Customer Experience (CX) – Understanding the On-going Marketing Paradigm Shift.

Kavin Paulson
Published on September 6, 2021
Customer Experience
Chris Brogan

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What’s inside? – Key Points

  • Customer experience is a very old marketing phrase/concept, but it has got a new meaning now and is rapidly changing the way we do marketing.
  • Today, delivering customer experience has become complex with the changing consumer behaviour and the arrival of new digital platforms & technologies.
  • Shockingly, many businesses around the world are ill-prepared for the on-going marketing paradigm shift which has the potential to make or break businesses in the future.
  • Understanding the on-going marketing paradigm shift is the first step towards preparing for the upcoming challenges.
  • Given the current scenario, taking delivery of customer experience to the next level can be a great competitive advantage and a contributing factor to practicing purple cow marketing.

According to a Digital Trends Survey report (latest from Adobe) released by Adobe in partnership with Econsultancy, all the top marketing priorities of modern-marketers/businesses are pointing towards one goal – delivering better customer experience.

Customer experience is not a new term in the marketing world, but it’s certainly has gained importance and attention in the recent times with the changing customer and user behavior and also the newer platforms & technologies that are making entry into the digital ecosystem which are fueling the change in customer/user behavior.

Though, in the recent times many marketers and businesses have been taking efforts to step up their CX efforts, a large share of businesses have not taken enough steps to adapt to the upcoming challenge i.e. simply put, businesses that become successful in delivering remarkable customer experience may grab large market shares of their competitors or even put them out of business.  Forget small businesses, even many large corporations or big businesses suck when it comes to delivering great customer experiences.

As per the survey, only 10% of responding companies regard themselves as very advanced at CX. If you are a CEO of a company, business owner or a marketer, this is the time to think about CX seriously and make steps to ensure that your company or business kick-starts CX initiatives NOW.  This is a golden period for those early movers that they can build eco-systems in their organizations/businesses to deliver remarkable customer experience which can turn out to be their competitive advantage in the market. Delivering remarkable customer experience can help you distinguish your marketing initiatives from your competitors’ –   it creates synergy and helps you to do what I call the ‘purple cow marketing’ (borrowing the term ‘purple cow’ from Seth Godin’s book ‘Purple Cow: Transform your Business by being remarkable) – Marketing that STANDS OUT.

Now, before we discuss about the paradigm shift and what it takes to deliver great customer experience, let’s discuss the basics.

Let’s Start with the Basics

[Note: if you already understand the below given terminologies, please skip this section and scroll down to continue to read further]

User Experience (UX) is fundamental to Customer Experience (CX). Simply put, UX is all about the experiences of the user while using a product, platform or service and CX is all about the experiences of a customer interacting with a company or brand at all touch points.

CX is Getting Bigger like Never Before

The Early Signs

Take an example of any tech giant, be it Google or Facebook, what is one of the primary things that they have been working on maniacally in the last several years – delivering great user experience and thereby also building processes around their products to enhancing the experiences of all their stakeholders interacting with the brand and products. The constant hunger to upgrade their products and processes and thereby delivering great experiences to their customers across board is there to out in the open for anyone to see.

If you are an SEO or someone who understands the SEO landscape, you know this already – all the Google updates back-to-back have had one primary objective i.e. increasing the quality of search results. They are not only working on to increase the quality of search results but have also been taking efforts to enhance the search results with various SERP features with an objective to deliver great user experience. With a superior product in hand, they have been sustaining and growing users on one hand and on other hand they have been constantly working on enhancing their ad platforms and related processes to deliver great experiences to the advertisers. Overall, there has been a long and sustained effort from Google to build ecosystems to deliver a great customer experience consistently and the efforts have paid off!

Many thought Facebook may not survive in the long run but it’s their maniacal focus on delivering great customer experiences with their innovations and products that have helped them survive and grow.

Current Scenario

These are only a handful of companies that have built great CX programs – despite the fact that CX has been gaining momentum for a long time and is likely to take the business landscape by storm, many of the companies are ill-prepared (as per the Adobe’s survey, As only 10% of responding companies regard themselves as very advanced at CX) and unfortunately a large share of companies (of various sizes) are not aware of or not bothered about the upcoming challenge that could change the rules of the game.

Why CX Matters Now More than Ever?

It is so cluttered out there both offline and online – consumer is constantly bombarded with marketing messages, advertisements, plenty of products and services resulting in consumers spoilt for choices. STANDING OUT in the market is not enough anymore YOU NEED TO STAND OUT ALL THE TIME, IN EVERY POSSIBLE WAY, WHEREVER YOUR CUSTOMERS INTERACT WITH YOU BY DELIVERING AWESOME EXPERIENCES THAT ARE USEFUL, VALUABLE, INTERACTIVE, ENTERTAINING, EDUCATIVE, MOTIVATING, INTERESTING, TIMELY AND POSITIVE. The experiences you deliver should definitely be awesome but not necessarily include all the attributes mentioned above – depending on the context; delivery of experiences may include any one or combinations of these or even all of them. Non-negotiable deliverables are timely response, context, personalization and surpassing customer expectation whenever there is an interaction or transaction.

Now, is this an ideal scenario? Well, there is no upper limit or ideal scenario that you’ll achieve and that then it’s done. It’s all about setting new benchmarks and keep competing and surpassing the benchmarks set by your competitors. Those players, who are ahead of their competitors when it comes to delivering awesome customer experience in any given market, win. Hands down!

CX as Competitive Advantage – The Underlying Opportunity!

You know the old concept of having a competitive advantage or USP, where in you, as a business or a brand, have a unique advantage at one or two fronts that makes you compete better in the marketplace. A great CX could be advanced version of that – being awesome at almost every front gives you an unfair advantage in the marketplace (at a time when delivering great CX as a concept is still gaining momentum and many of the brands are nowhere near building ecosystems to deliver the same). It’s complex and it takes constant efforts to improvise and to stay ahead in the race – many businesses are not seeing it coming or don’t want to focus on it the way they should as they don’t see any wave of CX happening – by the time they will see the wave hitting the shores, it will be too late. So, the complexity in the process and the failure of many businesses to see the larger picture, makes the road less travelled – there lies the opportunity for the pioneers to gain from the first mover advantage. When delivering great CX becomes the norm, things will get harder. Now is the time to pluck those low hanging fruits!

Understanding Modern-day CX

The number of touch points through which your customers/prospects can interact with your brand/business has increased manifold in the last few years, both offline and online. Let’s quickly list out a few common modern-day touch points – physical stores or branches/offices, kiosks, outlets at various locations, websites, micro-sites, social media pages, apps, social market places like Facebook Market Place, Facebook Shops etc, chatbots, messaging apps, third party websites where you have content-assets, calls/call centers or customer care, emails, agents/representatives, influencers, affiliate partners, print media, online advertisements, marketing collaterals, blog posts, OOH, promotional events, outdoor advertising, webinars, Help Desks, Surveys, Review Websites, Your content assets indexed in search engines and YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE ITSELF & more.

Your customer may interact with any of your touch points, anytime. Delivering a consistent and awesome experience across touch points, all the time, which is better than your competitors, is what successful CX program is all about. Powered by technology, personalized and contextual delivery of experience at applicable touch points will take your CX to the NEXT LEVEL.

Understanding the On-going Marketing Paradigm Shift

As you know, marketing models explain the buyer’s journey or customer life cycle that he/she goes through before and after conversion and how the marketers can reach out the customers at different stages of buyer journey. Once such model is RACE, which stands for Reach, Act, Convert and Engage – these are different stages of buyer journey. [If you are not familiar with how the buyer journey works as per RACE, you may read about it here as I opt not to explain it in detail in this article]. This traditional customer life cycle is now challenged and often interrupted by the new age technologies, primarily the mobile – modern-day customer is tech-savvy, and his behaviour has drastically changed.

As Google describes it, it’s the age of micro-moments. I quote “intent-driven moments of decision-making and preference-shaping that occur throughout the entire consumer journey”.  Google calls it the new mental model for marketing.

With the availability of mobile, what used to be a predictable, daily sessions online have now been replaced by many fragmented interactions that now occur instantaneously. Hundreds of moments happen every day – checking the time, chatting with friends on social media, texting a spouse etc.

Broadly, Google classify these micro moments into 4, namely, I want-to-know moments, I want-to-go moments, I want-to-do moments and I want-to-buy moments. As Google puts it “they are game changers for both consumers and brands”

Google Micro-moments

I further quote Google “Micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device—increasingly a smartphone—to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made, and preferences shaped. In these moments, consumers’ expectations are higher than ever. The powerful computers we carry in our pockets have trained us to expect brands to immediately deliver exactly what we are looking for when we are looking. We want things right, and we want things right away.” [source: Think with Google]

Purchase is not planned anymore (like it used to be most of the time) and it doesn’t take the regular customer life cycle – the modern-day consumer, being at any stage of the customer life cycle, may interact with your brand anytime, anywhere and at any touchpoint using any device.

Your brand messaging, product or service, marketing messages, customer service and all the elements that are part of customer experience should be consistent and it should be further possible (and should be) to make the customer experience remarkable by making it contextual, personalized and top-notch.

As a business, you should keep a track of all customer touch points and brand interactions and optimize them to ensure awesome customer experience consistently. For ex: Before buying your product, your potential customer may quickly check your Google reviews – it’s a touch point too! What do your Google reviews say about your brand? Are your customers say the exact things that you as a brand claim to be? Is there a disconnect?

Another example on how to optimize customer experience – let’s say, you run an ecommerce site, how many payment options are your providing on your site? Do you have all major payment methods, or you are giving your customers only limited options? Your customer may want to pay via PayPal and if that option is not available, then that has an impact on how your customer feels about your brand in that moment.  Multiple negative experiences may lead to big impact.

Let me give you one last example before we move on to discuss the advanced technologies that are impacting and shaping customer experience delivery – If your offline customer experience is not consistent and in-sync with your online customer experience, it’s a gap that needs immediate attention. For example, your call centre or email support is great and it drives a customer to go to your nearest brand outlet and if he gets a rude response from your front-end manager at the outlet or if the offer given to him is not honoured by the outlet citing some reasons – it results in bad customer experience, which means there is no consistency in delivering great customer experience across board and that there is a gap that needs to be fixed. Delivering a seamless multi-channel experience is what makes the difference.

Technologies that are taking CX to advanced level

Today many businesses are taking advantage of modern technologies and techniques to provide a personalized, contextually meaningful, and awesome customer experience.

  • Marketing automation – One of the best examples is marketing automation – just imagine the situation where you are bombarded with too many ads randomly vis-à-vis you see a personalized and a contextually relevant advertisement or a marketing email based on your purchase history. What would you prefer?
  • Beacon Technology – which helps you to send discount offers or loyalty program offers to the customers who are near your store based on location tracking through their mobile phones.
  • Internet of Things – Internet of things is a technology enables all IOT-enabled devices to connect to the Internet which could be a game changer for personalized customer experience.
  • Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality – these technologies to help customers experience awesomeness. For ex: a customer sitting comfortably at home can try and see how dresses look on him/her through AR or you can place a furniture from an online store at your bedroom to see whether is fits in your space or how it looks virtually.
  • Big Data and Predictive Analytics – data is the new oil. How you analyse, interpret, manage and put data to use in CX efforts will play big role in building your CX program.
  • Artificial Intelligence – has been taking customization and personalization of customer experience to the next level with a human touch.
  • Chatbots and Voice Assistant – The use of voice assistants like Alexa, Siri or Cortana are making lives of customers easier – be it placing orders or getting customer support, they are truly enhancing customer experience across board.
  • Personalized Login – whether you login through a website, app or a kiosk at a store, delivering personalized data and contextually relevant results, suggestions or recommendations enhances customer experience.

Now with the understanding of the importance of delivering awesome customer experience consistently across channels to make your business future-ready and with the knowledge of technologies that can make it possible, your next step would be to kick-start the process of building ecosystems needed in your organization to launch a successful CX program. In the next part of the article, which is upcoming, we discuss how you can build a 360-degree CX program, and the mistakes to avoid to prevent program from failing. We will also cover a few interesting case studies of businesses that are killing it with their CX efforts.

Recommended Reading: SEO: Redefining Theory, Policy and Practice ( Part I )

This article addresses SEOs across board – so, if you are an experienced professional, you may already know some of the things I have discussed in the article and they may sound obvious but they have been purposefully discussed to connect the dots and present the whole picture so that SEOs at all levels ( including beginners/newbies ) can understand.

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Kavin Paulson

Editor

Howdy Associate! You are the most important part of this Digital Marketing Community as you are the reason for our existence. Thanks for your visit. I’m a Digital Marketing Consultant who has been a part of this industry for the past 10 years and I’ve been fortunate enough to gain hands on experience working on multiple projects of various brands and have worked with some of the best digital marketers out there in the industry. Apart from working on digital marketing projects and handling clients, I do read, analyze and write about all things digital. I welcome you to the community and invite you to be a part of it. Hope you like what we do here at The iMarketing Café. Your valuable suggestions and feedback is always welcome. Stay tuned!

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