In the past, customers used to rely on the expertise of a salesperson to help them find what they wanted in a store. Today’s customers, however, are bombarded with options and information when they look to make a purchase.
Despite the huge increase in available information, customers instead struggle to find the products that will suit them best. Fortunately, the advances in technology, data collection, and business analytics are now making it possible for businesses to improve customer experience. With today’s technological advancement, data has become the currency of the digital economy. Many businesses are collecting their stockpiles of this currency via business analytic tools, CRM systems, and loyalty programs, among others. Customers are also more willing than ever to share what they think about a product and their experiences via social media and forums. This allows businesses to gain customer feedback on their products or services, and at the same time provides customers with more information before they make a purchase.
Know Your Customer
Advances in information technology allows businesses to collect data on their customers and better understand what those customers do, want and need. Valuable data on customers for businesses can be relatively basic and easy to acquire, often via free or low cost methods. Data can include gender, age, geographical location, interests, and even online browsing activity, layered against more complex data collection resulting from interactions with your company.
Business intelligence software aggregates these different data sources to provide valuable insight into the patterns that mark the behaviour and trends of our customers. The growing availability of social, mobile, and location information also creates new data sets that businesses can mine to extract more information.
Armed with increasingly granular data, businesses can generate customized offers that point customers to the right products, at the right moment. This takes the guesswork out of sales. As a result, businesses can create marketing campaigns that can more precisely target and communicate with the right customers, determine which campaigns have the biggest impact on sales, build stronger relationships with customers, and in the end, increase market share and profit.
Keep Your Customer
Recent research carried out by Zendesk, a customer support company, found that customers are more likely to share their bad experiences than the good ones. Zendesk found that 33% of the surveyed customers would share their good experiences with at least five people. However, if the experiences were bad, 54% of the surveyed customers would share their experiences with more than five people. Social media becomes an easy platform for customers to share information and experiences quickly and conveniently. With just a few clicks, news can reach tens of thousands of people, and news of bad customer service tends to reach more ears than praise for good experiences. Also, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, it is 6–7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. Therefore, it is worth it for businesses to take the time to address unhappy customers and remedy the situation, and avoid any negative word of mouth exposure.
Further to these findings, research completed by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life project in 2010 found that 58% of Americans conduct online research about products and services that they are considering purchasing. In other words, customers no longer base their purchasing decisions on product price alone. In fact, as pointed out by the Customer Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive and RightNow, 9 out of 10 consumers say that they would pay more to ensure a better customer experience. Major factors that affect their decisions include other customers’ reviews, experiences, and recommendations. With the increased ease of access to information online, consumers can shop around until they find the products and services that suit them best.
In a way, this decreases customer loyalty. Customer experience has become the benchmark for differentiating between companies and brands. Businesses that offer consumers less than idea experiences will see their customers defect to competitors. Businesses can now spot these trends before action is taken to leave or defect to a competitor through social media monitoring and analysis.
Know Your Own Data
What is also increasing is that customers want access to their own data when they need it – often instantly and in real-time. Customers now expect to be able to check the status of their orders, receive updates to their services, and see where their billing is upto – and companies without the ability to generate reports in real-time will fall behind as consumers recognise they can receive a better and more informed service elsewhere.
Even though data sharing between businesses and consumers is not an entirely new concept, it has been primarily focused on customer service interactions. It hasn’t been viewed as a way for businesses to build relationships with their customers and gain insight into how to better market to them. By sharing valuable data insights with their customers, businesses can strengthen relationships and increase their product usage and the overall customer experience. For example, a car manufacturer could monitor customers’ driving behaviours and share tips on how they could conserve petrol usage or become better drivers.
Data is an unlimited resource that will continue to expand as our technology advances. As more data become available, businesses that have systematically gathered data points about their customers can make much more effective marketing and sales strategy decisions. This new level of information also allows businesses to provide a better customer experience, and differentiate themselves from the competition.