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Managing the fragile customer experience

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Jirsak)

Today’s consumers are more demanding than ever before, with the customer experience being a key differentiator across different sectors. For businesses to see a more impacting and positive growth in ROI it is time for them to deliver a truly memorable and engaging experience for their customers in order to ensure loyalty and reduce churn to competitors.    

All of this becomes very clear when you look at the findings of Engage Hub’s inaugural customer experience report (opens in new tab), examining the fragile customer experience in the information age. The findings of the research give us far more insight into how today’s consumers define a good customer experience, as well as offering a better understanding of how these experiences are changing. 

Overall, over half (52%) of consumers believe retailers and 42% believe the financial services (FS) sector could improve the customer experience by taking feedback on board better, showing that customers are getting frustrated that their voices are not being heard. 

Elsewhere, 47% of mobile network operator (MNO) subscribers want to be provided with more tailored offers by their service provider. The shift to mobile and e-commerce has fundamentally changed the way in which businesses communicate with their customers, which is great for consumers as it offers them more information and a greater range of choice at their fingertips. 

But at the same time, it presents a whole new range of challenges for businesses, who are fighting for customers’ increasingly short and divided attentions. 

Tech has a positive effect on customer experience 

Over 50% of consumers (57% MNO, 62% retail, 64% FS) think technology is having a positive effect on customer experience. Adoption of new age technologies by business, including automation, machine learning, AI, and data analytics has the propensity to improve the service offering to users considerably. 

Better communication, via an increasing number of digital and traditional channels, is what customers expect from consumer-facing businesses these days. Put simply, consumers expect a seamless and tailored experience.   

They want to be treated as individuals. And the disappointing news is that over a fifth (22%) of consumers believe the retail customer experience is getting worse rather than improving. Brands have to act quicker to respond to customer feedback, otherwise they risk losing them. 

Targeted offers that are relevant to the individual are what helps MNOs successfully compete with other service providers, as it suggests a more personalised level of customer service. 

Personalisation of services is key 

Over in the financial services sector, it is accessibility to good customer support and new services that helps to define what customers see as quality customer service. Crucially though, those services and support need to treat customers like individuals, with personalisation of services being a recurring theme in this sector. 

Companies need to remember that it is far more cost-effective to retain existing customers than it is to obtain new ones. 

According to Accenture’s latest Global Consumer Pulse Survey, 52% of consumers have switched providers for key services in the past year due to poor customer service. This is going to have an impact on margins and proves the importance of upfront investment in sophisticated advanced technology in order to obtain legacy customers and clients. If through technology, companies are able to deliver personalised interaction at the right time, there is a higher chance of retaining users and reducing the negative impact on financial sales. 

Technology has the power to strengthen customer engagement and improve operational efficiency. Voice-recognition technology, for example, is expected to be responsible for 50% of all searches by 2020. And AI-driven virtual customer assistants are going to be the norm across all sectors within a few short years. 

Good customer experience comes down to personalisation, with badly targeted ‘spray and pray’ marketing campaigns generating the most spam complaints, turning customers off brands that don’t treat them as individuals. Customers want to experience friendly, helpful and efficient services. Through the smart implementation of new technology, companies can start to target customers more intelligently and ensure this thoughtful approach to engagement is delivered. 

What do consumers think you could do better? 

In retail, 52% of respondents highlighted a proactive reaction to feedback as an area where customer experience could be improved and their loyalty potentially gained (or lost). 

For MNOs, there is a clear need to improve the personalisation and tailoring of offers to customers. The same is true for banks and financial services providers, with consumers expecting the sensitive information they provide to these organisations to be factored into how they are interacted with. 

Overall, the fragile customer experience is more prevalent in the retail sector than it is elsewhere. In retail, the in-store experience (25%), delivery issues (18%) and a lack of communication (16%) were some of the main push factors behind a consumer shopping elsewhere, while in-store experience (36%), and better delivery options (26%), were all significant pull factors. 

Across the research, there are a number of recurring themes that impact upon the relationship between an organisation and its customers, with the quality and personalisation of communications being paramount. A key message to take away is that business needs to treat their customers like individuals and work tirelessly to meet their needs as the repercussions of not doing so are becoming more and more evident.   

This is reinforced by a ‘Customers 2020’ study by Walker, a customer intelligence consulting firm in the US, which asserts that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. In an age when there are more ways than ever before for brands to communicate with their customers – and vice versa – it only takes one sub-par customer engagement for a business to lose a loyal customer for life. 

There is a level of personalisation that is now essential when communicating with today’s consumers;  be it online, via mobile apps, SMS, email or in person, many businesses need to redefine what good customer experience looks like in the information age. 

The findings of Engage Hub’s report: Managing the Fragile Customer Experience in the Information Age, is based on research and a survey of 2,000 consumers in the retail, mobile network operator, and financial service sectors. 

Lorna Crowley, Head of Marketing at Engage Hub (opens in new tab) 

Image Credit: Jirsak / Shutterstock

Laurent Bride joined Talend in 2014 as Chief Technical Officer. He came with 17 years of software experience during which he held various individual, management and executive roles in customer support and product development.