Companies have always claimed that they prioritize their customers’ needs. Yet, customers have never had more power than they do today. They increasingly demand personalized attention, fast service and a consistent, excellent experience across every touch point.
In fact, Forrester calls this era the “age of the customer” and predicts that 2016 is the year companies will either succeed or fail in their efforts to adapt to today’s digitally savvy, empowered buyers.
The good news is that organizations have tremendous opportunities to leverage data to better understand customers and improve their experience. The key is to know how to capture that data, manipulate it in ways that lead to new insights and then take action to gain competitive advantage.
Unique Customer Insights
What gives CompuCom unique perspective into the customer experience? We help a broad range of organizations deliver IT services to their end users. For many of these clients, we implement personas — detailed definitions of groups of end users who require a particular set of devices, applications and IT support.
With personas in place, we can capture data about end-user behaviors that give us insights into how they consume technology and the type of IT experience they expect. These insights are directly transferrable to how customers interact with brands.
There’s a broad range of data that we can capture that helps us understand user preferences by persona. This data includes information spanning age, income, location and industry. The data delves into more detail as we can find out customers’ technology consumption patterns, the devices they use, as well as the IT problems they have experienced.
In addition, we can look at how they consume IT support — their contact preferences, whether they try self-service and then call the service desk, that sort of thing. We can see whether certain types of problems result in certain behaviors — for example, maybe a password problem generates a call, but an application problem drives self-service.
We can also watch behaviors change over time. For example, Millennials are recognized as digital natives who have high expectations for a fast, always-on experience. But Gen Xers and Boomers are catching up quickly. As these older generations become more comfortable with technology, they’re behaving more like Millennials, and their expectations for customer experience are rising in parallel.
The User Is in the Data
For organizations that want to leverage data to improve customer experience, the good news is that they’re probably already capturing relevant information in their transaction systems. The bad news is that this information tends to remain stranded in silos. Therefore, organizations will need to aggregate and normalize that data so they can analyze it and gain valuable insights.
Leveraging data is a bigger challenge for more established companies that still rely on legacy systems. But it’s an issue for any company that interacts with customers across channels: through direct sales, in a retail store, through a call center, over the web, on mobile platforms, through social media and so on. You need to gain a view of customers through each channel. But you also need to get a picture of customers across channels.
This is as much a technical challenge as an organizational one. You can’t use different data models for different customers and different channels and expect to achieve a unified view. So you need to normalize your customer data in a way that you can analyze it to gain a true picture of customer preferences and behavior.
From Experience to Retention
Based on our insights, we know that end users increasingly have these expectations for customer experience:
- They want a simple and streamlined buying process.
- If they can’t get answers immediately, they’ll quickly go somewhere else.
- These preferences and behaviors are consistent throughout the buying journey, from information gathering, to transaction, to after-sales service.
- Their price sensitivity or willingness to “shop around” varies by persona or demographic.
- In many cases they, prefer self-service, but some personas prefer to be walked through the process.
Finally, customer experience has a direct impact on retention rates. Customers have less and less patience if they’re not immediately satisfied. Online, mobile and social channels give them instant access to your competitors. If they’re not happy with your brand, it’s relatively painless for them to find another.
But organizations that learn how to leverage customer data can increasingly serve customers the way they want to be served. They can use their insights to deliver a superior customer experience and retain customers over the long-term.
I welcome you to leave a comment on how you see data being used to enhance your customers’ experience.