One of the defining aspects of business in the 21st century is the amount of different ways in which customers can interact and engage with your company. Multiple new media channels and apps have been added to the mix, alongside more traditional communication platforms and the sales process itself. With all of this activity going on, what is the best way for you to maximise customer satisfaction?
The challenge for brands today is to develop an ‘omni-channel experience’, whereby customers can seamlessly interact with you regardless of the platform they are using, where they are or what they want. This can encompass both offline and online platforms and is distinct from a multi-channel experience – basically, having lots of channels that aren’t connected in a meaningful way.
Developing a great omni-channel experience doesn’t just make your brand attractive; it can turn a company’s fortunes around. According to Forbes, clothing brand Burberry had stagnated by 2006. It had diversified its offering and neglected to feature the very thing that had made it a powerhouse in the first place: its trenchcoat.
However, it re-invented itself by focusing on traditional strengths and putting its core energies into digital. Burberry created a new omni-channel experience for customers by introducing signature touchpoints and personalisation in both its offline and digital channels.
For instance, it created ‘Burberry Bespoke’, which allows customers to design customised coats online by choosing from various options. It also launched a campaign called ‘The Art of the Trench’, whereby customers use a dedicated forum to show off their trenchcoat through social media channels such as
The results have been outstanding: Burberry’s renewed focus on the customer experience has revolutionised the brand and helped to increase sales by over 300% – from £700 million in 2005 to £2.5 billion in 2014.
“The key is to understand your marketplace so that you know the mix that is going to appeal most to your customers,” says Deborah Clarke, Head of User Experience at CarTrawler. “Yes, your online footprint has to be extensive, but that doesn’t mean everything should be done online. You can’t afford to forget about offline interactions and experiences either. As an example, we are a fully online business, but sent some of the team to airports around Europe last summer to see how our suppliers and customers were doing on the ground.”
“So much of what we do is online, but because we live in an online and offline world we need to understand and cater to both,” says Deborah. “It’s about finding that sweet spot between the two worlds to create a seamless, exciting journey. Take online cab provider, Hailo, for example. For its anniversary or ‘birthday’ in Dublin, customers were presented with sunglasses and vouchers when they took cab journeys – a great example of bridging the gap between ending your transaction online but continuing a journey in a completely new way, particularly when a customer least
The customer experience matters because it tracks your customers’ overall browsing and purchasing journey, as opposed to specific interactions. It is important to note that the customer experience is distinct from the user experience in the same way that an offline interaction (going to a shop) is different to an online interaction (going to a website). The customer experience includes every touchpoint a customer has with your brand (contact via phone, in person, online, etc) whereas the user experience is focused specifically online, with an aim at making a website or app, for example, easy and enjoyable to use.
A customer experience encapsulates a user experience, and the two are inextricably linked. If the user experience includes an easy-to-use website and an app, but the experience you receive when you reach the customer service desk is poor, the overall experience could be negative. Conversely, if you find it difficult to purchase travel on the website, you might never have a customer experience at all. So the two need to knit together –
customers should have the freedom to engage both online and offline, and receive a consistent experience.
This distinction is notable because no longer do you only have to consider the people who purchase from you; it’s also vital to consider any kind of traffic that interacts with your company.
Giving travel customers what they want
“The reality is that nobody owns the complete end-to-end journey in travel yet, so what you’re seeing in the sector is a lot of companies offering a multi-channel experience, not a full travel solution,” says Deborah. “Some are on the cusp, like Google, but there are so many fundamentally disconnected moments in a customer’s travel journey,” she says. “Customers have to consider flights, accommodation, car rental and more, so it’s very difficult to make the whole experience seamless. It’s up to the likes of airlines and others to make their own segment of the journey as seamless
The key is an understanding of the market and how customers behave. Deloitte’s Travel Consumer 2015 report shows that a third of people used two or more devices when researching their most recent holiday. Moreover, new channels are constantly being introduced for different elements of the journey. For example, airline KLM has confirmed that it will shortly offer booking confirmation and boarding passes via Facebook Messenger. It has also developed a ‘Meet and Seat’ mobile app that accesses customers’ social networks so they can network and sit beside like-minded passengers.
With the constant emergence of new channels to research and book travel, one thing is clear: customers now have higher expectations, are better informed and are more focused on their buying experiences. They want those experiences to be easy, effective and enjoyable.
Above all else, a customer’s browsing and booking journey should be as consistent as possible on different devices and offline – regardless of where, when and how they view or amend a purchase.
To find your own customer experience sweet spot, you should start by having the right processes in place to gather relevant feedback. Customer experience managers and teams should survey customers, interact with them on social media, and monitor performance with Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and Customer Effort Score metrics.
Another valuable tool is regular user testing. Your customer experience experts need to know how the online journey is working and how it relates to the overall customer journey. Also, keep up direct lines of communication with customers so you don’t rely solely on data.
The benefits of a great customer experience
If customers feel they are getting a better experience, it stands to reason that loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals will rise. But as we have seen from Burberry, direct sales can also be affected positively.
Coffee chain Starbucks is another good example of a company with a sophisticated omni-channel experience: its customers can check and reload reward cards via their phone, website, in-store or on the company’s app. Any change to a reward card gets updated across all channels in real time.
The app in particular has made for a great experience, as customers can order ahead of time and skip in-store lines. The results have been impressive: according to Fast Company, 16% of all weekly purchases were made through the app in Q4 of 2014.
Improving the customer experience isn’t merely about keeping people happy or just focusing on digital solutions; putting resources into understanding the market and getting the online/offline mix right can help reinvent a brand and be a significant revenue driver. This can happen in a number of different ways – the challenge is to find your own sweet spot.
Data presented in this article was sourced from the following resources:
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