We all know the phrase ‘perception is reality’, said to have been coined in the 1980s by political strategist for the Republican Party and chairman of the Republican National Committee Lee Atwater. A master of spin, one of Atwater’s many jobs was to ensure that voters interpreted an event from a particular point of view; notably the views of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, both of whom he advised.
While this blog is thankfully not about the GOP or indeed politics – where the notion that if someone perceives something to be true, it’s more important than if it’s in fact true – the same school of thought plays out in many other fields, including CX. The psychology around decision making is fascinating stuff, particularly when it comes to consumer behaviour, and arguably perception is the starting point.
Each time a consumer interacts with your business they walk away with an impression of your brand. Subconsciously they’re storing nuggets of information that will ultimately influence their decision to come back: from how easy it is to navigate your website to how helpful your customer service is to how much they like their chosen product or service. Good or bad, ‘first impressions count’; another adage you’ll no doubt have heard thousands of times, and for good reason.
It doesn’t matter how customer-focussed you think your business is or what your intentions are, it’s only your customers’ opinions that count and if they perceive your website too hard to navigate, your customer service mediocre and the quality of your product or service to be questionable, that’s the reality. It’s the reality because those customers won’t buy from you again and the experience they’ve logged is what they’ll tell their friends and family, and maybe even put out into the world in the form of a negative review – all very real factors that will have a direct impact on your bottom line.
The role of digital transformation in CX
The key to CX is really rather simple. Make it easy for customers to interact with you on their own terms, anytime and anywhere, and there’s a good chance that they will. So long as you’re offering a product or service they need (or think that they need). Understanding the significant shift in consumer behaviours towards digital is also of huge importance. Over the last few months in particular we’ve become increasingly reliant on online services and digital acceleration has become a vital strategy for any business hoping to successfully navigate the new normal.
During lockdown, when the ability to go out and cherry pick the things we wanted from shop shelves was limited, we turned to the online retailers offering to bridge the gap. There are numerous studies that indicate brand loyalty plummeted during the early stages of the pandemic, as shoppers desperate to get their hands on essential items had no qualms switching allegiances, buying from whichever companies could provide exactly what they wanted in their time of need.
In addition to seeking the best products for a reasonable price, consumers needed the process to be easy and straight-forward with all important fast delivery. Although lockdown has ended and most facets of daily life are slowly returning to normal, consumer expectations of what good CX looks like are forever changed and their requirements are non-negotiable. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle now, and brands will have to work even harder to retain their customers and attract new ones in this fiercely competitive environment. Digital and contactless services have become essential to everyday life and the brands who can transition to deliver a seamless online journey will no doubt reap the rewards.
Prioritising CX can bring big benefits to small businesses: from higher conversion rates and engagement to increased loyalty and, you guessed it, positive brand perception. For many businesses, implementing a good CX strategy today will largely consist of improving their online capabilities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to rush out and invest in the latest technology.
The goal of digital transformation isn’t to be digital-centric but instead customer-centric. The needs of each business will vary in line with the needs of its customers and could involve anything from improving an in-store experience to building an app or introducing AI-powered chatbots that answers customer queries out of hours. Whatever the innovation, the goal should always be the same: to provide the best CX possible.
Building a CX transformation strategy
The best place to start and end a transformation will always be with data, so it’s imperative to regularly speak to your customers in order to identify the key areas of improvement. Customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys are one of the easiest ways to check in, and measure your customers’ satisfaction with your product or service, while CES (Customer Effort Score) can help you assess the experience customers have with your product or service, focussing on how ‘difficult’ or ‘easy’ it is to complete an action.
Beyond analysing customer satisfaction and ease, you could also measure KPIs like churn rate and retention rate, looking at how many of your customers have stopped using your products or services versus how many customers you’ve retained over a specific period of time. Whatever metrics you choose, it’s a necessity to create feedback loops and encourage customers to get in touch directly or leave reviews so you can gather ideas and ensure your product roadmap is truly reflective of the improvements your customers want to see. Analysing customer interactions across your various touchpoints and any historic complaints can also help to identify common themes and pain points.
When it comes to prioritising which improvements to make first, you can either choose some of the quicker wins which require a low level of effort or others that may take a little longer but will have a much bigger impact on customer satisfaction and revenue. No matter how big your team or budget it’s not a good idea to do everything at once as you’ll want to continually test and learn, measuring the impact of each incremental improvement before deploying the next iteration.
It’s crucial to put a robust transformation strategy in place and get buy-in from the wider team. Whether that’s a board of directors or the staff who are on the front lines with your customers, making sure everyone is aligned to common goals and ready to embrace change will help to increase your chances of success.
So long as you stay laser-focused on the needs of your customers, are agile and willing to prioritise digital-based solutions in response to the pandemic, you’ll gain a loyal fan base who can advocate for your brand and help ensure that your version of reality is the only one that exists.