Customer Experience at the Center

I have always looked at the Japanese with reverence. They have the fantastic capability to view everything from the lens of the customer – be it the way they present their food or make their cars or conduct business. By putting customer experience at the center, they are able to create deep customer engagement. It is this engagement that makes their customers their brand loyalist.

When it comes to businesses today, the dynamics have to be similar.

We all know that the costs to acquire new customers is five times more than retaining an existing one. As the world becomes more software defined, paying attention to this dynamic becomes important. However, research shows that organizations pay more attention to customer acquisition strategies than retention. According to research, 44% companies have a greater focus on customer acquisition while only 18% have that kind of focus on retention. As the application economy flourishes, customers gain the immense flexibility to shift loyalties. So what can we do to ensure that every shiny new object does not distract a customer?

Customer Experience Drives Customer Engagement

With options amok how can customers be retained and turned into advocates? The answer lies in continuous customer engagement which is driven by customer experience. Poor customer experience is directly proportional to customer churn. As the cost of acquiring new customers is much higher than retaining the existing ones, software companies have to focus on providing a consistent and elevated customer experience.

Customer engagement begins with customer experience. As customer interactions move online, SaaS companies can compete solely on the basis of customer experience. The customers’ interaction experience with the product determines the success of the product. Understanding the nature of customer interactions, identifying and analyzing pain points, and understanding customer behavior at an individual level can help in driving elevated customer experiences. It is these experiences then drive engagement.

In most cases, however, deep engagement does not take place. The customer has to deal with too many touch points, and invariably has to look outside the product to seek assistance. Despite the best intentions and efforts, for customer engagement initiatives to bite the dust. Why does that happen? The possible reasons could be –

Customer Engagement is Fragmented

To help the customer achieve success with the product, organizations now have dedicated customer success teams. The sole focus of these teams is to orchestrate all the company resources to make the customer happy with the product. However, while Customer Success is one team, it has many contributors. The marketing, product, engineering, finance teams, etc. all are contributors to customer success.

With so many teams being stakeholders of customer success and vying for the customer’s attention, customer engagement ends up becoming fragmented. As a result, the customer ends up shuffling between multiple tools to get his job done…and eventually stops using the product.

All customer success stakeholders need the right tools to proactively engage with the customer at the right touch point. However, this has to be enabled within the product for stronger message reinforcement. Only then it is possible to provide a continuous and connected customer engagement with the product.

The Absence of an Actionable Customer View

Gone are the days when organizations could constantly bombard their customers with irrelevant information and marketing messages. Today, in the age of hyper-personalization, the customers expect the information exchange to be highly contextual and relevant. This can only happen if teams contributing to customer success have a single, unified and actionable 360-degree view of the customer.

That apart, customer engagement, much like a relationship, can be a success only when communication is enabled both ways. This means giving the customer the power to communicate directly back to the company and the relevant department…without wondering how to do so.

When organizations enable this, they can take measurable and quantified steps to deliver a product that the customers want to use. They gain the capability to send relevant and contextual marketing material. They can also enable efficient self-service by providing an exhaustive and intuitive information repository for all the relevant information.

By listening to customer feedback and incorporating feedback into every product decision, and prioritizing product features based on feedback creates deeper engagement with the customer.

Lack of Contextual, Data-Driven Insights into Customer Behavior

Complete and accurate customer data is critical to gain deep insights into customer behavior and product usage relationship. The lack of this impedes the speed of response of customer success teams, and they struggle to deliver immediate value and deeper engagement.

To resolve this, organizations have to be available to the customer when they want, wherever they want. It becomes imperative for all the invested teams to gain deep insights into the customer behavior, product usage patterns, and all relevant customer information at the right time so that they can tailor the information and customer experience accordingly.

Context such as job roles, nature of work etc. become relevant to drive engagement with the customer on a continuous basis. This helps make sure that the information, experience or help being extended is relevant to them.

Lack of Visibility into Customer Sentiment

Another reason for failed customer engagement endeavors is the lack of visibility into customer sentiment. A big part of customer engagement is to analyze customer sentiment with the help of surveys, user history, and usage patterns. It is also important to ensure that customer success, product support, and all such teams can ask the right questions to increase customer response rates. Understanding user behavior and sentiment, collecting feedback, and taking immediate proactive steps to make the product experience better for the customer can become drivers of customer engagement.

While there are many tools and dashboards available for customer success teams, these rarely offer deep insights into customer usage patterns and do not offer calls to action. Clearly, organizations need a vehicle to get a 360-degree view of the customer that allows all the stakeholders of customer success take the right actions, at the right time, for each individual customer on the basis of that unified view.

So, what can be done?

As organizations evolve to being customer-led, it becomes clear that it is the customer who drives the revenue…both of today and of the future. And to make sure that customers have ‘aha’ moments during their interactions with the product, personalization and context are key. Intelligent Automation can enable a personalized interaction with customers at scale, analyze their needs and deliver continuous value to the customers on a repeatable basis – Not low touch, high touch or tech-touch, it is time to enable intelligent-touch I think!