change.
Jamie Acutt is Head of Marketing and (UX) Design at Equiniti Data and Equiniti Cyber Security. Driven by a passion for creating great experiences through data and design, Jamie has experience in Digital Marketing, User Experience Design and Consultancy, as well as Product Management and Independent Research. Equiniti Data is an award-winning data and insights solutions provider for public and private sector organisations.