Providing a great customer experience (CX) is hardly a cutting-edge concept. Many big brands had already begun to ditch the idea of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) in the early 1900s, replacing it with the more consumer-friendly notion of ‘the customer is always right’. Or, as is common in Japan, ‘the customer is God’.
However, the nature of the digital world means customers now have far more opportunities to share their experiences – both good and bad – online.
While the customer might not be an actual deity, they do have an omniscient way of influencing others based on their experiences. Consumers have far more knowledge and wield far more power than they did even 10 years ago. It means CX isn’t just for retaining customers and improving lifetime customer value, but attracting new ones in the first place.
Most companies know this, and have reacted accordingly:
- 70% say they’ve increased their CX budgets
- 63% have invested in CX tools and resources
- And 81% have increased their focus on creating more cohesive customer journeys.
Brands know that CX can lead to business growth or contraction, and have put the money and tools where their mouths are. So why are so many struggling to realize clear returns on those investments with a nice big uptick in CX?
Let’s take a look at some of the challenges that brands face with CX today, as well as the ways in which they can deliver unique and memorable interactions that take customer experience to the next level.
The current state of CX
When customers are unhappy, they often turn to social media or review websites like TripAdvisor, Trustpilot and Yelp to vent their frustrations. But let’s look at the figures that support that.
Around nine in every 10 people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84% trust them as much as a personal recommendation. Every business will surely have some disgruntled customers, but it won’t take long for your bottom line to take a hit if this becomes a trend.
Brands are understandably worried about how they’re perceived, which is one factor fueling those significantly higher CX investments. Yet in light of this, according to Forrester:
- Customer retention is down due to poor experiences (41% of businesses)
- Sales have dropped because of CX failings (39%)
- Consumers are switching to competitors who offer better experiences (37%)
- The brand has been damaged by a CX problem in the past (32%)
Take another look at those reasons – they’re all issues that would keep any owner, CEO or business lead up at night. Not attracting new customers, not retaining the ones you already have and in fact losing them to competitors.
No wonder, then, that as well as spending more money, brands are looking to overhaul their customer experience strategies.
What’s causing these top CX challenges for businesses?
So, more money is being spent to address specific CX challenges. What are they spending that money on? Forrester’s research shows 85% of businesses that have bumped up their investments now have more data on consumers than two years ago. Great news.
But getting the data appears to have been the easy part; using the information effectively to improve CX is proving a little trickier.
Only half (51%) of businesses can customize their interactions based on their customers’ specific profiles. And only 46% said they can orchestrate interactions in real-time.
Today, more people are buying goods and services based on their experiences than they did two years ago. At least that’s what 62% of business leaders who were polled by Forrester believe, with 59% claiming consumers are demanding more personalization than ever before.
Customers want real-time interaction and personalization, but this is exactly what a lot of businesses are struggling with. They also report problems with translating data into the right format (51%), getting immediate customer insights (56%) and creating omnichannel experiences (43%).
Customers may not necessarily care about the internal challenges of data management, but if the results are they can’t have relevant, quick and convenient experiences on their preferred channel, they certainly will.
Great CXpectations: The key to great CX
‘The customer is always right’ isn’t the only brand slogan popularized in the 20th century. In 1955, advertising guru David Ogilvy reportedly said: “The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife.”
What did he mean? Well, back then, marketing practices weren’t exactly subtle. Loud adverts, big print, booming voices, flashy colors; it was the equivalent of shock and awe tactics for advertising. However, Ogilvy preferred to see consumers as intelligent and capable of seeing through such obvious hype.
In other words, he believed brands should see their customer relationships as long-term, built on trust, substantial and in turn monogamous. More of what you’d characterize in a loving relationship with your husband or wife, and less of what you’d consider a short, boisterous fling.
Dare we say that brands should have a two-way relationship and speak with customers rather than at them? That they should focus on making interactions, not just transactions? This line of thinking is perhaps even more prevalent and relevant today.
This is why so many brands have invested more in CX tools and the collection of customer data – they want to know their customers like they would their partners. They’re succeeding. But without that two-way interaction it’s like having a partner you know everything about but never really talk with.
Why are they struggling? Because engaging with highly discerning customers and providing them with a great, personalized and human experience across multiple channels seamlessly is considered easier said than done, especially at scale.
This is where artificial intelligence can help.
How conversational AI improves CX
We’ve previously talked about how emerging conversational AI technologies can revolutionize consumer experiences. But suffice to say, in a world that’s growing more digital and less personal, putting a human touch back into the customer experience is one crucial way companies are looking to confront the challenges that continue to plague the budgets of even the world’s biggest brands.
Omnichannel difficulties? Digital humans deliver consistent customer service across any channel – whether it’s a digital device or in-store (via physical kiosks).
Struggling to respond to customers in real-time? A digital human is available 24 hours a day and can be available wherever in the world your customers are located – as well as speaking their language, we should add.
Failing with personalization? Digital humans are constantly learning more about each customer they interact with, and they can respond with emotion and empathy in their tone and body language – the non-verbal building blocks of human connection.
True, conversational AI technology is a long way off replacing the rapport that human staff can build with customers through natural conversation. But because digital humans have a face and a voice, they can garner trust in a way that AI in chatbots or virtual assistants simply cannot.
And perhaps most importantly of all considering the CX challenges we see above, digital humans humanize data, delivering it in a conversational, accessible way. They process user interaction data in real time, finding answers in your chatbot’s NLP or any other knowledge base, and speak it to your customers naturally, using the language and tone that suits your brand’s voice and style.
Businesses have realized for some time just how important CX is to their future. Now, it’s a case of turning those insights into a coherent, omnichannel strategy – and we think conversational AI in digital humans can be a central pillar of that strategy.