How to improve customer experience in the new normal

How to improve customer experience in the new normal

Alberto Maestri Published on 3/9/2022

Creating a memorable customer experience has become a key factor in business success. But it’s easier said than done.

It’s vital to take an almost loving approach to your customers, to adopt a mindset that’s focused on people and their needs, especially unexpressed ones. It’s important to put yourself in customers’ shoes to better understand how to make them happy.

The health of our business depends on it. In fact, the data tell us that:

  • 86% of customers would be willing to spend more if they had an excellent experience.
  • 49% would make more impulse purchases if they felt unique in their interactions with a company.

In particular, customer experience will influence how people perceive our brand and where it lies in their hierarchy when the time comes to choose between our product or the competition’s.

Once upon a time, customer experience was strictly linked to the bricks-and-mortar shop. But with the advent of digital, the possibilities for interactions with brands have exploded, creating countless touchpoints every day. Smartphones, social networks and apps are the new places where customers can have a memorable experience. But a word of caution: this doesn’t mean that the physical store is no longer relevant; rather, it needs to be integrated into a holistic strategy. In other words, every single communication strategy must work in harmony with one another.

It’s crucial to think about the customer experience at every touchpoint in the purchase process. So we’re going to try and better understand what exactly customer experience is, look at the trends worth watching and examine some case studies that could give you ideas for your own business.

What customer experience (CX) is and how it can improve your business

Customer experience is the relationship between the customer and the company. Like in a human relationship, we might perceive this relationship positively or negatively, depending on the emotions that we feel during the interaction.

In marketing, moments when customers and companies meet are called “touchpoints” and include everything – from the website to the bricks-and-mortar store – where relationships are built with people.

Like in real-life courtship, firms must be able to anticipate needs so as to win over customers, especially over the long term. Indeed, a product might be of extremely high quality and competitive, but this is not enough in itself to guarantee success.

If a consumer doesn’t feel unique, engaged and happy when making a purchase (before, during and after), they’re unlikely to come back to us and will probably look elsewhere.

A business model designed to improve the customer experience will bring enormous advantages, in particular:

  • Customer loyalty will be improved.
  • Satisfaction will be higher.
  • Happy customers will generate positive word-of-mouth and reviews, which is the best possible marketing for an SME.

There’s no standard strategy or series of steps for achieving this. But there are guidelines that can be followed and adapted to your business. The bottom line: it’s important to invest time and resources in designing memorable experiences.

Above all, good customer experience starts with listening. Listening to customers should be a priority in any area of your business. Just by knowing their needs (especially hidden ones) and what excites them, you’ll be able to create memorable moments because your customers will feel pampered, understood and wowed.

Listening involves gathering feedback to develop an in-depth understanding of your audience. To do so, a CRM (customer relationship management) system that tracks interactions and analyses data coming from digital channels can be useful. Combining these two elements will allow you to create ever more personalised and impactful experiences, a bit like getting the perfect present for someone that you’ve known for ages.

Once you’ve gathered this feedback, you need to act promptly, experiment with changes and try new techniques. This will help you remove the barriers, especially online, that separate us from a truly authentic relationship with customers and to give them an unforgettable experience. Data and numbers will help us to achieve this goal, but we should never forget that everything stems from our focus on the customer and listening.

New post-pandemic trends in customer experience

The past two years have not been easy. The Covid crisis has brought about significant social and behavioural shifts that have had a knock-on effect on marketing.

SMEs have had to adapt quickly and find new, temporary solutions to reach customers who all of a sudden were distant, trapped at home. An historic period that has led to profound changes. The businesses that have continued to be competitive in these challenging times are those that have fully embraced digital.

The so-called recovery phase that we’ve heard so much about on the news in actual fact started long ago when firms were forced to undertake a digitalisation process in order to maintain their relationship with customers, one which became weaker in – or even disappeared from – physical meeting places.

Given what we’ve lived through, today we’re going to look forwards at three new trends are that will guide effective customer experience strategies in the future.

Trend 1. Personalisation to make each customer feel unique

When we scroll through social media or web pages, we’ve aware that we’ve looking at the same thing as thousands of other people. Yet we want to feel unique. According to statistics, about 75% of consumers will be more likely to complete a transaction if a company addresses them by their name, knows their purchase habits and suggests offers or relevant products. How can this be achieved? By analysing the firm’s data, customer feedback and online interactions we can segment our audience and give it targeted offers. To this end, email marketing remains a very effective tool if used in a way that’s authentic and brings real value to the customer. Being customer oriented means putting yourself in their shoes to understand their needs.

Trend 2. Artificial intelligence and the balance between humans and machines

One trend that’s here to stay is the use of artificial intelligence. In fact, the pandemic has seen its use increase markedly, creeping into ever more areas of business. It can be extremely useful in customer service and personalisation in particular. For example, the use of chatbots in customer support is now commonplace, allowing firms to better manage requests, at least at the start of the process.

Customers are becoming increasingly demanding and want to resolve their queries as soon as possible. This means it’s vital to create as smooth an experience as possible on your website. What’s more, chatbots are also being built into social networks, allowing businesses to respond to consumers through these channels too.

But it’s important to ensure that this relationship with automated systems is as natural and human as possible.

63% of consumers say they don’t like the chatbot experience because they often fail to solve the problem and are cold and distant. So these services should be combined with real support centres to offer the best possible experience. The second aspect is personalisation, which, thanks to AI, can automate various data analysis processes and provide instant insights.

Trend 3. Protecting data: because it’s the most valuable online asset

Special attention must be given to transparency in processing people’s data, something that is now a key factor in online interactions with firms. It’s important to be completely honest with users so that they know that their data will be processed ethically and only used to provide them with added value.

Closely related to data transparency is data protection. Significant investment is required in this area because a potential hack of company systems risks losing people’s trust. In fact, it’s estimated that a data breach will lead over 50% of your customers to view you negatively, thus leading to major financial damage. To improve people’s experience in this regard, it’s important to make your customers aware of fraudulent emails, as well as providing two-factor authentication and using high levels of encryption to protect user data.

Examples of engaging customer experience

Let’s take a look at a few examples that show us what the trends and best practices outlined above look like in reality:

  • Casper: the sleep wellbeing start-up and producer of innovative mattresses has created a free chatbot for people suffering from insomnia. By sending a message with the code “Insomnobot3000”, you can start a conversation about anything that is stopping you from sleeping at night. It’s an opportunity for the company to better understand its customers (or potential customers) and give them targeted advice and offerings to solve their problem. In the first year after its launch, the company made over 100 million dollars in sales through this service.
  • Southwest Airlines: without happy employees, you can’t offer an unforgettable customer experience. That’s why Southwest Airlines has invested heavily in making its working environment as welcoming and relaxing as possible. And the result is staff who are true brand ambassadors, embodying its values and customer focus. Here’s a stunning example: in 2011, a pilot held the departure of a flight by 10 minutes to wait for a man flying to see his dying grandson for the last time. Happy employees make for happy customers.
  • Glossier: here’s a great example of how listening makes a difference. By listening to feedback on social and the blog of its founder,  Emily Weiss, the cosmetics brand realised that its customers where not just fighting against acne and aesthetic imperfections, but above all a lack of self-confidence. So it decided to focus its website on affordable products, beauty routines that can be easily done at home and communication aimed at making women feel beautiful as they are, with their imperfections.
  • Amazon: one of the e-commerce giant’s strengths is service. You order a product, get it delivered to your home within days, and if you don’t like it or there’s something wrong with it, you can return it easily free of charge. To further meet its customers’ needs, Amazon knows very well that Black Friday is one of the most profitable times of the year and that many people plan to do their Christmas shopping in this period. But what happens if a product isn’t wanted when it’s unwrapped on Christmas day? Simple. From mid-November, the company extends the return period for its products to 31 January. This means customers can do their Christmas shopping on Black Friday with peace of mind.

So we’ve learnt how it’s possible to improve the experience of customers when they come into contact with our firm. We’ve also learnt that this can been achieved using artificial intelligence or just a minimum amount of human intervention in business processes that are now largely automated.

This is the so-called low-touch model in which customers are able to solve their problems or complete the purchase process without human involvement. The pandemic has turned out to be the most low-touch touch period in history, but was really just the acceleration of a process that was already underway. Indeed, it is estimated that by 2023, 75% of grocery shopping will be delivered to the home rather than bought in the supermarket. It’s a trend that has now been well-established by e-commerce firms like Amazon.

Yet it’s still vital to maintain the right balance, providing human advice where needed to ensure that the customer experience is as human and authentic as possible.