Feb. 16, 2016
By Aviad Abiri
Perfection is an ever-moving target. Just ask any business continually working to better understand and serve its customers.
The “perfect experience” for each customer should be the ultimate goal every company pursues. And yet consumer expectations are constantly expanding and advancing year by year, accelerating especially as technology gives customers more options and more power than ever before.
Many of the most successful brands are working hard to achieve the elusive perfect experience. The ones doing it well—Amazon, Zappos, Burberry—are earning new customers through word of mouth as much as marketing, since one of the best marketing moves a company can make is a seamless, simple, intuitive customer journey.
To help you stay ahead of the shifts in the customer experience, here are three ways the best companies are building a perfect experience and where the technology is headed.
1. A better omnichannel experience soon to be built on superior contact center technology
According to NICE Systems’ 2014 Global Customer Experience Survey, customers use an average of six different channels to contact companies with questions, issues, or complaints. A similar report from Deloitte and eBay found that one in three consumers have used multiple channels to make a purchase.
Consumers expect one consistent experience across email, phone, online chat, social media, and in-person store visits. They’ve come to expect a seamless conversation or transaction even if they change channels along the way.
Retailers are meeting that challenge. Burberry’s investment in digital technologies has helped it merge its online and in-store experience. Its sales associates, equipped with iPads, can create and view customer profiles wherever they are. This push for global customer analytics and insight capabilities helps Burberry better understand changing consumer trends.
In the coming years, self-service will grow in importance as contact center technologies add more speech recognition, virtual agents, video chat, mobile service, and voice biometrics. As these technologies become more commonplace, consumers’ effort in contacting a company and resolving their issue will continue to drop. Augmented reality, wearables, and 3D printing will all continue to expand the channels available to consumers as they come to expect more and more from retailers.
2. A more personalized experience soon to be fueled by predictive analytics
Consumers are demanding a new level of personalization, expecting businesses to understand their intentions, preferences, and desired level of interaction. Services likes Amazon, Netflix, and iTunes are combing through massive amounts of data to better understand customers’ specific interests and deliver relevant content based on a customer’s viewing history, purchases, and known preferences.
And it’s not just online. Some businesses are matching consumers’ online habits with their in-store behaviors through the use of payment and loyalty cards to map a holistic view of the customer’s journey.
Zappos has invested enough in customer service and personalization that it can forgo outbound marketing. Instead, it analyzes and tracks consumer behavior to offer an experience that’s highly personalized, easy, and engaging. The online retail giant offers thousands of products to customers online but does so without any complexities, ensuring a great experience before asking satisfied customers to write a review.
Soon efforts at personalization will be aided by predictive analytics that’ll help retailers foresee what a customer’s next best action will be. As these tools grow more sophisticated, retailers will be better equipped to mine consumer data for recommended actions, and could show the likely outcome of each decision. These analytics will further hone personalization while also allowing real-time responsiveness.
3. A real-time experience soon to be powered by the Internet of Things
In addition to catering to the needs of an omnichannel experience and doing so in a more personalized manner, customers expect their experience to be instantaneous—they want to receive the right offers and recommendations at the right time and right place.
Near-field communication, iBeacons, and Bluetooth hail the dawn of the real-time era, in which personalized communications and offers are delivered to customers while they’re in store.
Amazon takes this a step further with predictive analytics. The online giant’s customer service experience is easy, highly personalized, and built on word-of-mouth reviews, but its sophisticated use of data is where it delivers a standout experience in real time. Using predictive analytics, the retailer is always seeking to anticipate the customer’s wants and needs. Even its deliveries are closing the gap, from experimenting with drones and same-day pick-up for Prime customers to the opening of a brick-and-mortar store that offers the omnichannel shopper a faster path to purchase.
The IoT will accelerate this process even further. Gartner recently forecast that by 2018, 5 percent of customer service cases will be initiated by Internet-connected devices, up from 0.02 percent in 2014. With the home expected to have more than 500 smart objects, these devices will become de facto service agents that more quickly anticipate and resolve any issues.
The future of the perfect experience
As technology raises consumer expectations, it also supports retailers in meeting them. Ultimately the perfect experience is one aided by technology that breaks down the barriers in consumers’ way, helps them more quickly resolve any challenges they have, and does so immediately and in line with a particular customer’s behavior and preferences.
The continual advancement and application of technology is the best option for companies’ ongoing pursuit of perfection.
.Aviad Abiri is the VP of portfolio sales enablement at NICE Systems.