Consumer expectations are constantly being reset. And, with digital technologies and new data-driven value propositions disrupting markets seemingly on a daily basis, it can be hard to determine what is working for successful businesses today. But, when we take a hard look at what is helping companies achieve sustainable growth, we see one common characteristic: a focus on delivering a better customer experience.
Prophet’s Brand Relevance IndexTM (BRI) confirms that companies that offer exceptional customer experiences are the fastest-growing, healthiest businesses. People don’t just admire these high-experience brands; they find them indispensable in their lives. And they are drawn to these companies not for the promises they make, but for the experiences they create.
Customer Experience Drives Relevance
Improving your existing customer experience and creating new, engaging ways to interact with customers should be your number one priority. And while there are countless ways to enrich an experience, we’ve found the changes that make the most impact can be categorized in two simple ways:
1. Make It Easy
Make using your product or service easy by streamlining the experience with simple processes, fewer steps and clear functionality. Changes should be intuitive and promote seamlessness and speed. Amazon, one of the most highly ranked brands in our BRI, is perhaps the best example, churning out ordering, payment and device innovations that have redefined what it means to shop.
2. Make It More Engaging
Enhance your connection with customers by adding new moments, personalization and content. Richer experiences intensify the relationship between people and products, and new ideas encourage discovery, loyalty and even advocacy. Netflix, another highly relevant brand from our Brand Relevance Index, achieves its off-the-chart levels of engagement with its exclusive, binge-worthy programming.
Doing at least one of these–and preferably some aspects of both–demonstrates that you understand what truly matters in people’s busy lives, and that you’re able to provide products and services that keep pace as their needs and interests change.
Beyond Insights to Understanding
To create customer experiences that fuel growth, it’s important to have a holistic vision, one that helps you understand what matters in peoples’ lives beyond just their path to purchase. Creating a great customer experience is not just about removing the pain points along the customer journey (though that matters too!).
Rather, it is about seeing the big picture of what is important to consumers in their daily lives: how they interact with other people (and other brands), use technology, and spend their time, money and attention beyond their interactions with your product or service.
While what happens at any given touch point with your brand matters, a bigger picture emerges from a combination of those encounters:
- Where are your consumers coming from?
- What they are trying to accomplish?
- What is really interesting to them?
Awareness and understanding of this context should shape the interactions consumers have with your products, services, people or messages, which in turn will shape perceptions and feelings about your brand–it allows you to form a relationship with the customer beyond the transaction.
The right research can help uncover what is most valuable to customers–in their daily lives and in their experience with you. New tools, such as social media mining, purchase history data, and search, web and mobile analytics, allow you to get beyond surveys and ethnographies in order to see what is really driving consumer behavior.
Armed with this deeper understanding of the customer, businesses can start looking for ways to do more than make incremental improvements to the customer experience. There is an opportunity to transform the experience, creating greater business–and brand–impact.
Transformational Customer Experiences
Our engagements with hundreds of companies have taught us what is important when creating the kinds of experiences that establish relevance and drive business growth. How you address these key considerations, however, is constantly evolving as new competitors, technologies and techniques emerge.
5 Questions to Consider About Your Customer Experiences
It is important to ask these five key questions as you evaluate existing customer experiences or contemplate creating new, more engaging ones:
- Are we bringing rigor to our customer experience? Ideas should be grounded in consumer insights and business realities, and ensure improvements are linked to the business metrics that matter most.
- Does the experience show empathy for customers? This requires looking past what is happening in the moment. It goes beyond the path to purchase, technology and pain points to see the human side of the customer experience, both for customers and employees. Great experiences are the enabler of great relationships.
- Does it take into account the role brand plays in shaping the customer experience and vice versa? In this age of technological disruption, brands are now built by the experiences they create. It’s a virtuous cycle: As brand characteristics inform the experiences, experiences increasingly define the brand.
- Do your innovations surprise and delight? The currency of keeping customers engaged in an experience is keeping it new. But newness alone is not enough—changes also have to be useful in order to build relevance.
- Does it leverage tech-enabled intelligence? We believe the best experiences are not static solutions but something that are living and dynamic. This is why we help companies embrace the power of AI, advanced analytics, and big data to build experiences that are more contextual, adaptive, and personalized — to powerfully engage customers, again and again.
Operationalizing these dimensions will help you create brand experiences that matter. Interactions that are easier, more responsive, richer and more personalized drive relevance and sustainable growth.
Is Your Organization Ready?
An ambition to create great customer experiences will be unfulfilled if your organization is not prepared to develop and deliver them. And beyond technological readiness, what is needed is a customer experience strategy that pulls in operational expertise and customer insights from different parts of an organization that are often forgotten and not connected or coordinated in how they interact with customers, the market or each other.
My colleague, Charlene Li, Principal Analyst at our research company, Altimeter has just published a research report on the topic of “A Next Generation Customer Experience Strategy” for “next generation customers.” In it she describes the necessary inputs for developing compelling experiences that drive deep relationships with customers and the required organizational involvement from across the enterprise. She has also developed a maturity model that companies can use to assess their organizational readiness for adopting a more customer experience-centric approach to their business.
It is vital that organizational capabilities and operational implications are top of mind from the inception of a customer experience strategy, through concept development and deployment. Technological capabilities must be paired with organizational commitment and preparedness in order to effect relevance-driving experiences.
It is time for organizations that espouse customer centricity to embrace the development of customer experiences as the primary means of realizing that goal.