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PHOTO: Travis Wise

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

The importance of happy customers cannot be overestimated. Harvard Business Review has noted that companies who achieve industry leading NPS scores for several years in a row grow revenue 2.5 times faster than their peers and deliver two to five times better shareholder returns for years to come. Unfortunately keeping those customers happy is not so easy — PWC found that one in three customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience, while 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions.

The pandemic has made the problem worse. McKinsey called loyalty today “up for grabs,” with 75% of US consumers indicating they have tried new stores, brands or websites since the start of the COVID-19 crisis and a full 60% expecting to integrate the new brands and stores into their lifestyles post-pandemic.

And yet corporate goals and metrics like the following still abound: share of wallet, lowest cost channel, call handle time, calls per hour, product-oriented marketing and sales goals and campaigns. None of these are intrinsically bad. Companies obviously need to minimize costs, maximize sales and promote products. It's just that something is missing, something important — the customer. When implemented independently from CX initiatives (which happens all too often), these can be “inside looking out” metrics and clearly become impediments to great experiences rather than facilitators.

Putting the customer back in customer experience requires a different approach. One that understands the view from the outside looking in — from the eyes of the customer. The concept isn't new — it's really what VOC is all about — but there is a new twist in how the feedback is collected and used.

Accenture, in its Tech Vision 2020 report highlighted a trend it calls “the I in experience,” which introduces a customer experience model that focuses on cooperative experiences where customers and companies collaborate. In a cooperative experience, the customers become more like partners and control of the experience no longer rests solely with the company. Uber’s new in-ride options are a great example of this type of collaboration. Introduced initially as “quiet preferred” mode in the premium service tier and then rolled out to a wider audience as Uber Comfort, these options give customers more control of their trips. Customers pay a slightly higher price for the service but can request options such as a quiet ride (no small talk), help with luggage and the ability to specify temperature settings inside the vehicle.   

Related Article: It's This Simple — and This Hard: Know Your Customer

Reversing the View

As with most valuable things, reversing the view and using the results to develop collaborative experiences takes effort and requires specific focus to succeed. Consider the following:

Get to Know Your Customers as Humans First, Customers Second

We are pretty good today at using a wide range of customer information to understand customers from our point of view: how they behave, what they buy, how they compare to others, how they interact with us. We can use sophisticated analytics to group them into personas and finely-grained segments and can predict what they are likely to purchase next and which offers they are most likely to respond to. This falls short, however, of the type of understanding needed to develop truly collaborative experiences. For that, we need to go deeper, extend our analytical prowess to get us to what Accenture calls a forensic understanding of the customer. We need to better understand their human preferences and habits. Exactly how do they interact with us? With which devices? When are they using them? In what context? At SAS we call this an understanding of personal and situational context. Using the right combination of data and analytics to understand these contexts can take us much further in understanding the human aspect of our customers.

Personal context includes social media activity and networks, complaints and emails, voice of the customer interactions, market research, and voice, video and text sentiment analysis. It can highlight actual preferences and feelings, pinpoint influence value and help to match content, channel options and products to what the customer actually values.

Situational context incorporates web and mobile activity, location and GPS services, and beacon and sensor information. If captured and used in real time, this data can illuminate moments that matter; what is the customer is doing at this moment, and is there something they need that we can provide?

Related Article: Immersive Experiences: Be There or Be Left Behind

Manage the Journey, Not the Campaign

Last year, Forrester introduced the concept of moments-based marketing and made a bold claim about traditional marketing practices, namely the campaign. It stated that campaign-first mentality fails customers because campaigns are typically based on regimented strategies that are slow, inflexible and channel focused. Instead, the focus should shift to interacting in moments. Moments that can happen anywhere in the customer lifecycle, in any channel (digital or physical), during interactions that are customer initiated or brand initiated, and on any device. To this end, Forrester advocates that brands reimagine campaigns to orchestrate always-on, continuous customer communications that are conceived in the context of the full customer journey.

Moments-based marketing presupposes that companies can discern which moments matter. The good news is that the questions and context necessary to achieve a forensic understanding of the customer also help to illuminate the moments that matter, as well as providing the intel needed to react appropriately. While there are many different moments that matter, three stand out. They occur in very different phases of the customer lifecycle:

  • I want to know: This occurs in the very early stages of the lifecycle, the need phase, where customers are searching for a product or service to fit their needs. Once you recognize the moment for what it is, ensuring that relevant content is easily found and consumed is an increasingly vital part of closing a deal.
  • I want to do: Here the customer has purchased your product and is actively engaged in using it. These moments are typically not in the marketer’s wheelhouse but are vital to great experiences, particularly in light of the PWC finding that one in three customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience. If you can’t recognize these moments, delivering collaborative experiences is simply not possible.
  • I want to buy: Of course this is what marketers are ultimately striving for regardless of their approach (campaign or journey, collaborative or not). The critical factor here is the ultimate objective of the "I" in experience trend: knowing enough to not only recognize the moment for what it is and engage as it is happening, but also to ensure that the products offered fit into the collaborative experience; relevant to the individual, represent a detailed understanding of specific needs, and allow for the customer to shape the experience.

When a company reverses the view, they achieve both the customer-centric decisioning and continuity of experience needed to put the “customer” back into customer experience. Accenture calls this positioning yourself into the customers path and doing it will help you to reap the rewards of brand preference, loyalty, and profitability for years to come.

Related Article: Define Customer Journeys by Finding Micro Moments That Matter Most