bird's eye view of a large city
PHOTO: sergio souza

The San Francisco Giants vs. Seattle Mariners spring training baseball game on March 8 was my last normal outing before everything changed. And while I’ll always cherish the memories of that day, it was becoming apparent that normal wasn’t really normal. Shortly after that day, the hoarding started which was followed by other patterns that added uncertainty about what would happen next and what our future would be.

The new phenomena of shortages and hoarding created an unsettling sense of insecurity. Like many other people, I turned to the vendors I had established long-term relationships with to buy what I needed. When those transactions failed, some unapologetically, new vendors were eager to meet my needs.

New Customer Experience Patterns

It’s clear that COVID-19 has had a severe economic impact globally at the individual, business and industry levels. Consumers are moving to online channels, trying out new brands, looking for a sense of community.

While not directly analogous, businesses can learn from the fallout following the 2008 financial crisis. An analysis conducted by McKinsey & Company showed that companies that met their customer's needs, the customer experience leaders, saw a shallower downturn, rebounded more rapidly, and achieved three times the total shareholder returns versus laggards.

Some businesses today are already taking note, by implementing programs to retain existing customers and keep new ones. Entire industries are adjusting to new ways of buying and interacting, new levels of demand, and entirely new processes.

As new customer experience patterns continue to emerge, companies will need to revamp their customer-centric strategies to align with the upper levels of the Customer Experience Hierarchy — which are about going beyond interactions, transactions, and satisfaction to build relationships, trust and loyalty.

Related Article: The Customer Experience Hierarchy

Evaluate These 5 Key Processes When Revamping Your CX Strategy

A revamped customer experience strategy should focus around five key processes which include customer retention, risk assessment, digital leakage prevention, digital customer onboarding and feedback monitoring.

1. Retain customers by providing more meaningful experiences

Meaningful experiences should reflect an understanding and context of a customer’s interaction or transaction. This includes creating communities, providing information, offering guidance and increasing support that are relevant to their relationship with your organization. Frustration levels are high, as is fear. Experiences should consider multiple factors to have a significant effect.

2. Make relationship-based decisions by assessing customer risk and building trust

When consumers trust a brand, they are more than twice as likely to buy first, stay loyal, advocate and defend that brand even in the face of innovative competitors or some sort negative event. Risk and trust are part of a two-way relationship, having context about customers help to evaluate the right decision to be made for that customer during times of uncertainty.

Related Article: How to Handle the Crisis of Consumer Trust

3. Optimize online interactions to increase digital sales

Consumers are using mobile and other digital channels to drive an increase in online shopping activity. This shift in customer behavior has created a unique opportunity for companies to attract customers’ attention and grow market share by helping customers browse, search and research what they need, and  then transact seamlessly across channels and deliver click-and-collect options. Be sure customers are able to do and find what they want online to minimize digital leakage and look often for exit points that indicate friction.

4. Centralize customer onboarding through automated rules and processes

Often overlooked as a critical component of a CX strategy is a governed, automated process to onboard customers rapidly and accurately. Centralized onboarding helps companies from the start to save time and avoid future customer frustration and friction.

Related Article: Is Your Mobile Onboarding Experience Scaring Customers Away?

5. Respond rapidly to customer feedback and issues through active listening

A real-time pulse on customer conditions can provide a useful perspective in rapidly changing environments. Increased online engagement introduces an opportunity to tap into new volumes of digital insights to infer sentiment, identify friction points that should be eliminated, and create new programs that build loyalty.

Take a Data-Centric Approach to Become CX Obsessed

A revamped CX strategy also requires a single, trusted and contextual view of customer data for faster decision-making about customers and other business factors, including at the critical moment of engagement. With rapid acceleration of digital interactions, how (and how relevantly) companies engage with customers across digital services and channels is critical to ongoing success.

A data-centric approach requires diligence and a well-thought out plan to help all employees take the right actions. It should provide them with the internal capabilities to adopt new insights while delivering the meaningful experiences that build relationships, trust and loyalty. To do so, organizations should carefully consider how they will:

  • Get a 360° view of customer data. Meaningful experiences are created by putting together a complete picture of each customer that incorporates all data — structured, unstructured, internal, external — and empowers employees with the perspective they need to engage in the moment effectively.
  • Create a contextual understanding of customers. Context about customers is formed by connecting all data, including product, supplier, location and employee — not just customer data — and identifying the relationships and patterns between them. With added context about customers, organizations can create hyper-targeted segments, personalize interactions, reveal new insights and fuel deep customer analytics.
  • Manage consents and rights. Organizations turn privacy and protection into a customer experience opportunity by associating consent data and policies with specific individuals and channels. They then make those consents accessible to business applications from a central location and are quick to respond to rights requests, further building trust with customers.
  • Fix and master customer data. The economic and productivity cost of dirty data in businesses is staggering. A master record consolidates and cleans customer data and establishes the foundation of a 360 degree view. By eliminating silos and updating source systems with a shared single version of the truth, organizations gain streamlined customer onboarding processes, faster value from M&A activity, improved operational reporting, and more efficient regulatory and internal compliance.
  • Automate and accelerate via machine learning. With the volume and growth of available data, incorporating artificial intelligence into data management is a must. Machine learning, a form of AI, learns from decisions made by data stewards and business owners to train algorithms and mimic human decisions. Automation of matching capabilities can scale to billions of records and accelerates creation of a complete, contextual and relevant customer record that fuels CX strategies and tactics.

Related Article: Hybrid Marketing Marries the Online and Offline Worlds

Customer Experience Requires a Big Picture

A data-centric approach to becoming CX-obsessed helps create "the big picture." It delivers the contextual understanding of customers and their preferences in real time for tactical short-term CX improvements and longer-term CX differentiation once this downturn passes. It supports the jump over the chasm from customer satisfaction to relationship that’s part of the CX Hierarchy.

We all have many questions about what the future will look like. We are all adjusting. The bigger picture we have, the simpler it is to see, the easier it is to make the right decisions. For me, I just look forward to the day when I can see Buster Posey behind home plate again. It’s an experience to look forward to.