5 tips to transform your online client experience

Posted in: Business Insights

“We need to transform to improve our client experience.”

Companies are being pressured to improve their customer experience for a number of reasons:

Many of your customers have been on the Internet for a long time. They’ve come to expect that when they interact with brands, the online experience will be a pleasant one. User expectations are driven by what they feel makes sense to them and by what their experiences have been with other brands. These two are often inseparable.

But, and there is always a but, what’s really important to one customer might not be the same thing to another. First and foremost, before you start improving you should be asking your customers what they think is important. You should also become a customer of your competitors because inevitably you’ll be compared to them. Lastly, a scan of popular digital experiences consumed by your client demographic will also help you understand what their growing expectations are from vendors in general.

This article will focus on transforming the online user experience, and we’ll get into the more advanced ways of looking at digital transformation in the next article. You might also consider this a checklist that applies in almost any acceptable digital experience. You’ll notice that we’re not yet talking about technology, we’re still talking about defining the outcomes. The technology comes later.

“A single accessible way to aggregate information for each customer is the fundamental building block for an improved customer experience.”

Consistency: Users want their experience to be the same, however they interact with the brand. I love a story I heard the other day from a friend who wrote a book and had it published by a major book publisher and distributed through a large online book retailer. After some time, she wanted to know how many books she had sold. She discovered that she had to go to one place on their American site, a different place on their Canadian site, and that there was no place to get data for sales outside of North America. Obviously each country for this online book retailer has their own system, and doesn’t deliver a seamless, consistent experience to their customer who quite frankly doesn’t care how it is organized. I am picking on one company as an example, but they are not alone, there are too many of these stories to count. A single accessible way to aggregate information for each customer is the fundamental building block for an improved customer experience.

Timeliness: A second component of client experience expectation is timeliness. It’s pretty safe to say that the majority of customers want everything immediately. That may be unrealistic if you are a manufacturer of custom made furniture, but there are many interaction points with your customers that you can investigate and improve the timeliness of – from live chat on your website, internal SLAs for responding back to client email inquiries, to making the information they want available to them when they query your system – see the next point on self-service. The same client was eventually told by the large online book retailer that her publisher probably had the information she was looking for, so she looked for it online, didn’t find it, and eventually called her publisher and was told they didn’t have a client portal, but that they would send her sales reports annually. Once a year!  As she put it “I could have hit the bestseller list and not known for 11 months.”

Self-service: Offering self-service information to your customers just makes good sense – they like it and it keeps your costs down. I had an interesting conversation with a client the other day who said that one of his measures of client experience transformation is whether or not the number of calls and emails from clients asking for information is decreasing over time.  Brilliant! Most people don’t want to have to reach out every time they want information from you, especially if they just want access to their information stored on your systems. Increasing the amount of relevant (we’ll get to this in a minute) information that is easily available to them without them having to ask is a key component of improving the customer’s digital experience.  Examine the calls and emails coming in to your call center and support teams, look for patterns, and find a way to make it available to customers when they want it.

Relevance: Customers don’t think of themselves as segments or groups, they think of themselves as individuals, so a big part of transformation is creating a unique experience for each customer. Just knowing what their history is with you, exactly where their order is at any time, whether their last experience with you was good or not so good, how often they buy, what they bought last – all of this allows the conversation, whether it’s on the phone or a self-service web experience to be one that is relevant to that client’s unique circumstance. It will acknowledge them as a valued client if you know their history – such a simple thing, but when all these important elements of their history with you live in different silos and isn’t accessible in one location, the information loses its value as a relationship builder very quickly. Likewise having too much irrelevant information hogging the limelight also isn’t good, – see the next point on efficiency.

Efficiency: Like timeliness and relevancy, efficiency speaks to the customer’s expectations of getting the right information to help them on their unique journey in the fastest time possible. We’ve all experienced the client portal from hell (my telecom provider’s site comes to mind) where you didn’t read the instructions (who reads instructions theses days?) and find yourself wandering in places unknown, not getting the information you want (I just want to know my cell phone account balance!) and then eventually leaving with a bad feeling about that brand. Next time you think of going back there you don’t, and this translates into being more open when the competitors comes knocking, and missing an opportunity to be exposed to new products or services that you would have seen had you engaged often.

While this checklist should never replace talking to your customers to get their input, it can be a good starting point to have a team in your company start mapping and following the customer journey. Use every current engagement point to review what’s working and what isn’t – your customer support team and the emails and calls from your clients are also a great way to add color and insights to your thinking. And don’t forget to check out your competition.

Pythian’s IT Solutions can help you use technology to create a better journey for your customers.

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About the Author

Lynda Partner is a self-professed data addict and experiences the power of data every day as Pythian’s Vice President of Analytics-as-a-Service. The author of Pythian’s Love Your Data mantra, Lynda understands very well how data can transform companies into competitive winners and she was the driving force in adding an analytics practice to Pythian’s database focus. Lynda works with companies around the world and across industries to turn data into insights, predictions and products, and is the co-author of Designing Cloud Platforms.

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