Originally published in DestinationCRM
Written by Mark Smith
Competitive advantage used to be defined by multiple factors: product or service differentiation, brand equity, and price premiums, to name a few. But now as consumer choices proliferate, competitive advantage relies on providing an always-on, seamless customer experience (CX). The biggest dilemmas that brands face today are to what extent they provide good experiences across channels and how they can identify areas for improvement. Brands like Zappos, Trader Joes, and Netflix have been recognized for mastering the customer experience and have become leaders in their respective industries thanks to this dedication to providing good CX.
What can brands do to catch up to these leaders? Traditionally, they’ve relied on different forms of customer feedback to gauge performance, such as surveys or customer satisfaction through metrics like the Net Promoter Score (NPS). But this information only captures point-in-time feedback or only consists of what the customer can recall from an experience, and it is inadequate for managing the omnichannel customer experience today. In the offline world, brands turned to ethnographic studies of customer behavior to complete the CX picture. But in today’s hyper-connected and competitive environment, these tactics are no longer sufficient. What brands need are scalable, cloud-based customer journey analytics to gain the most comprehensive view of the customer, which will, in turn, enable them to maximize the customer experience with every interaction.
Status Quo CX Efforts No Longer Cut It
Gartner found that the most successful customer experience programs don’t just respond to and resolve customer issues—they actively seek out unmet customer needs. As customer feedback like NPS and surveys only allow companies to respond to issues that customers raised directly to them, robust customer analytics are a brand’s best chance to identify unmet CX needs. For example, analytics can help identify drop-off points—where customers won’t fill out a CX survey, or instances where website visitors fail to become customers. When customers don’t feel engaged or give up during the feedback process, survey and NPS data come up short in capturing the reasons why.
Luckily, brands are beginning to understand the advantages customer analytics provide in achieving better CX; a 2018 Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey found that 70 percent of enterprises had increased spending on customer analytics that year. The majority of brands and CX leaders, however, are applying analytics as a retrospective analysis tool, rather than leveraging insights dynamically and in real time to actually make an impact on the customer experience as it is happening. This means that the way most brands currently use journey analytics is severely lacking and therefore ineffective at driving real CX change or benefits.
Real-Time Analytics Are the Best Path to Great CX
Where marketers and CX leaders can truly stand out is by employing real-time journey analytics that track and analyze customer interactions (or lack thereof) with a brand across channels. The key is the real-time nature of these tools, which empower brands to identify and proactively fix steps in the journey that are leading to poor experiences, and to determine the next best interaction or action for each customer and guide them through it. For example, brands can use journey analytics to identify visitors to a company website or social account who did not proceed to the shopping cart and send them personalized offers through their channel of preference—such as email or text. For customers who haven’t made a purchase recently, journey analytics can even enable brands to share a special offer that incorporates their past purchases or a waiting shopping cart so that the offer has a higher chance of being effective.
By employing real-time journey analytics, brands have better control over each phase of the customer journey—from initial interest to purchase and all the way through to repeat loyalty—by proactively managing content, channels, and touchpoints to engage each customer. TGI Fridays provides a great example of how brands can engage real-time customer insights. The company recently introduced in-restaurant review devices given to guests as they enter the restaurant, not only to capture customer issues at the point of sale but also to address these issues in a timely manner.
With customer experience becoming the new competitive battleground, brands cannot afford to miss any part of the customer journey picture. Traditional customer feedback and voice-of-the-customer programs must meet their new partner, journey analytics, and work jointly in real time, near time, and over the history of the customer to proactively identify areas for improvement and next best experiences to positively impact CX and keep customers loyal. As the CX race tightens, more brands are likely to follow suit—and those that don’t will be left behind by customer experience gaps they couldn’t even see coming.