The 21st century is the experience age – owning things is no longer the most important indicator of success for consumers; instead they search for shareable experiences and quality of life.
Organizations that want to connect with these consumers must use websites, apps and other advanced tools to deliver an improved customer experience.
But there are too many who do not use the same tools to involve their own employees – many of whom, such as today's consumers, & # 39; digital natives & # 39; to be.
- Everyone talks about the customer experience, but what is it?
Customer Experience (CX) is defined as the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company / organization in the course of their relationship. In fact, it is the end-to-end customer journey through all the different physical, digital and communication touches of an organization.
Physical contact points can include taste, smell and packaging for an FMCG brand, or improve the quality and product performance of a car or home electronics brand. Some companies have their own showrooms or work through dealers, so the shopping environment can also play a role.
Digital touchpoints include websites, apps and online CRM systems; they are increasingly being delivered via mobile devices and smartphones.
Communication providers include the advertising and public relations of an organization – how it shapes and projects the image that customers want from their marketing. But they can also relate to how phones are answered or to the attitude and training of personal salesmen, maintenance technicians or call center employees.
Many people think that CX is purely focused on customer service, but although Customer Service makes an enormous contribution to Customer Experience, there are many other elements that contribute to CX. To repeat my first point, CX is the sum of all interactions that someone has with an organization – such as ignoring when they enter a store or showroom or cut the highway by a brand van!
The employees of an organization or the sales people who represent them in the sales channels are an important channel for delivering superior customer experience. It is not good to say that you are great if your staff do not behave as if they believe it. Everyone in an organization must be attuned to business objectives and on-message. So teachers learn to understand their role within the organization and how everyone contributes to the perception of outsiders is extremely important. Employees are also a channel for management and directors to get information back. Great organizations learn all the time – from their customers, their suppliers and their employees. I urge people to read Moments of Truth by Jan Carlzon on this subject, written in the 80s, it is still so relevant today.
- Why is it so? Popular topic?
As Generation Z, the first digital generation, becomes mature, we see a fundamental shift in attitudes that affects doing business on so many different levels. In the Experience Century everything revolves around sharing instead of owning and experience has become a social currency. It is not just consumers who change – employees expect to be communicated, involved and educated in a completely different way than in the twentieth century.
For example, in retail, the average age of a sales employee is just 22. This is the generation that expects a personal service when shopping online or using social media, and yet companies do not offer personalized employee apps for their colleagues.
As baby boomers the & # 39; i-generation & # 39; were, looking for validation through personal wealth and ownership of things, appreciate Millennials and Gen Z experiences and share experiences. Things bought by Baby Boomers, Millennials and Gen Z hire or borrow – or experience substitution by following others on social media.
The 21st century is the Experience Century and that means that the customer experience that an organization delivers is even more important for its success. Good experiences are shared on social media – and they are bad too. Truly bad experiences go viral – and can easily damage or destroy the reputation of a company worldwide.
All this, plus 78% of the CEOs, says that CX will be the distinguishing factor in the success of their business over the next 10 years!
- Can a bad experience really ruin the relationship of a customer with a brand?
Absolutely. A recent report from PwC, Experience is everything, emphasized the fact that CX is now a leading differentiator between companies. Speed, convenience, expert help and friendly service were mentioned by almost 80% of consumers as essential for a positive customer experience.
Of the 15,000 consumers surveyed in 12 different countries around the world, 60% would stop doing business with a company due to unfriendly service, 46% due to the lack of knowledge of employees and the other half because they did not trust the company. One in three (32%) say they run away from a brand they love after only one bad experience.
What was really interesting from the report was that even in a digital world, consumers still want a human element. Employees are the core of the customer experience – 71% of PwC respondents said they think employees of a company have a big influence on their experience. It does not matter how great your technology is, if your staff disappoints you.
- How can technology help with the physical interaction a customer has with an organization?
Many consumers (but not all) may want to make contact with a real person, but technology can still play an important role in that interaction. If you call a company's help line, you might be talking to a real person, but they can access your customer data and other personal information on a screen in front of them and you can surf on their website or even compare prices of rivals at the same time.
Of course, people no longer talk to a help desk by telephone, they communicate via text on a PC or a smartphone. In general, people expect to be communicated via digital channels and advanced technology – it is how many consumers communicate with family, friends and colleagues. It saves time, it gives easy access to useful information and it can speed up the purchase process.
Most developed countries have a high level of ownership of smartphones – in countries like the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and South Korea more than two-thirds of the population have one.
Remember that what is true for consumers also applies to employees – Millennial and Gen Z employees expect to be communicated via digital devices – so technology is now an important training tool. There is an app for everything – including learning about your job!
- So how can technology be used precisely to train the people of a company in delivering improved CX?
Technical tools for training include apps on mobile devices and PCs, company intranets / extranets for learning to share, manuals and training modules in the cloud that employees can call at will whenever they want. Plus, of course, Virtual Reality (and Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality) offer great benefits for staff training – engineers can & # 39; see & # 39; What is in the machine park that they have to repair, deliverers can learn new routes and employees who look at the customer can go through and play a role play of a series of situations that they may need to use in a personal meeting. We can even create VR compelling environments – simulating the inside of a point of sale, complete with inventory on shelves and masses of customers …
We are not talking about replacing people with technology here – all studies reinforce the message that consumers like people to talk to and human interaction is very important in CX training; but the human element can be strengthened and strengthened with well-designed technology, and this is where we focus our efforts as a company.
Technology-based training also gives the employee control of his own learning program, allowing them to go through things at the speed that suits them and to refresh their memories and their most important interpersonal skills. It can also help train people quickly when new products are added in stores or in stores or when new brand or company messages are introduced.
Three-quarters (75%) of the knowledge is lost within a week of receipt. Tech can be used to ensure that employees who focus on the customer are continually renewed on the brand they represent, and to create tech products that support them as employees and improve their working life, thereby reducing abrasion and increasing involvement. increases.
- What do companies need (tools, equipment, networks, people, company culture, etc.) To build tech-based training for CX?
Most companies have technological solutions for the consumer (websites, e-commerce, customer service, etc.) To provide customers with an improved brand experience – but if they do not use the same tools and channels to talk to their own staff, there is a Disconnection .
As we have discussed, employees are increasingly Millennials / Gen Z – we are talking about digital natives who spend an important part of their lives online! But digital natives still have to reach the upper reaches of many organizations, which means that the corporate culture and mentality may not have taken over the fact that they need to communicate with their employees with the same channels and tools as with customers. Internal communication with staff must reflect the communication of external consumers.
This means that organizations must ensure that employees have access to PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones – both those of the company and their own. We see that more and more large operators are financing capital investment programs to equip their entire, often extensive workforce with handsets, as they see the benefit of ensuring their business is properly connected. It is clear that companies can save money when employees deliver their own devices, but IT professionals at companies must check every Bring Your Own Device Policy to ensure that there is a certain degree of consistency in terms of access to messages and content.
- What kind of skills do employees need to deliver a better CX and how can tech help them learn those skills?
You can find dozens of CX skills by surfing the web – but personally I think this is due to the following core skills, all of which can be improved through technology-supported training programs & # 39; s and tools:
1. Listen. Listen everyone – customers, suppliers, employees, total strangers. Insights can come from the most odd places and companies must ensure that they are equipped with the right technology to give them insight into consumer behavior. For example, companies such as Skyfii are at the forefront here.
2. Communication is linked to listening. If you can not listen, you will not be a good communicator.
3. Empathy. You can not make this fake, but you can learn it. It's not about repeating buzz words and phrases, it's about you really understanding what the customer needs. I have seen great results from immersive VR training, where employees are immersed in a scenario in which they receive both excellent and extremely poor customer experiences. The impact this has on individuals is much better than any class training that I have seen.
4. Helpfulness. Not only finding the product that someone wants, but discovering why they want it – and whether it is the right one.
5. Emotional intelligence. It is about being aware of the emotions of other people and why they may behave as they are. It applies to customers and colleagues.
6. Honesty. Nothing destroys a relationship faster than being caught or avoiding the truth. So if a product is out of stock or if a delivery is delayed, then apologize, explain the problem, and when you have the product or when it will arrive. And it sounds like you care about it …
7. Troubleshooting and recovery of services. Sounds simple, but real problem solving is about more than just finding an answer – it's also about figuring out why something happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. When something goes wrong, the experience is not over yet and in fact this can often be an opportunity to improve the brand experience by recovering and improving the bad experiences of customers.
- Who (organizations, companies, brands) are leaders when it comes to applying technology to CX training?
I feel that this is a growing industry and one that has not yet been fully exhausted, but there are certainly some leaders when it comes to applying technology to the customer experience. First, Bacardi has worked with us to create a WorkLife app for many of their frontline staff. The application combines everything that their frontline teams need in one place. Functionality includes e-learning, customer surveys, launch of new products and product information, modules for customer service training, scheduling information integration of social media and audit functionality.
Companies such as Skyfii deliver their software to large shopping centers and stores around the world to provide their customers with detailed analyzes of the customer journey that has never been seen before.
St Modwen homes, a developer of FTSE 250 homes, has now started using e-learning for their construction staff and translates all their HR policies into electronic and interactive guides – and then improves readership, ownership and engagement.
It is clear that products such as the Microsoft staff portal are becoming increasingly popular, but I would say that these products only solve a small part of the daily challenges of a workforce. People need a holistic approach to their working day and want a solution, no more apps and more products to log in. The best products focus on combining many applications to create a seamless one-stop-work-life app that gives the experience generation everything they need to provide the CX that is now so essential and necessary.
Mat Garner is co-founder of Ethos Farm.