The way companies approach customer experience (CX) underwent rapid change at the start of the pandemic, and it continues to evolve today. Digital experiences have replaced many experiences that were once exclusively in-person. As a result, digital CX is the primary focus for businesses now and for the foreseeable future.

The abrupt shift to digital was based on changes in customer expectations. In fact, an Appnovation report (pdf) from earlier this year found consumers expect brands “to deliver more online experiences and create more digitally-enabled in-person experiences that include touchless technologies.” The same report also found over half of those surveyed (53%) think that online and digital experiences will eventually become more important than in-person.

In order to build for the ever-changing needs of the customer, leading companies leverage data and cutting-edge technology to understand customers and create experiences they want and need. But it takes more than just data and technology to provide an exceptional digital experience. Let’s take a look at the other (sometimes overlooked) key components behind the standout digital customer experiences of today.

Customer-Centricity Is a Common Value, and Executives Are Bought in

Amazing customer experience is driven from the top. To generate exceptional customer experiences, all executives within a company need to hold the same values surrounding customer centricity and empathy so that it’s a shared value throughout the organization.

Although this may sound like a no-brainer, it’s an area in which many companies struggle. According to one study, although 75% of organizations believe they are customer centric, only 30% of consumers agree. Other research has found that, while 95% of executives believe CX is important to them, only one-third of employees say that their organization takes a proactive approach to CX.

With the right intent at the executive level, leaders can move beyond lip service by putting the right programs in place and empowering their people to focus on the customer above all else.

Related Article: To Achieve True Customer Centricity, You Need a Cross-Functional Dream Team

Going Beyond Basic Metrics to Truly Understand Customers

While many companies equate customer satisfaction with measures like net promoter score (NPS) and customer satisfaction ratings, customer understanding goes much deeper than these metrics. Overreliance on data, and neglecting to take into account the human experience, is a common pitfall of many organizations.

Businesses should prioritize building empathy by connecting with customers on a regular basis to gain an understanding of what it’s like to actually be the customer and see the world through their eyes. Looking at NPS each quarter, as many companies do, won’t give teams a holistic understanding of their customer. It’s time to augment these one-dimensional metrics with the perspective of the customer so that businesses can see firsthand what the experience is like for customers.

Related Article: Use Design Thinking to Put Yourself in Your Customers' Shoes

Customer Understanding Must Be De-Siloed

Everyone within an organization should have the opportunity to continually learn about the customer and what’s important to them, especially as expectations shift and change. Unfortunately, this knowledge is all too often siloed within marketing or CX teams. Making knowledge of the customer a basic requirement for every single person within the company makes for better CX and a better business overall.

Learning Opportunities

To accomplish this, everyone within the organization should have access to a shared understanding of the customer. Additionally, customers should be easily accessible for those building customer-facing experiences. If an employee is not on the marketing or CX teams, but wants to understand the customer’s perspective, they should be able to do so without having to jump through hoops.

Related Article: 4 Steps to Start Connecting CX and EX Insights

Teams Must Be Empowered to Make Customer-Centric Decisions

All businesses should have programs in place that allow employees to do right by the customer. This is especially important for frontline employees.

For example, The Ritz-Carlton’s famous “$2000 Rule” gives each employee a stipend of two thousand dollars to remediate any customer service issues without having to ask a manager. By giving employees the resources they need to make things right quickly and at their discretion, they can save the customer experience should any obstacles pop up.

This is a great approach for experiences and situations in which companies have to be reactive, but the goal should always be to be proactive and stay ahead of any potential curveballs.

The Right Tech Stack Acts as a Foundation

There are endless ways to collect data on who customers are, what they’re doing, and what they need. But that information is only partially useful without the correct systems to support these insights.

With the right technology, companies can get the most out of their data and use those insights to create a better customer experience. Having a solid tech stack also ensures that all of the employees within an organization have access to customer data and understanding so that they have the most recent view of the customer at their fingertips.

It’s time to think bigger than just data when it comes to building digital experiences in today’s world. Data insights are an important piece of the puzzle, but things like fostering a culture of customer centricity with executive buy-in, de-siloing customer understanding, and empowering employees to make good decisions are just as essential.

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