Its that time of year when we all set our goals and resolutions for the coming year. After over indulging in the Christmas period and sharing happiness with your loved ones, that first week back at work comes around quicker than you think! Will you stick to your healthy eating plan and actually visit that gym you joined more than once for your annual membership fee? Can your will power last longer than January, or will your best intentions start to fade away as the year progresses? We cant do your push up’s for you as the great Jim Rohn once said, but we can give you a steer as to where you should focus your goals in 2016 for your experience programme. So following our simple 7 step process that we use with our clients, we have listed the most important game changers that you need to ensure are part of your experience strategy for 2016.
Purpose is something that has really started to gain momentum this year as I explained in my blog article ‘Your Brand is really your Experience’. Understanding your ‘Why’ is something that has been building since the concept came to the forefront of the business community in Simon Sinek’s 2009 TED talk and subsequent book ‘Start with Why’. Customers and employees now have higher expectations than ever before. In 2016 both employees and customers will have a larger selection of companies they could choose. Who they choose to build long-term relationships with, will be dependent on how well they can relate to you. Not just with your product or service, but with the values and purpose that you stand for. The emergence of the millennial generation is influencing a change in behavioural values, as more enter the markets as consumers and employees. Companies are searching for loyalty and advocacy as their number one priority, so to achieve that they need to align their experience with the priorities of customers and employees. To put that into value terms, repeat customers spend up to 67% more than new customers so getting people to love your brand isn’t just soft and fluffy, its commercial! You won’t achieve that from the products or services you offer, you get that because of the way you make someone feel! Your purpose therefore has to be unique, personal and consistently aligned to the people who choose you. The most successful companies in 2016 will be the ones that focus their communication and engagement strategies with this purpose at its core. Truly great companies inspire!
We already know that personalisation of service, results in a higher value proposition for a customer. The companies that are already offering this type of experience are reporting a 14% increase in sales value! It is often thought that customers don’t want companies to have their details. What feedback is actually telling us though is that 44% of customers would actively sign up for more marketing from companies who understand them and then put that knowledge to good use when contacting them. If you bombard your customers or prospects with a one size fits all CRM process, is it any wonder that you will frustrate them? However, use it to make customers lives easier and they will not see it as an intrusion, but instead as a service which benefits them and puts their best interests at the heart of your company. This used to be the advantage of the small local business, knowing their customers better than the large corporate alternative. But offering that personalised service at scale is no longer a pipe dream. Using technology that is better integrated alongside the big data sources that are now available, means the experience can feel personal at every touchpoint. Of course the systems need to be set up and used in the right way. But choose your partners well and this experience can provide you with the small business advantage in the big corporate marketplace! Combine this with the knowledge we have that 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a great experience and becomes easy to see why delivering a personalised service will play to the commercial advantage of those who invest in it in 2016!
Customer Journey Mapping has been around for some time now and is a regular task that many businesses have embarked. However what is often missed is doing the same for the employee experience. In the same way that we map out the customer experience so we can understand the things we can improve to customer journey, employee journey mapping is just as important if you want to keep the employee engagement high in your business. We know that loyalty and advocacy is the destination point for our customer strategy. So we create experiences that are special to make customers happy and give us long-term value. The same though is true if you want to keep loyal employees that are brand advocates, you have to keep them happy, motivated and engaged in the business. We can achieve this by mapping the employee journey to look at all areas of the experience and picking out areas where we can improve the experience. If you spend time and energy finding great people for your business that match your goals, purpose and culture, then you want to make sure you keep them once they are on board. If you are committed to putting the customer first then you will already be looking at the processes and experience you put the customer through. Put that same effort into the employee too and you will see significant benefits. You can only create great customer experiences through a highly engaged workforce. And as I explained in my blog post ‘Evolve or Die’ companies that provide great customer experiences have 2.5x the amount of engaged employees to those companies who don’t hit the mark. The top 3 reasons for failed customer experience programmes are:
1. Failure to modify key processes as a part of the customer change programme (31%)
2. Lack of employee engagement (30%)
3. A lack of senior leaders support (29%)
So you can see how important getting the employee journey right is if you are to be successful. I think we will see more Employee Journey Mapping in 2016, as part of a more holistic mapping exercise. It is an investment in the people strategy that will pay dividends.
The move from multi-channel to omni-channel was a big topic in 2015 and I think it will continue into 2016. Businesses are engaging more with the fact that customers want a consistently seamless experience despite what channel they choose to use at that time. If you offer multiple channels in your business then they should be connected so that you have one view of the customer and they don’t have to repeat themselves when moving from channel to channel. 86% of customers use different channels when connecting with the businesses they choose so making that experience easy, hassle free and consistent is really important. 2015 was about companies agreeing that this approach was necessary in their business. Most businesses in the service sector now agree it is a priority, but have struggled to find the right solutions to integrate with their current platforms. 2016 will see the investment in new tools and the technology infrastructure to make this vision possible. Investment and ROI are often seen as a big challenge to overcome, but equally the fear of being left behind competitors and challenger brands has got the C-suite accepting this is a requirement they must support. We know CX is predicted to be the key differentiator on brand choice by 2020 but I think that the timeframe is accelerating so companies who win in 2016 will be those early adopters of getting an effective omni-channel strategy.
The choice of where consumers buy their products and services from is growing fast. Most are similar in terms of features or benefits and we are also seeing price comparison being ultra competitive. Therefore to stand out in the marketplace you will need to be different if you are to survive! Customers are looking for solutions that make their lives easier, quicker to deliver and simpler to understand. So to offer anything at a premium you will need to make a difference in a way no one else does. 65% of todays leading brands didn’t even exist 10 years ago! The likes of Uber and AirBnB were just a pipe dream and brands like Nokia and Blockbuster video were leading the charge! Banking is a sector that will see dramatic changes in the way people choose their bank. We will see Atom Bank come alive in 2016 as the first digital only bank with Mark Mullen from First Direct and Anthony Thomson from Metro joining forces at the helm. I think they will be a huge success and will make a real dent in the financial service sector, so watch the impact of being different come alive in the coming months! If you are going to thrive and survive in today’s markets you are going need to have a differentiator. Something that breaks the mould of how business is done today. 2016 will see challenger brands disrupt existing markets and only those market-leading businesses that embrace change and evolution will stand the test of time.
Customer feedback has been collected for a long time now and VoC programmes are nothing new. However as I explained in my blog post ‘Customer Experience, Isn’t that just another name for….’ what we have seen in 2015 is the rise of Big Data becoming Bigger Data! As a result more and more information is available to businesses about their customers, their behaviours and the way in which they interact with their brand. 2015 saw companies collecting so much information and data they didn’t know what to do with it! Measuring everything and everything, but understanding very little. What we will see in 2016 is a much clearer focus on using that data to provide valuable insights that are used to innovate the experience. Companies need to take the time to drill down into the data and understand it more, before choosing to measure the metrics that really matter in their business. Those companies though that will get it right will use all the data sources that are available to them. Utilising social channels and comparison sites such as Trip Advisor or TrustPilot alongside their own direct methods of feedback. The other big differentiator will be those who measure behavioural patterns and emotional intelligence, alongside the traditional process and satisfaction measures. Companies such as Clarabridge are now providing solutions that measure sentiment in customer conversations, to help brands understand how customers feel when interacting with them. Pulling data from all channels then using it to understand the whole picture about what customers think of you. Big data is nothing without the wisdom to know how to use it. So create an insights programme that reduces the number of things that are measured, but increases focus on those areas that matter to see real benefits from your customer feedback. Those who come out on top in 2016 will be taking into account all sources of information, looking at customer sentiment alongside behavioural patterns to create a holistic view of their customer feedback.
Finally the topic of Digital will not disappear in 2016. Instead what we will see will be further evolution on what has been a very strong topic in 2015. During 2015 most companies were creating a digital transformation programme to help move their business into the digital age. This is a long journey though which will require internal and external processes to be refined and integrated into businesses seamlessly so that they are consistent alongside other channels. Digital cant be done separately from everything else as we have already talked about the importance of a great omni-channel experience. Digital needs to integrate across all aspects of the business, from the customer experience to the insights programme. The digital strategy needs to include social channels and chat rooms as well as direct routes into a company as we mentioned above. The evolution of roles that go with the digital requirements and their reporting lines need to work within the business structure. Digital creates new channels for our customers to use, but in the same way that we don’t have a Chief Telephony Officer, or a Chief Face to Face Officer, we need to ensure it isn’t kept separate as roles such as Chief Digital Officer make their way into businesses. What we need instead is for Digital to be integrated into the way we do business. What then will emerge in 2016 is a greater emphasis on the seamless handoff across devices and channels, as well as ensuring that the security is there for that to be possible. Especially important to those companies working in a regulated sector, but important to any businesses working in an omni-channel environment. More and more data is being collected now, which means the risk of that data making its way out of the organisation is a key consideration for businesses today. Trust is a big requirement from the customers so keeping their data secure is a priority to retain credibility in the marketplace. So, Digital will not disappear from the focus in 2016, but instead will evolve into a tighter solution that offers a consistent approach to a seamless customer experience.
There are lots of exciting initiatives to get your teeth stuck into this year and the pace of change being applied in 2015 shows no sign of slowing down. The evolution of CX keeps improving and no matter where you are on your journey this isn’t somewhere that has a final destination. So pull together your strategy in January and get busy applying it at pace. The years go so fast that before you know it we will be in 2020 and we know what is predicted to affect business the most by then! Don’t get left behind and end up as the next Nokia!