The Secret to a Customer-Centric Digital CX

A version of this article appeared on CMSWire. You can read it here.

Looking for the secret to a better, more customer-focused digital CX? You’re not alone.

Brands are increasingly embracing digital customer experiences across the customer journey. But there’s a serious gap between how effective brands think these experiences are and how effective they actually are.

According to one recent study, while 53% of brands believe that their customers are satisfied with their digital self-service tools, only 15% of customers agree. In another report, PWC found that 54% of consumers believe CX in most companies needs improvement.

Given all this investment poured into delivering an exponentially growing variety of digital customer experiences, what isn’t working? Why are customers unsatisfied and brands missing out on the ROI for their efforts?

Like most solutions, we have to look first at the problem.

The Issue With Today’s Digital CX

Despite AI, customers are clearly discontented with the quality of digital interactions, and they’re not shy in telling us why.
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Your digital CX should be more than an alternative to in-person interactions — it should be better, faster and smarter. After all, why shouldn’t it be? It’s powered by massive computational resources and advanced machine learning and AI that far outperform any one person’s capabilities to respond to a customer concern or manage a customer interaction. And yet, customers are clearly discontented with the quality of these interactions.

Consumers have not been shy in telling us what specifically they’re unhappy about:

  • Digital experiences are often clunky, time-consuming and cumbersome. The tech isn’t helping: 43% of professionals say complex CX technology is hurting the customer experience. When it comes to self-service, for example, 81% of consumers want more options, but only 15% are happy with current tools.
  • Brands aren’t human anymore. Two thirds of consumers believe brands have lost their human touch, and nearly a third would leave the brand after one bad experience.
  • Personalization is often lacking. McKinsey & Company found that 76% of consumers get frustrated when they don’t get personalized experiences from brands. And frustration very quickly turns into churn.

The good news is it’s possible for companies to tackle these issues and put customers back at the center of CX — where they belong. And all it takes is access to the right tools and a truly customer-centric approach to CX.

Streamline Your Digital CX

If there’s one rule to giving your customer a good experience, it’s this: Don’t waste their time. Maybe that sounds obvious, but it happens more than you’d think.

While tech stacks are getting more complex, simple processes are still full of friction. Think of repeating your name and personal information every time one service rep hands you to the next or being asked for details you already entered into the system. It doesn’t matter how flashy the customer experience is — if you’re missing the basics the end result will be a poor customer experience and, you guessed it, churn.

The solution to clunky CX differs depending on the specific situation. For larger enterprises, the issue often stems from using a broad set of technological platforms added over the years that don’t always play nice with each other. The massive IT investments often required to migrate to a more streamlined tech stack are hard to justify with any straightforward ROI calculation, so instead the tech stack just keeps growing and becoming ever more complex.

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For these companies, adding a Customer Journey Management platform may be the best path forward. While it may sound counterintuitive to add yet another solution to the stack in order to reduce complexity, these platforms are aimed at optimizing orchestration across channels and touchpoints and are often the best step towards a cohesive customer experience.

However, for smaller companies the solution may actually be the opposite: Strip unnecessary technologies from your tech stack. As any marketer knows, automation isn’t fully automated and each added tech solution multiplies the complexity and therefore the orchestration issues you’ll encounter. Ask yourself — do you truly need every tech you’re using? Have they all delivered the value you thought they would? Alternatively, could you perhaps move some activities into more horizontal platforms that make orchestration slightly less complex?

Whatever the solution, aim to reduce friction by making cross-channel communications seamless. Today’s customers are on a variety of channels, from email to social media to apps — and your digital approach should reflect that.

Another way to be customer-centric? Make sure you’re not overwhelming customers with long blocks of text no one will read. Communication should be clear and simple. Talk to people like they’re… well, people. Which leads me to the next point.

Add Back the Human Touch With Video

When you meet someone face-to-face, it’s immersive, visual and instant. Online? Not so much. But consumers still want an experience that feels real, that treats them like humans.

So how can brands meet this need? Research shows that 93% of communication is non-verbal. Furthermore, audiovisuals are processed faster than text — in the same part of the brain where we process emotions. Or in other words, not only does video work, but it’s also the most empathetic medium around. The takeaway is that video is the most effective and empathetic human-to-digital interface. It’s the hack to humanizing your brand.

Take a complex industry like insurance, where we do a lot of work. Sure, you can give your new customers pages of text (that they won’t read) or even an email (that they still won’t read), but an onboarding video, personalized for them, covers what they need to know in a way that’s clear, concise, even friendly.

Watch the SelectHealth onboarding video below and you’ll see what I mean.

And consumers are telling us video is what they want. New research shows 62% of consumers want more video from brands. (That’s trending up. It’s even higher for Gen Z with nearly 8 out of 10 zoomers saying they want more video content from brands.)

Use video across your customer journey. Onboard new customers, manage their service requests, or drive sales using the most effective interface, that also happens to be the interface consumers desire most — or maybe you thought that Tiktok was a fluke?

Tip: Don’t forget video can be interactive, too. This enriches your first-party data, helping you learn more about your customers so you can serve them better later on. A win-win for everyone.

Make It Personal

Today’s consumers want online experiences to be relevant and personal. And businesses that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenues than those that don’t.

Personalization may sound daunting — but it doesn’t always have to be. Start with what you know, even if it’s just their first name, and build from there. As you grow your first-party data and get more comfortable, you can expand your personalization efforts.

At this point, the customer expectation is that all touchpoints across the customer journey will be fully personalized. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Onboarding: Greet new customers in a personal way to start the relationship off on the right foot. Take the opportunity to provide helpful advice that you know new customers could use.
  • Self-serve: Self-serve can be a win-win but often ends up being a lose-lose. Ensuring that the experience is personalized to the customer segment, region, device or other items goes a long way to changing that.
  • Upselling: A generic hard sell isn’t the way to win over your customers. A soft, contextual sell personalized to past purchases, existing services or key contract points is both relevant and relatable.

You can combine video with personalization to deliver a more effective experience that aligns with what customers want. What does that look like? Here’s one example that shows it in action.

Looking to the Future

New technologies will keep popping up, some of them good and the others not so much. Virtually all of them will contribute to an already complex tech stack, and few of them will contribute to solving the three key challenges mentioned in this article.

The more digital and “at scale” our operations are, the less human and personalized they could become. But with the right choices, they don’t have to be.

Always prioritize technologies that help streamline CX and make it more personal and human. But most importantly, always keep the customer first — is this an experience the customer wants? And is it available when, where and how the customer wants it?

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