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Google Analytics for Firebase can change the way you track and monitor your mobile application's performance PHOTO: Ali Yahya

Everywhere you turn, people are talking about customer experience (CX). In fact, an Econsultancy survey found 22% of companies identified CX as the most exciting business opportunity of 2019 — beating content marketing (15%) and mobile marketing (13%). Organizations are excited about CX for some very good reasons:

  • 86% of shoppers are willing to pay more for better CX.
  • 73% of consumers consider CX an important factor that affects their purchasing decisions.
  • 65% of buyers find that a positive brand experience influences their decisions more than advertising.
  • 90% of Americans take customer service into account when deciding whether to purchase from a brand.
  • US companies lose approximately $1.6 trillion annually due to poor CX that causes customers to switch to competitors.

The ability to deliver an outstanding customer experience is the key to effective customer acquisition and retention. Consistency is an important factor in the delivery of an outstanding customer experience — it helps set expectations, streamline customer interactions, build relationships and cultivate trust. In addition, customers demand seamless services across all channels (e.g., website, phone, social media, chat) based on their real-time behaviors and interactions with the brand. 

A consistent CX across all touch points allows companies to deliver the right content or offers at the right place and at the right time — every time — so they can effectively progress prospects and customers down the purchasing path.

Challenges in Delivering a Consistent CX

While there are many customer service platforms businesses can use to improve front-end customer communications, many companies are still struggling to deliver a consistent CX — not because of the lack of customer-facing technologies, but due to fragmented back-end processes.

For example, if a customer inquires about the availability of a product, a customer service agent will need information from the procurement department to provide accurate information on stock availability. Or, if a customer wants to check on the delivery date of an order, the agent will need to get information from the warehousing department or shipping provider to offer timely customer support. 

Delivering a consistent customer experience requires a high level of collaboration and coordination among different departments within an organization. However, the siloed structure of many businesses is preventing them from creating a seamless CX. In addition, the various internal departments may have different processes that aren’t aligned with the overall CX strategy. Without an overarching customer-centric approach that ties all the workflows together, brands struggle with delivering a seamless CX.

Last but not least, many workflows are stitched together over time with ad hoc components that don’t integrate with each other, aren’t optimized for the highest efficiency, or standardized for consistency and predictability.

The lack of standardization of these processes often causes inconsistency in customer interactions that lead to confusion for both the customer service team and the customers, impacting the overall CX.

To overcome these challenges, brands need to take a holistic and customer-centric approach when creating processes throughout the organization — from procurement and fulfillment to marketing and customer care. 

Here’s where a technology that’s typically not associated with customer experience can help. While we don't often associate automation with CX, it is in fact the golden thread that ties it all together and allows an organization to effectively break down silos and execute a customer-centric business strategy.

Related Article: Customer Experience, Automation and AI: 3 Enterprise Game Changers

How to Use Automation to Deliver a Consistent (and Better) CX

Automation can help you optimize, standardize and streamline processes such as marketing, order processing, shipment and post-sales support so you can deliver a consistent brand experience that meets customer expectations and builds trust.

It also helps you manage customer communications and make sure that they don’t fall through the cracks. For example, you can set up a system where as soon as a customer email is received, a workflow is created automatically so it can be routed to the appropriate department and tracked until a resolution is reached.

In addition, automation technologies allow you to closely monitor business processes and collect data so you can fine-tune workflows and further improve CX.

Here are five ways you can use automation to improve CX, facilitate customer support and drive more sales:

Augment CX With Personalization

Personalization is the key to differentiating your brand, driving sales and increasing conversion in today’s competitive market. In fact, 72% of consumers only engage with customized marketing messages targeted to their specific interests.

  • Use automation technologies to analyze data collected from all touch points and segment your customer list so you can deliver the most relevant content, product recommendations and services in real-time.
  • Automate workflows in your email marketing platform or CRM system to deliver highly targeted content or offers based on each customer’s real-time interaction with the brand (e.g., follow up on a customer service phone call).
  • Send out automated reminders about items left in a customer’s cart to drive traffic back to the website and lower cart abandonment rate.
  • Deliver highly personalized website content and product recommendations to build loyalty and increase purchases.

Related Article: 5 Drivers of Personalized Experiences: A Walk Through the AI Food Chain

Streamline CX With Chatbots

Did you know that 56% of people prefer to contact a brand via messaging apps or chat rather than by phone? The use of chatbots, powered by automation technologies, can help streamline customer service while delivering a more relevant experience.

  • Leverage chatbots to provide customers with immediate answers to their questions. For example, using an automated workflow, a chatbot application can sync up with the shipping provider’s system and offer real-time delivery updates.
  • Use chatbots to screen inquiries and route customers who need further assistance to the right agent so they can get the most appropriate support.

Facilitate Processes With Electronic Forms

Many internal processes can directly impact the customer experience. Automated form submission and processing allows you to minimize errors and ensure timely responses.

  • Use sales order forms to facilitate B2B ordering processes, which often include multiple steps such as getting approval from multiple stakeholders or generating an invoice.
  • Populate user details automatically to streamline the purchasing user flow while reducing errors.
  • Leverage dynamic forms to access information from your database on-demand. For example, agents can view customer order history in real-time for fast problem resolution.
  • Enable collaboration between departments to accommodate special requirements from customers so requests can be routed to the right team in a timely manner.

Related Article: Combine Chatbots and RPA for Better Customer Service

Improve the Purchasing Experience With Real-Time Updates

The ability to access real-time updates on product availability and automate inventory management helps ensure that customers can get the products they want. Meanwhile, you don’t miss out on sales because stocks aren’t replenished in a timely manner.

  • Set data-driven rules that automate the inventory management and reordering processes to ensure items are always in stock. 
  • Use real-time analytics to forecast consumer trends so you can anticipate market demand, have the right stock and meet the needs of your customers.
  • Set up real-time notifications on stock availability or shipment update to keep customers and employees informed.

Support Data-Driven Decision-Making With Real-Time Reporting

As businesses are collecting more customer information, the process of cleaning, compiling and analyzing data has become more complex. Workflow analysis facilitates these processes so insights can be generated and shared in a timely manner across the organization.

  • Collect, analyze and share insights based on customer feedback. The information can then be shared with other business units — e.g., to help the procurement department improve demand forecasting and sourcing based on market trends.
  • Generate reports from data analytics (e.g., by automatically importing data into visualization tools) and distribute them automatically to ensure that all decision-makers have access to the latest customer insights so they can make data-driven decisions.

Related Article: Connecting Frontline Workers to Back-End Systems

Doing Automation Right

Automation is the key to bridging internal workflows and customer-facing processes so you can break down silos and transform your company into a customer-centric organization. But it’s important to identify where automation should end and human interactions should take over. Most customers still value the human touch in the sales process, which serves to build trust and relationships.

By using automation to facilitate certain routine or repetitive interactions so human agents can focus on delivering high value-add services, you can improve CX and increase sales without raising costs. 

As such, it’s important to first identify the processes that can benefit most from automation. The goal is to improve your brand’s CX while retaining the human touch at critical points of the purchasing journey to facilitate conversion. In addition, make sure you put in the time and effort to optimize and standardize processes prior to implementing automation so you can get the highest ROI from your investment.

Bottom line, when done right, automation can help deliver a CX that will improve customer acquisition and retention while increasing sales and lowering costs.