This is a guest post from Megan Wright at Chamber of Commerce.
More and more organizations are competing on customer experience. In fact, it’s estimated that, by next year, customer experience will overtake price and quality as the key brand differentiator.
This change has lead marketing teams and customer service teams to drill into how customers are engaging with their brand.
It’s no longer just enough to provide a great product at a great value. Customers are now demanding a great experience as well.
So, how can a business create a great customer experience? It starts with building a purposeful customer journey. A customer journey is the experience that you want your customer to have, from first interaction through post-purchase.
The ideal customer journey creates excitement, answers questions, and provides value at every interaction. By creating a wonderful customer journey, you can create a long-term relationship with your customers and increase their lifetime value.
While the concept of offering a great journey seems simple, actually building that journey across multiple channels, can be challenging.
Previously, it might’ve required tons of marketing time spent creating individual emails. Or it could’ve taken a huge customer care staff to tend to each individual. Fortunately, the rise of automation has made building a powerful customer journey much easier.
Using email automation, organizations can better serve the customer with personalized, helpful information based on each individual’s behavior.
Additionally, because email offers so many metrics around engagement, teams can leverage this data to improve efforts over time.
How automation can improve customer experience
Gone are the days where customers will happily sit on hold and be transferred to different agents before finally reaching the right person.
One of the simplest and most impactful ways automation can improve the customer experience is by answering inquiries faster.
Automated email responses
No longer will customers wait days or weeks for an email response. In fact, recent studies suggest that customers expect an email response within six hours—if not even sooner.
Fortunately, email automation can help your CX teams answer immediately, even if they aren’t available.
This automated email provides other ways to reach help and a call to action to check out the new course.
By dynamically sending a response as soon as a customer emails in, you give them a notification that the message has been received and the assurance that they’ll be responded to quickly.
It’s also a best practice to provide something of value or a link for more information while they wait for your response.
The Chatbot market has exploded over the past few years, and for good reason. These AI-powered tools help guide customers through the customer journey effortlessly, while reducing the total time needed for a customer service rep to handle mundane inquires.
In fact, a recent study conducted by Juniper Research showed that Chatbots are expected to save businesses $8 billion annually by 2022.
Source: SEM Rush
Not only are Chatbots saving business money but customers actually like the instant interaction without having to wait through a phone tree or for someone to respond to an email. When customers get answers fast, it improves the overall customer satisfaction rating (CSAT).
Leveraging Chatbots saves time so customer care agents can then spend time building relationships with customers and dealing with more complex customer issues.
A unified experience
Another important aspect of a great customer journey is that it’s always consistent. Whether a customer is talking to the marketing team, the sales team, or customer care, they should always have the same experience and receive the same answers.
While call scripts and process flows can help a customer service teams manage inquiries the same way, it can be harder to instill a consistent experience across teams.
Fortunately, automation can help teams create a cohesive experience. Whether the customer contacts the business via call, chat, text, or social media inquiry, automation can ensure anyone can handle customer inquiries on any channel.
Today’s top businesses do this by leveraging SCV systems, or Single Customer View systems. An SCV brings all the customer data, knowledge bases, and channel inquiries into a solidified dashboard.
It acts as a central hub for all customer interactions and one-click access to solutions for agents.
These solutions usually integrate disparate systems like Campaign Monitor marketing automation along with communication tools like Chatbots to create a cohesive system for sharing information.
It also tracks customer behavior such as purchase history, site activity, prior calls, and contacts. It paints a highly detailed picture of the customer and can help agents, and any other team members, better anticipate questions and provide more personalized service.
Customers are starting to demand this cross-channel level of customer experience. Thirty-five percent of customers expect to be able to connect with the same agent on any channel and an SCV ensures this can happen.
Automation can fuel the process. Not only can it help streamline and direct interactions, but it can also be used as an effective marketing tool to build customer loyalty and improve customer satisfaction.
You can create specific email flows for different customers based on data you already have about them. For example, Chatbooks is a service that creates photo books from photos you took with your phone.
If a customer is on live chat with a customer service representative and mentions that their baby’s first birthday is coming up, the rep can make a note in their CRM.
Chatbook can then send an offer before their baby’s first birthday to create a highly personalized marketing message.
See the Chatbooks customer story here.
Provide helpful information
Providing helpful information at the right time strengthens the customer journey. One way to provide value is through automated trigger emails.
Trigger emails are automatic emails that are sent based off a user’s behavior. This behavior can be visiting a specific landing page, opening a previous email, or even not logging into the software or dashboard.
If you know these behaviors traditionally lead to questions or actions, trigger emails can be helpful to guide the customer to the next step.
A great example of this is right after a new subscriber signs up. Once a new customer signs up for your service, they should automatically go through an onboarding flow. To ensure no step is forgotten, automate the emails.
Once they sign up, send a welcome email with their credentials to log in to the platform or an introductory offer to entice them to make a purchase. Then, send an email that explains what they can expect next.
These emails show you’re excited and keep the process moving, without depending on a single person to send the emails.
Another example of helpful emails that improve the customer experience and your bottom line are abandoned cart emails. Abandoned cart emails can be automatically sent to customers that put an item into their cart and then never checkout.
A missed checkout doesn’t necessarily mean they’re uninterested. In most cases, it means the customer isn’t quite ready to buy or got distracted.
Clearly, this individual is interested, and an abandoned cart email may help them complete their checkout.
Use similar products in your next email or an exclusive offer, if they buy now, to entice the purchase. This too can be helpful during the checkout, as it prevents the user from having to search on their own or forgetting a key piece to their purchase.
The key to either email is to present the information as helpful and not to send too many emails. Just one reminder should be enough.
See the Birchbox customer story here.
Bringing it all together
OMI, cross-channel experiences are the new norm for both B2B and B2C businesses. Requests, orders, and questions come from websites, social media, phone, email, text, and in-store visits.
Ninety-eight percent of consumers switch between devices every day. Consumers with multiple devices switch between screen an average of three times a day.
It’s not just devices, either. Eighty-six percent of consumers report “channel hopping” across multiple channels. This means customers might text you on their mobile phone, email you from their desktop, and follow up with a phone call on the same issue.
Organizing teams by platform forces the customer to start over every time they interact. The right software solutions and automation can avoid this.
Automation software and omnichannel teams can avoid the biggest customer complaints of long wait times, inconsistent information, and non-personalized help.
SCV solutions can create a unified database that works across agents and channels. Customers no longer have to repeat themselves. Knowledge bases and training can help make sure agents have the information they need on hand.
Companies that figure out how to offer omnichannel customer care via automation see large gains.
Aberdeen Group’s research shows that companies providing superior omnichannel customer engagement outperform competitors by an average of 9.5%, when it comes to annual revenue.
That’s three times the return over poor performers. While it may take time to set up correctly, automation can create a powerful customer experience that creates a better, more valuable customer.
Megan Wright is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. As a small business expert, Megan specializes in reporting the latest business news, helpful tips, and reliable resources, as well as providing small business advice.