COVID-19 has already impacted the global economy manifold. We have also observed a shift of consumers to online channels, trying out new brands, looking for a sense of community. As the virus started to circulate, the shift in customer preferences was palpable. Almost overnight, physical stores were shunned. Customer demand shifted from discretionary items to those perceived as essentials. People started to prioritize their health and safety over cost and convenience.
George Colony, the Chairman and CEO at Forrester Research said, “When I first saw buttons at Heathrow that let travelers give instant feedback on how they were feeling, I laughed. Measuring and refining customer experience is about long-term strategy, not raw takes on what’s happening now. I was wrong.” One of the most powerful, influential personalities in the field of technology could not immediately grasp the capability of immediate customer feedback, or real-time customer experience. But, now, the cat is out of the bag, and, in 2020, the importance of real-time customer feedback couldn’t be more relevant.
A lot of companies gather heaps of feedback records but fail to act on them. Sooner or later, this leads to customer dissatisfaction which finally affects the business. Gone are the days when customer experiences were built on traditional methods: surveys or feedback forms. For any business to grow, it is essential that the focus is shifted from gathering customer feedbacks periodically, to developing a refined system that calls for regular, real-time customer feedbacks.
Why (near) real-time customer experience matters?
“I was recently on Amazon website, shopping for a new bag. Based on my past buying history, Amazon customized the search results for me. This made my shopping experience more pleasant.” It will be no surprise to find at least a hundred reviews like this on different platforms. Amazon or any other popular website customizes your search to make purchasing more interesting for their users. Near real-time customer experience integration can work like magic-beans for your business, sending it into a growth spurt. It shows the character of your company that it is responsive, cares about the customer, and adheres to a set of standards. These customer experiences, eventually add-up to deliver a stronger value to your business and enhances your brand image.
Benefits of real-time customer experience
A Gartner Research found that point-of-experience customer feedbacks were about 40% more precise as compared to feedback taken over 24-hours later. This shows that customers are more likely to engage with the seller and provide real insights if the experience is recorded in real-time. Based on real-time feedbacks, it is easier to create high-quality marketing strategies that are relevant to the audience in the present. This will enable retailers to provide better services as decisions would be based on current information and intelligence rather than on limited, pre-recorded data. It is a known fact that customers leave because they believe that a company is indifferent to them. The first thing real-time-feedback does is that it eliminates this fear through a focus-shift.
Real-time customer experience integration can offer immense growth to a company, if channeled in the correct direction. But, how is it possible to formulate real-time experience integration into everyday consumer consumption?
How to turn real-time customer experience into a reality?
Building a framework that can organize customer response and behavior into relevant data in the nick of time is the first step in this complex process. That brings us to the different strategies that can instigate real-time customer experience, and actually turn it to reality:
1) Unification of customer data
With modern POS and CRM technologies, social media/marketing automation tools, digital analytics tools, etc., a lot of data gets collected, but is rarely put to good use. The major challenge comes when customer data is stored at various places, applications, locations and departments with no connections or visibility of the whole picture. So, the vital step in the process is to make all the data unified, integrated and easy-to-analyze. The data should also be synchronized so that when customers move from one channel to the other, they get a seamless experience. A business cannot grow multifold unless it analyzes its customer data, and then makes an effort to foresee customer issues and cater to their needs proactively.
2) Get strong technological capabilities
Usually, the reasons for any customer to engage with a brand is curiosity, appearance, usability or past experience. In this competitive era, only brands that recognize this can understand the game, let alone, win at it. If businesses have integrated data, they can thoroughly analyze it to find correlations and do predictive analytics for finding behavior patterns across the conversion funnel. Diving deeper into the data will help companies find relevant insights and ideas to create valuable experiences and cater to customer needs in real-time based on their engagement behavior. Most retailers are striving to offer omni-channel experience to their customers and they can achieve success through cross-platform integration and use of data and insights for real-time decision support at all customer touch-points. Digital retailers are already leveraging advanced self-learning algorithms that can dynamically stage different buying experiences to different audiences at different times. All this requires robust technological infrastructure that supports real-time CX.
3) Remove back-end complexity
To provide a truly real-time experience, it is not just the customer data that is important, but all the other back-end systems need to talk to each other in order to generate a coherent picture. Making real-time decisions requires businesses to identify, analyze and react to the micro-moments of customer experiences occurring all around them and this can be made possible only when the whole system is simplified. Getting rid of informational and process silos and creating a single view of customers, manufactures, supply chain, inventory, merchandise, etc., is vital. Modern cloud-based systems are able to tie in all the silos and create a single, simple, and information-rich platform for making real-time experience optimization a reality.
4) Eliminate friction on the front-end
Customers have certain expectations when they visit your store, kiosk, website, social presence, or any other touchpoint. Seamless service or transaction related touchpoints must be created for customers to minimize dissatisfaction. Ensure that services are delivered and queries are resolved instantly. Personalizing the experience based on real-time behavior is the next step. Integrate chatbots to your websites or applications. Analyzing past data and using it to program the chatbot can ensure experiences that are more real, reducing the chances of error, minimizing the cost of call centers, and coming much closer to giving your customers a real-time experience.
5) Customer-first approach
Customer experience can be optimized only when supporting technologies are in place. It gives you an edge of interacting with the customer within the blink of an eye, and also regulating the received data in a more effective manner. However, it is essential that technology matches the requirements of a customer and not makes it complex for them to find what they are looking for. Many companies invest in latest technologies that do no good to the end-customer, and prove to be a heavy liability later on. If a company is considering updating their technology, it is crucial for them to base their decisions according to the target customer and how their experience would be affected.
Conclusion – Move from ‘reactive’ to ‘proactive’ CX
Achieving a real-time customer experience is more complex than it sounds. Google has defined four types of customer moments that brands must understand and optimize. These are: “I want to know moments”, “I want to buy moments”, “I want to go moments”, and “I want to do moments”. Businesses must have the supporting technologies, data and insights to capture these moments when they occur and offer real-time customized engagement to take the customer to the next step of conversion. Gathering these moments in real-time and making an impact with the right engagement models will change the way your customers react to your brand and create positive results. Today’s customers not only want companies to meet their expectations, but to anticipate them and cater to them with the right products, promotions, information, and services. This requires immense insight into each “moment” as it happens and predictive capabilities to take it in the right direction.