A bad customer experience (CX) is a killer, but doing it right can be an amazing (and not necessarily expensive) unlocker. Appnovation’s Richard Palmer tells us how brands can ensure they’re on the right side of this divide.
CX is the digital identity link. At a time when 86% of consumers are willing to leave even a trusted brand after two bad interactions, basic mistakes that frustrate customers are a treat for rivals. With a potential cost to brands of around 6.5% of revenue, the cost of unforced errors is staggering.
Like any tool in a company’s directory, CX requires a deep understanding of audience needs and consistency in meeting them. It doesn’t have to be rocket science. Any company with a decent story to tell has the foundation for deep resonance and the kind of digital brand loyalty that comes from people feeling valued and understood.
Here’s how to start.
1. Design for empathy
Most brands overestimate how well they understand their customers. It’s important to know exactly how and why consumers are interacting at every stage of the digital journey.
In some circumstances, it’s a safety issue. Refuge, a domestic violence charity, shows a deep understanding that visitors to its website, mostly female victims of domestic violence, fear retaliation if caught asking for help. The site is clearly designed with empathy for these users: the “quick exit” button, accessible from any page, encourages women to take action while minimizing the risk of violent consequences. A single click and a user is redirected from the website to a Google search page with no option to click back. Here’s the trick: Refuge is pushed to the bottom of users’ browsing history list, making it hard to find.
To exhibit similar levels of empathy, brands must begin by having ongoing, detailed, and intuitive conversations with their customers. In addition to ironing out invisible technical issues, take the pulse of changing user attitudes for a watertight understanding of the issues that matter most to them.
2. Prioritize values
More than ever, brands need to understand the motivations, attitudes and values that drive consumer decision-making. Lean research, with qualitative information to underpin quantitative data, is an obvious route to this meaningful connection content.
A workaholic might never hit the gym, just like someone who’s downright lazy won’t. But their reasons for avoidance are very different and require distinct answers: a subtlety that only more nuanced research can pick up.
At Appnovation, we use a tool called the Value Index to interpret consumer motivation from an aesthetic, functional, emotional, and transcendent perspective. By exploring hard-to-quantify feelings such as nostalgia or anxiety, brands can master the inner life of their customers and respond accordingly.
3. Customize by numbers
Brands routinely mess up personalization, losing swathes of customers along the way. The culprit is almost always data management. The first step in personalization is an assessment of data maturity, enabling a culture for its effective structure and use.
Brands that get their houses in order based on data have a clear advantage. Research shows that consumers are increasingly willing to share data in exchange for a clear benefit. However, brands going this route still need to think outside the box. Take online retailer Very, which pioneered weather data as a personalization tool. The apparel brand relies on local weather patterns to recommend apparel and content tailored to what’s happening in terms of weather in a user’s local area.
4. Focus on satisfaction
Most brands recognize that while they may sale products, customers to buy something much less transactional. They buy satisfaction: emotional take advantage of these products. Building customer loyalty requires customers to enter into transactions with a deeper sense of accomplishment that goes beyond just purchasing the product. Recognizing this simple truth will quickly shift thinking from best practices and frictionless payments to thumb-stopping experiences that align with a brand’s own benefit.
Social listening can also help drive this broader sense of holistic satisfaction, assessing what consumers are saying about a brand and anticipating potential pain points or negatives.
Brand communities can also harness satisfaction, although customers should be matched around similar levels of interest, lifestyle and ambition, rather than just products. The Nike Run Club and Harley Davidson Owners Club are obvious in this regard, but something incidental like choosing a home tech or shampoo can also say a lot about one’s social status. GoPro, Lego and Sephora all embrace the power of holistic belonging with thriving brand communities.
When consumer trust is hard won and even more easily lost, the above four pillars create a foundation for robust CX. Combine them, and brands can slowly but surely shape their way to customers who feel understood and valued. It’s a cornerstone for the kind of high-caliber digital engagement that will withstand even the roughest seas.
Richard Palmer is head of EMEA strategy at digital consultancy Appnovation.