We’re in the midst of the “Age of the Customer.” We have a generation of Facebook-, Twitter-, and Yelp-loving consumers to market to, sell to, serve, and retain. Expectations have evolved. The customer is king (or queen), and wants it “their way.” And we must listen. Why? Because a single negative comment has the potential to reach thousands, impact a brand, influence the masses, and have a lingering negative effect—making the digital customer experience more important than ever.
As customers take advantage of multichannel communication options, companies need to take a look at their enterprise-wide customer experience strategy to better serve what Accenture calls “the non-stop customer.”
Consumers have moved from the traditional linear buying process of product awareness to product research resulting in product purchase. Instead, the process is dynamic, accessible, and continuous. Consumers move seamlessly in a journey between channels and components, both physical and digital; and frequently reevaluate their decisions and consider alternatives. To succeed in this market, companies also need to shift from the linear approach and focus on providing the right experience, at the right time, across all channels.
What do you need to maximize a digital customer experience? Key considerations vary greatly by industry, but some universal considerations include:
- Start with the end in mind: It’s important to define a clear set of objectives with specific strategies rather than stopgap measures. An obvious goal is to gain consumer loyalty and wallet share, but there are a multitude of options and not all of them may be relevant. Taking an ad hoc approach is often much less effective than carefully targeting a few highly relevant channels that your customers are most likely to seek out.
- Iterate and improve: An enterprise-wide transformation isn’t required—it’s OK to start small, as long as you align to your vision and objectives. It may be easiest to look for areas that need obvious improvement before branching out to new channels. Stay dynamic by matching the changes in your customers or the markets, modifying your overall strategy as you go.
- Consider your customer: Who are your customers and how are they accessing information? This will determine your approach. For instance, new parents seeking information on health insurance are likely to use different channels to research information than tweeners looking for the latest smartphone. Know how your consumers want to interact with you and tailor to them. Companies need to understand key shifts in consumer behavior, particularly for tech-savvy consumers who are perpetually on the move.
- Put your data to work: Building a digital customer experience is all about data. For a successful digital customer experience, data must be harnessed, managed, and turned into a business asset. The result is a tailored and personalized experience delivered through the use of relevant, integrated, and timely data. This means you may have to rethink your data and analytics strategy to get the right data, at the right time. Think of your data as a supply chain rather than a warehouse. It’s about asking what key questions need to be answered and designing for that data so it becomes a cycle that improves the business through better insights.
From these stepping stones, each company can deploy an integrated digital strategy to create a customer experience that is unique to their market and needs, ultimately providing a consistent and seamless experience across channels.
The benefits of a successful digital customer experience can be immediate. Recent research from Avanade shows that 56% of customers have paid more for a product due to a better customer experience. But the benefits go beyond retaining customers—often there are operational advantages, as well. For instance, Malaysian telecommunications provider Celcom worked with Accenture and Oracle to create a system that leverages consumer and product data to predict demand and enable real-time visibility of inventory so that stores could have just enough product to meet customer demand without extra inventory languishing in the stockroom. Customers can still find the products they need, and Celcom is able to minimize inventory expenses and reduce wasted inventory.
Today’s digital customer expects nothing less than a personalized customer experience at all times and across all channels. This is unlikely to subside anytime soon, making seamless customer experiences a question of ‘when’ as opposed to ‘if.’ To create truly personal consumer relationships—and win wallet share—companies must fuse social, mobile, and digital capabilities. This requires clear goals and strategies, alignment with customer behaviors, a digital technology foundation, and an action plan that prioritizes the highest impact capabilities.
Stephanie Arnette is Global Lead for Oracle Customer Experience at Accenture