Customer-focused organizations shared their insights and best practices at the fifth annual Customer Experience Strategies Summit hosted by The Strategy Institute in Toronto April 5 to 6, 2016. The dialogue was wide-ranging but pointed continuously to putting structure around unstructured data to inform action plans.
CX is a key business strategy of customer loyalty and business development. In this competitive economy, poor CX loses customers and reduces brand equity, while well-executed CX programs accelerate brand value. Customer experience is brand activation – it brings the brand to life by encouraging participation.
Conference chair Paul Pacheco, SVP, Customer Strategies at TNS Canada, opened the wide-ranging discussions by noting, “The primary CX challenge is that organizations must design and deliver processes that serve a wide range of patrons, but consumers are individuals who each have their own definition of what a great customer experience is.” He also noted, “The critical success factor in the CX function is to define how the greatest numbers can be satisfied.”
“2016 is the year of emotion,” stated Bruce Temkin, CX Transformist; Managing Partner at Temkin Group. He described that CX is at the convergence of success, effort and emotion involving the degree to which customers can accomplish their goals, the difficulty or ease in accomplishing these goals and how the brand interactions make them feel.” In a Temkin Group survey, 55% of brands indicated their intentions to improve CX because satisfied customers purchase more, forgive the brand for breakdowns more readily, have greater trust for the brand and are more willing to recommend the brand.
The Temkin survey results indicate that all of the top 20 industries have declined in customer engagement scores from 2015 to 2016. “Customers are judging satisfaction against their best consumer experience, and boomers, zoomers and savvy seniors are increasingly echoing the attitudes of the Millennials demographic in their desires for value and brand experience,” noted Temkin.
“Brands place too high an emphasis on metrics,” he declared, in describing the transitions from “fluff to tough” and transition from consideration to implementation, which is linked by planning.
“By 2016, 57 percent of Holt Renfrew’s customers will be Millennials, so our efforts are focused on expressing our heritage, adding in-store and event experiences and sharing the benefits of aligning identity and high-quality goods” – Alison Simpson, Holt Renfrew’s SVP, Marketing & Customer Experience
Award-winning retailer Holt Renfrew is betting on its CX strategy. Alison Simpson, Holt Renfrew’s SVP, Marketing & Customer Experience, said, “By 2016, 57 percent of Holt Renfrew’s customers will be Millennials, so our efforts are focused on expressing our heritage, adding in-store and event experiences and sharing the benefits of aligning identity and high-quality goods.” Holt Renfrew consistently wins awards for its use of digital place-based media to enhance the in-store experience.
The instruments that impact customer experience are now evolving rapidly. Capturing data and analyzing these to generate insights toward actions that impact emotion, opinion and outcomes comprise omni-channel and unified communications.
“Conversational commerce” is evolving rapidly. Digital experiences will drive significantly improved CX as voice activation, natural language interface and cognitive computing enable new concepts of operations. The ability to search, gain information, conduct commerce, trigger real time chat or transfer to a representative are well developed for online use, and these will move quickly to mobile engagement, further allowing brands to operate according to a customer’s preference. “Opti-channel (as in optimal) is the right channel,” said Neff Hudson, Vice President, Emerging Channels of USAA. “CX has to have the objective of action.”
Hudson described that natural language interface (such as the experience using Siri on an iPhone), will become the new interface, supported by improved cognitive computing. Together, these will truly improve interaction and self-service and add to the convenience and customer’s control of their engagement with the brand. “There is a large percentage of people who are in the middle ground between engaged and not engaged that can be won over,” noted Hudson.
Display devices are commonly used for brand expression and influence. Beyond messaging, which informs patrons, interactivity through touch, gesture or mobile brings improved customer interaction as well as improved ambiance and vitality to the location. Digital signage is the demonstration that organizations think about customer benefits all day long, even though the customer may just engage with the brands irregularly or during short visits. “People don’t buy what you do,” said Simon Sinel, author of Start With Why, “they buy why you do it!”
“It is important not to have long headlights but to swing more often,” suggested Martin R. Landry, Chief Commercial Officer of VIA Rail during The Strategy Institute conference. This suggests the value of a “Hawthorne Effect” in which people change their behaviours in response to their awareness that attention is being placed on them.
Vincent Hong, IoT Sales Lead at Microsoft Canada advised brands to “be clear about how your business monetizes experience or in being negatively impacted by it. This will indicate the suitable response to customers.” Eric Esguerra, Director, Customer Service and Operations of Miele reinforced this by noting that customer satisfaction results in loyalty which creates advocacy.
Digital display is an engagement device. In particular, the human brain processes visual information thousands of times faster than text and requires much less mental energy. The results of dynamic messaging speak for themselves: 39% of senior marketers that apply the medium see better brand recall, recognition and interaction through enriched and meaningful content and 40% of senior marketers experienced higher loyalty and retention through their investment in personalized content and digital interactions. Studies show an average 28 percent increase in sales after investing in the digital customer experience.
“Data is the starting point of CX. Measure the customer experience while listening to the voice of the customer, and then build on this with research” – Arthur Borkwood, Head of Customer Development for the Toronto Transit Commission
Customer experience is top priority of the Toronto Transit Commission, the third largest public transit system in North America, after New York and Mexico City, with 570 million journeys annually. Arthur Borkwood, Head of Customer Development for the Toronto Transit Commission told The Strategy Institute conference delegates that, “Data is the starting point of CX. Measure the customer experience while listening to the voice of the customer, and then build on this with research. Defining the right operational key performance indicators (KPIs) related to satisfaction is the critical success factor.”
“Customer experience is the new differentiator in a competitive economy,” noted Lauren Kindzierski, VP of Solutions and Capabilities at HGS (Hinduja Global Solutions). She reflected that, “Digital interaction accounts for over 35 percent of customer interactions. Experiences are not logical, they are emotional. To create a better customer experience, improve the emotional connection. Measure what they think, why they choose and how they feel along with the amount of effort required on their part to get the message or the value from the brand.”
Customer experience requires that the brand listens, while acting on needs and desires. Unified customer experience is “saying and doing.”
In a recent webinar sponsored by the International Trade Council that followed The Strategy Institute’s focus on customer experience, guest presenter Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Toronto-based Shikatani Lacroix Design said, “80 percent of buying decisions are made based on emotions.” He referenced their Re:Store study in which 53 percent of respondents said that experience drives loyalty. “For Millennials,” Lacroix noted, “online retailers are winning emotional equity over physical retailers. In-store discovery is a key element of physical retail success, and the immersive experience using digital can create a deeper emotional connection.”
Immersive is a better reality in retail, and platforms such as on-location dynamic digital media enable CX.
Augmented and virtual realities are emerging as the new reality of retail. Gaming is taking people into A/V reality and this will take retail applications forward. China’s Yihaodian has opened 1000 virtual stores with no physical real estate, and any Amazon shopper is aware of the power of experience and analytics-based selling. Although Lacroix warns, “It’s about the experience and not the technology, which will continue to evolve even as the lines between design disciplines are blurring.”
Photo: © Jason Paris