Customer Experiences that Fall Flat—And How to Fix It

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Savvy brands understand that excellent customer experiences are a vital part of business. Yet consumers across the globe indicate that many brands still have work to do when it comes to meeting—much less exceeding—their expectations and earning their loyalty.

Consumers have high demands; they expect companies to understand their needs and deliver products and services at the right price quickly and conveniently. This is not news to brands. After all, customer experience is the new “battlefront,” according to Gartner. However, a report by Acquia, which surveyed over 5,000 consumers or roughly 1,000 respondents from each country, suggests that brands are missing the mark. Meanwhile, consumers have little patience for poor experiences.

Here’s the percentage of respondents by country who agreed with the following statements:

I don’t remember when a brand exceeded my expectations.
Australia: 66%
France: 72%
Germany: 68%
United Kingdom: 66%
United States: 59%

When I have a bad experience with a brand, I move on.
Australia: 78%
France: 79%
Germany: 76%
United Kingdom: 76%
United States: 69%

So, what does this mean for brands? As this study and other research suggests, customer experience has stagnated. As more and more companies compete on customer experience, what was once considered innovative is now table stakes. When was the last time you were wowed by a retailer that offers buy online, pick up in-store options or the ability to complete a purchase from your phone?

Indeed, as we learned from our own study, leaders are becoming more critical of what it means to be a customer-centric organization and in fact, fewer leaders claimed that their organization was customer-centric in 2018 compared to previous years.

Finding common ground

While there isn’t a fast and easy solution, the following tips can help companies get on the right path to aligning their customer experiences with consumer expectations.

1. Focus on the experiences that matter – Transformation for the sake of transformation is a waste of resources and time. As James Vila, principal consultant of TTEC digital strategy and operations, notes, “it is essential to have a clear view of how and where the transformation creates value for an organization and its customers [and] that value needs to be quantified and the path to realization set out clearly.”

2. Let the customer lead – It may seem obvious, but customer insights are helpful for making decisions that affect customers. However, only 35 percent of executives said they had been studying digital customer behavior as an indicator of which technologies to invest in, according to a report by Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet company. Companies are “making investment decisions without necessarily understanding or having access to the data that would guide it,” he says.

3. Understand what drives loyalty – Research has shown that delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty but solving their problems quickly, does. In fact, increased friction or points of frustration within the customer journey are four times more likely to drive disloyalty, reports the Customer Contact Council. Instructing associates to delight customers “is likely to lead to confusion, wasted time and effort, as well as costly giveaways,” agrees Ray Klostermann, chief rocketeer at TTEC Agility. “Framing an associate’s job in terms of creating a frictionless experience for the customer is more effective; be sure to provide clear examples that are germane to your business and biggest engagement drivers. This gives employees a better foundation for action.”

4. Know when to ask for help – Unless your organization is consistently up to date on the latest best practices in customer acquisition, success, growth, and trust and safety services, consider whether an experienced partner can provide fresh ideas and solutions for keeping your customers satisfied.

Consumers today have more options than ever and have high expectations for engagement, responsiveness, and frictionless support. As a result, consumers are often unforgiving when their expectations aren’t met or their trust is betrayed. Therefore, the sooner business leaders understand that what they consider a good experience may not look that way to the customer, the sooner brands and customers can begin talking to each other—rather than at each other.