Customers today are in the driver’s seat – they have a near infinite choice of brands to choose from, making it easier for them to stop buying from one and start buying from another. Many won’t even hesitate, they will simply take their business elsewhere. Customer experience (CX), therefore, has never been more important. The reality is, it doesn’t even have to be a bad experience that deters customers – it can just be the lack of a good one.
With that impetus in mind, my company Verndale recently conducted a survey of senior level marketers to determine the biggest CX challenges they face, what tools they are using to overcome them, and how they see CX evolving in the future. One thing is for sure – all survey respondents believe that a fully optimized CX would result in tangible business benefits, including greater sales and revenue. However, they have difficulty executing due to strategic, organizational and technical roadblocks.
So where are marketers falling short, and what steps can be taken to right the ship?
Let’s take a closer look at The State of CX in 2018.
Will the Real CX Owner Please Stand Up?
There is a lack of consensus within organizations as to where responsibility for the customer experience should sit. This perhaps reflects the challenges of breaking down traditionally siloed responsibilities and instilling a new, cross-collaborative internal structure. According to respondents, the average brand has three different C-level employees involved in CX and input from five different departments.
This feeds into the idea that organizations could benefit from a single ‘champion’ of customer experience in their organization. Many (28%) respondents’ organizations are already making this move by introducing a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) whose sole job is to work with all of a company’s key stakeholders to execute a successful customer journey. Four in ten marketers agree that there should be a CXO in charge of the CX in their organization.
Looking beyond who is involved in the development of the CX journey, what are the specific areas of customer experience that organizations need to work on?
The Biggest Roadblocks
One of the biggest roadblocks to exceptional CX is dealing with customer data. Around one in three respondents highlight a lack of real-time customer insights as something holding them back from CX optimization, making it the most frequently experienced CX challenge. Without real-time insights, organizations will struggle to deliver the quality experiences that customers are looking for. There is a considerable need for investment in marketing technologies that will allow them to capture, ingest, process and respond to customer data more effectively across all channels.
Overcoming the customer data problem is imperative when thinking specifically about customers’ personalization demands. To enhance personalization capabilities, respondents believe that they need more real-time access to data (46%), a greater volume of customer data (40%), and better analysis (38%) of this data once they have captured it.
But, of course, it’s not just customer data that stands in the way of organizations as they look to crack the CX code; other challenges that need to be overcome alongside this include:
• Operationalizing and measuring CX (28%)
• Dealing with legacy technology (22%)
• Finding sufficient CX skills/knowledge internally (19%)
What must be kept in mind, however, is that a lot of these challenges hinge on an organization’s ability to utilize customer data in the first place. Organizations are being stopped at the front door here – if they cannot do the first step right then they will inevitably find difficulties with everything else.
Machine Learning to the Rescue?
So how can brands reach a point where they are utilizing customer data more – not fearing it? Many believe that machine learning plays a big role.
For most modern organizations, machine learning is either already starting to be a key differentiator, or there is an expectation that it will become vital in the future. The majority (94%) of respondents anticipate advanced technology (such as machine learning and artificial intelligence) being a huge factor in helping their organization to overcome complex CX challenges.
The most commonly cited ways in which machine learning is expected to assist organizations are processing huge amounts of customer data (49%), provision of real-time analysis (49%), and building of more accurate pricing models (49%). Machine learning is also recognized as a way in which organizations can improve future customer experiences (45%) and enable greater customer personalization (39%).
Looking towards the future, the dependence on technology to improve CX is only expected to increase. The findings demonstrate that the most mature organizations and industries are deploying machine learning and big data/analytics platforms already, and it would make sense for them to also be looking to add Account Based Marketing (ABM) and Customer Data Management (CDM) platforms into their MarTech mix.
These survey stats aren’t meant to scare brands looking to supercharge their CX initiatives; rather, they serve as a call to tackle CX challenges head-on. All organizations – irrespective of their industry or size – have a great deal to gain from addressing these challenges and making it as frictionless as possible for their customers.
Real thought and effort needs to go into CX to make it personal, relevant and ultimately irreplaceable to those customers. To truly make the customer journey a one-to-one experience, companies not only need to harness data, but also have a strategic roadmap that aligns with their business priorities, understanding of the role marketing technologies play in connecting that experience to business objectives and investing in those technologies that can automate and optimize every touchpoint.
Taking the time to lay the groundwork for fantastic customer experiences will not only leave customers satisfied now, but also ensure that they will keep coming back, time and time again.