This is what the world of digital customer experience looks like these days.
Self-service, chat bots, and relentless phone menus are everywhere.
We all complain about them to each other. And yet, when companies run consumer surveys about self-service, respondents consistently report that they like self-service, especially if it keeps prices down.
Honestly, I just didn’t believe it.
I believed that the data was skewed to a younger audience and ignored older consumers.
Admittedly, I believe this because I hear older people complaining that they are confused by their digital customer experience.
So I did a quick survey on my own with a general consumer population.
Consumers Report That They LOVE Self-Service
When I’m wrong I’m wrong. The data has spoken and even my small consumer population agrees with everyone else. Self-service is a winner — at least on the surface.
Consumers Prefer Self-Service over Full Service
You can see by the data that 61% of consumer prefer self-service to full service.
But here’s the thing with surveys.
People will answer the question you asked, no more, no less.
So you need to look deeper.
One of the first questions I ask about survey results is “What assumptions are we making? or What isn’t being said here?”
In other words, you have to complete the sentence.
Here’s an example:
“I prefer self-service — when it’s working, if I can get in and out faster, assuming I know what I want and why….”
There are a lot of “un-saids” here.
Sometimes the data will tell you this and sometimes you have to get out there and talk to your customers and ask them to provide more context.
What’s the lesson for small business?
Your customers love self-service — when it makes their shopping experience faster and easier.
What actions to take in your business:
- Walk in your customer’s footsteps and look for areas of friction or obstacles that get between them and your product or service.
- Record every element of your customer’s journey. Make note of where you need human engagement and where technology can provide more value than a person.
You Like It — You Really Like It
Again — you could have blown me over with a feather!
Despite all the complaining I hear from everyone about self-service and technology replacing people — you like it — you really like it!
Granted, I think there’s an underlying assumption here that everything is working properly. But, I also have to consider that these responses reflect consumer opinions based on their most recent experiences. And those must not be too bad.
Provide Real People to Answer Questions
OK. Folks like self-service. But when do they want to talk to a person?
Our survey results were clear. You’d better have people available to answer questions and solve problems.
In fact, when I asked the question more specifically, consumers answered consistently.
This is a real opportunity for businesses looking to create great digital customer experiences.
- Create a list of FAQs and answers and make it available to your team so that every person provides consistent answers.
- Make your FAQs easily found, accessible online so that customers can find them.
- Make sure that your support questions are optimized for voice search.
Companies Care More About Costs Than People
But don’t let these (and all the other) survey results fool you. Consumers know that costs are the key drivers behind all this automation under the guise of “improving customer experience”.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I had to know if consumers perceived all this self-service as something that helps them or the company.
Whether or not you care about customer experience as you begin automating the purchasing process, don’t be fooled.
Your customers see all this self-service as being purely driven by cost.
And. They are good with that — as long as prices are low and table.
- Always start with customer experiences of your business in real life – before creating a digital customer experience management program.
Digital Customer Experiences Better Keep Prices Down
Granted, as I write this, inflation is at a 40-year high and consumers are reeling from the sticker shock. So, if they could have a seamless purchasing experience and stay on budget, automate the customer journey all you want.
Make it Easy for Me to Buy From You
Once again, an outstanding digital customer experience is one that makes it easy for your customer to get to the outcome they want.
Never forget that.
Don’t Use This Data to Improve Digital Customer Experience
As we wind down these survey results, please do NOT use this data for your own business. Let me explain why:
- This is general consumer data., so it’s just the preferences of a random group of consumers and not YOUR consumers.
- My survey was skewed toward women — not as many men responded.
CLEARLY, women have a heavy impact on these results. I’m not sure what that means for me – nor do I know what that means for you. It’s just what happened in this survey.
Another interesting detail about this survey is that only 2% of our respondents were over 65 years old. When I broke the data down by age, there was no difference in preferences for self-service or digital customer experience between the age categories.
Another element to consider is that this was an online survey. And that means that the population that answered these questions is already somewhat data savvy enough to access and take an oline survey.
Do Research With YOUR Customers
I’m not saying this to be glib. I’m saying this because if you’re considering investing in a digital customer experience strategy, you have to make sure that you’re building it around your own customer base.
Customer Service – vs- Customer Experience
As I’m writing this article, this shows up in my email — a survey by TCN ( a global provider of a comprehensive, cloud-based call center platform) released their 2022 Consumer Insights about Customer Service and (drumroll please). The survey said that 66% of consumers will abandon a brand after a poor customer experience.
One of the overarching conclusions from this survey seems to conflict with all this digital customer experience information.
The TCN Insights Survey says that “Consumers prefer the human touch”.
So what are you supposed to do with that?
How to Reconcile Consumers Love of Self-Service and Their Desire for Human Interaction
On the one hand, consumers are embracing the digital customer experience and on the other hand, they want the human touch.
The answer to this dilemma lies within your own customers and what they need in order to get their hands on the outcome that you’re selling as quickly and easily as possible.
Don’t Create Digital Customer Experiences in a Vacuum
When you’re ready to create a digital customer experience strategy, you have to start in the material world.
Your digital customer experience strategy must start with a real life customer, how they find you, how they choose you and how they ultimately buy from you.
Don’t be lazy. Start with the simplest manual process. Aim to create an amazing experience. Then look for areas of friction.
What is friction in the customer journey?
I’ve mentioned the world friction several times here. In its simplest terms friction in the customer journey is anything that slows down the customer’s ability to find, choose and purchase your product or service.
Think of them as touchpoints. They can be physical touchpoints, or digital touchpoints.
- Finding your business online by company, product, service, outcome, benefit, or problem.
- Landing on your website and finding the product or service they are looking for.
- Being able to reach out and get their questions answered by a human being.
- Finding the checkout
- Checking out as quickly as possible
- Being able to pay the way they want to pay
- Receiving an acknowledgement
- Tracking information
- Reaching out with questions
- Cancelling the order
As you can see, there are multiple digital touchpoints here across digital channels and physical channels of the customer journey.
Your job is to make them seamless.
Why the digital customer experience matters now
The digital customer experience is critical because a lot of customer like it and want it.
At the same time, it has to be intuitive and virtually invisible or transparent to customers of all ages.
It doesn’t have to be everywhere. But it does need to exist inside the balance that cuts costs, maintains prices and creating a positive customer experience.
How digital transformation is changing the customer experience
In my opinion, large companies have pushed digital transformation on to their customers. While many didn’t like it, we still experienced a benefit; faster checkout, easy payments, etc.
Don’t put technology before the customer
Yes, customers love fast, seamless, and lower cost transactions. But not at the expense of getting their questions answered and overall customer service.
Digital Customer Experience Trends
Create human-centric and people first digital experiences
If there’s anything that’s loud and clear from all the research is that a great customer experience comes directly from the customer.
It has to be defined by YOUR customer and not some trend.
Double down on customer data analysis and insights
You won’t be able to count on secondary statistics and research if you want to create a digital customer experience strategy that resonates with your customers.
- Use quizzes to help personalize your offer.
- Leverage web analytics to understand your customers behavior across digital channels.
- Insert customer feedback collection from multiple digital channels.
DIY Transactions will become the norm.
Consumers love being in control of their digital customer experience journey. Make sure that you create a stellar experience across multiple channels.
Leverage AI strengths to improve customer experience
AI is the perfect partner for any entrepreneur looking to create an outstanding customer experience in their digital space. It can sift through data and pinpoint patterns – helping you get a better grasp on your customers’ needs – as well as automate mundane tasks, freeing up time for businesses to focus more intently on delivering quality service. Plus with AI’s personalized recommendations, customers are sure find what they’re after faster than ever before! In other words: harnessing the power of AI = big wins all round when it comes creating that fabulous user journey!
Create a purchase-friendly mobile experience
This “optimize for mobile” trend has gone through a significant evolution. First it was all about making sure that your website is mobile friendly, but today, your customer’s mobile experience needs to be purchase friendly.
Here’s what that means:
- Make it easy to read
- Easy to search
- Easy to see reviews
- Easy to ask questions and get answers from a real person
Again, this will require customer feedback, research, observation and more on your end.
Choose your own experience
If there’s anything we’ve learned it’s that as many people will love a particular experience and just as many people will hate it.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to choose your ideal customer and create an experience that serves them.
Create seamless digital experience
To create this seamless digital experience means that you’ll have to help customers make their purchase across multiple digital channels.
Again, you’ll have to make sure that you’re staying in touch with customer, gathering customer feedback, measuring customer satisfaction, and constantly updating your customer data,.
10 Tips for Improving Digital Customer Experience
These tips might look like what you’ve seen before. But now that you’ve seen the data about what customers want in terms of their digital customer experience, you’ll see these in a whole new light.
- Ensure that your website is user-friendly and visually appealing.
- Make sure your website loads quickly and is mobile-friendly.
- Offer personalized recommendations and suggestions to customers.
- Provide a clear and easy-to-use navigation menu.
- Make sure your website has a search bar that allows customers to easily find what they are looking for.
- Offer a variety of payment options.
- Provide easy-to-use and secure checkout processes.
- Offer live chat support to assist customers with any questions or concerns they may have.
- Collect and use customer feedback to continuously improve the digital customer experience.
Top Takeaways from Customer Experience Research
The most important thing to remember from all this research is that when you’re thinking about automating the customer journey, you must start with the human customer.
Do NOT let technical capabilities drive your digital customer experiences.
Start slow by identifying the 20% of your digital touchpoints that drive 80% of the friction between your customer and their purchase.
Make the decision to invest the time and money in improving your customer’s experience and not just your own.