How to use data to improve customer experience

Last year, the con­sumer web turned 20. Two decades dur­ing which com­pa­nies have grad­u­al­ly been able to adapt to many aspects of this medi­um. Now essen­tial for adver­tis­ers, the Web is used at all stages of the cus­tomer life cycle: aware­ness, con­sid­er­a­tion, pref­er­ence, sat­is­fac­tion, loy­al­ty, rec­om­men­da­tion. Adver­tis­ers have well under­stood the impor­tance of the web to boost sales, and are now mov­ing to the next step by inte­grat­ing dig­i­tal across all busi­ness functions.

Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is cer­tain­ly THE major project of the com­ing years. If tech­nol­o­gy is an essen­tial ingre­di­ent in this trans­for­ma­tion, it is nev­er­the­less not a key suc­cess fac­tor. Of course, tech­no­log­i­cal tools are a good way to improve pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, but the dig­i­tal tran­si­tion isn’t only about pro­duc­ing more for cheap­er. Because there will always be a more aggres­sive com­peti­tor fight­ing on price, the dif­fer­ence has to be made on anoth­er lev­el. The dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion should help com­pa­nies to tar­get a more ambi­tious goal: to stand out by offer­ing a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing expe­ri­ence. The real­i­ty that adver­tis­ers are fac­ing today is an ultra-com­pet­i­tive envi­ron­ment where con­sumers are flood­ed with pro­mo­tions and spe­cial oper­a­tions. An envi­ron­ment that stim­u­lates short-term sales, but inter­feres with the cre­ation of a last­ing and sus­tain­able rela­tion­ship between cus­tomers and brands.

Seduc­tion through low prices is a tac­tic that works, but whose effec­tive­ness remains to be demon­strat­ed in the medi­um or long term. Rather than put pres­sure on mar­gins, adver­tis­ers should put empha­size on the flu­id­i­ty and the sim­plic­i­ty of the expe­ri­ence. In this regard, the Siegel + Gale Agency has just pub­lished the first rank­ing of brands which make the dai­ly life of their cus­tomers eas­i­er. Based on a sur­vey of 12,000 con­sumers in the world, the Sim­plic­i­ty Index show­cas­es brands such as Aldi, Lidl, McDon­alds, Sepho­ra or IKEA. Sev­er­al cri­te­ria are been tak­en into account, like the buy­ing process, or the accessibility.

This index should be an inspi­ra­tion for many com­pa­nies who are ask­ing their ultra-con­nect­ed con­sumers to com­ply to process­es and inter­ac­tions which seem to be com­ing straight from the 19th cen­tu­ry. Sim­plic­i­ty is a key part of a suc­cess­ful expe­ri­ence, but oth­er ele­ments should also be part of it, such as cus­tomiza­tion or oper­a­tional excel­lence. No mat­ter the tools cho­sen, the expe­ri­ence should be a cen­tral con­cern, because it helps improv­ing sat­is­fac­tion, but also the per­ceived value.

The cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is a pri­or­i­ty in 2016

In its sec­ond study regard­ing dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, the CCS con­sult­ing firm inter­viewed more than 150 brand man­agers. Their results show that 93% of respon­dents see dig­i­tal as a tool to rein­vent cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. It is then clear that every­body agrees on the sub­ject. The prob­lem is that the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is a vague con­cept, as demon­strat­ed by the results of the study The CX Chal­lenge of E‑Consultancy: on aver­age, near­ly a third of respon­dents believe that the respon­si­bil­i­ty for cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is shared across depart­ments, which is like say­ing it is nobody’s responsibility!
This being said, the pos­i­tive point which sur­faces from this study is that for 18% of respon­dents, cus­tomer expe­ri­ence should be the mar­ket­ing department’s respon­si­bil­i­ty. His­tor­i­cal­ly, mar­ket­ing has always been a piv­otal point between the dif­fer­ent func­tions (com­mu­ni­ca­tion, sales, sup­port, cus­tomer-rela­tion­ship…), so this is the most legit­i­mate depart­ment to dri­ve the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. Yes, the main issue is dri­ving and man­ag­ing here, that is to say har­mo­niza­tion of dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties (tar­get­ing, con­tent pro­duc­tion, social media man­age­ment, mobile appli­ca­tions devel­op­ment…), scat­tered across sev­er­al teams.

In anoth­er study by eCon­sul­tan­cy (Quar­ter­ly Dig­i­tal Intel­li­gence Brief­in­gs), we learn a lit­tle more about the pri­or­i­ty of com­pa­nies: opti­miz­ing the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, cre­at­ing con­tents pro­vid­ing added val­ue, and con­sumer data are the three most com­mon answers.

So there is a con­sen­sus around the impor­tance of expe­ri­ence for adver­tis­ers. An expe­ri­ence that must be har­mo­nized and opti­mized with more pre­cise client / mar­ket data. But what expe­ri­ence are we talk­ing about here exactly?

There are not one but three experiences

The expe­ri­ence can be defined as the per­cep­tion of the use of a prod­uct, a ser­vice or a sys­tem. The con­cept of expe­ri­ence is very often assim­i­lat­ed with users, but a brand has no users, it has tar­gets, prospects and cus­tomers. This is why I pre­fer to break down expe­ri­ence in three areas:

These three expe­ri­ences cor­re­spond to three phas­es that every cus­tomer will go through, from the recog­ni­tion of its need to the renew­al, includ­ing the rec­om­men­da­tion step if the over­all expe­ri­ence was positive.

The prob­lem is that com­pa­nies’ organ­i­sa­tion by depart­ments gen­er­ates dis­so­nances in the cus­tomer jour­ney. These dis­so­nances need to be iden­ti­fied and quan­ti­fied accord­ing to their seri­ous­ness, because they will be a source of ten­sion. This is where the data come into play: in order to improve the under­stand­ing of issues with­in the cus­tomer jour­ney and to opti­mize the experience.

Data to dri­ve experience

As explained above, a com­pa­ny can have quite good results, but offer a dis­ap­point­ing over­all expe­ri­ence. Most adver­tis­ers make the mis­take of divid­ing activ­i­ties and mea­sur­ing per­for­mance only at a tac­ti­cal lev­el. For exam­ple, a newslet­ter could be con­sid­ered a suc­cess because it has a high open rate, but if to do so, mar­ket­ing teams use many impos­si­ble promis­es and aggres­sive pro­mo­tions, there is a risk to dam­age sat­is­fac­tion or to low­er the per­ceived val­ue of the prod­ucts. It is there­fore advised to take a step back and ensure that the actions and KPIs actu­al­ly improve the over­all expe­ri­ence, and do not just achieve a tac­ti­cal goal with­out wor­ry­ing about the con­se­quences on the rest of the cus­tomer journey.

To help you in see­ing the big pic­ture, data are prov­ing very valu­able. Not only data which can be extract­ed from an ana­lyt­ics tools for instance, but all quan­ti­ta­tive (per­for­mance mea­sure­ment) and qual­i­ta­tive (sat­is­fac­tion mea­sure­ment) data.

Regard­ing the brand expe­ri­ence (BXP), the most com­mon exam­ple of dis­so­nance is a brand try­ing to improve its image with TV aspi­ra­tional spots, while adopt­ing at the same time a much more aggres­sive approach on the web with spon­sored results or ban­ners high­light­ing spe­cial oper­a­tions or pro­mo­tions. Rather than fight on price, a brand could choose to play on the affin­i­ty with con­tent tar­get­ing a par­tic­u­lar seg­ment (e.g. women dri­ving motor­cy­cle for an insur­ance com­pa­ny, peo­ple aller­gic to wheat flour for a food brand…). In this con­text, data allow to refine the seg­men­ta­tion and to clas­si­fy seg­ments accord­ing to their poten­tial, to dis­play niche con­tent only to the rel­e­vant seg­ments, to mea­sure per­for­mance and to arbi­trate invest­ments in favour of seg­ments and dig­i­tal chan­nels con­tribut­ing the most to the results.

Regard­ing the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence (CXP), again, we can find many dis­so­nances between the dif­fer­ent dig­i­tal media (web­sites, social media pages, newslet­ters, mobile noti­fi­ca­tions …). To illus­trate this diver­si­ty, the Quar­ter­ly Dig­i­tal Intel­li­gence report clas­si­fies dig­i­tal con­tact points by importance:

As you can see, web­site and emails are on top of the list, but the push and SMS noti­fi­ca­tions aren’t giv­en much impor­tance. A seri­ous mis­take, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing the very strong emo­tion­al bond con­sumers form with their smart­phone. And here, we are only talk­ing about dig­i­tal chan­nels, because even stronger dis­so­nances often exist with phys­i­cal or remote sales points (ex: call cen­ters). In this con­text, data is very valu­able in order to accu­rate­ly mod­el the cus­tomer jour­ney, iden­ti­fy points of fric­tion and to har­mo­nize mes­sages and offers across all chan­nels. Data is also very use­ful to indi­vid­u­al­ize the rela­tion­ship with con­sumers in a sim­i­lar way: they must be wel­comed and treat­ed in the same way, regard­less of the chan­nel or the touch point.

Final­ly, User Expe­ri­ence (UXP), which is the feel of the prod­uct or the ser­vice itself, often varies a lot between the han­dling of the prod­uct (unpack­ing) and the first dif­fi­cul­ties that cus­tomers will nec­es­sar­i­ly encounter. Again, data per­mit to quan­ti­fy the lev­el of sat­is­fac­tion, to iden­ti­fy poten­tial improve­ment areas (ex: call to tech­ni­cal sup­port), and to pro­vide ser­vices tai­lored to cus­tomer needs (ex: video tuto­ri­als). Data can also be used to doc­u­ment the uses and design per­son­al­ized loy­al­ty offers.

Acqui­si­tion, con­ver­sion and reten­tion are activ­i­ties tra­di­tion­al­ly han­dled by dif­fer­ent depart­ments with­in com­pa­nies. Mar­ket­ing must there­fore assume the role of a con­duc­tor to assess the coher­ence of the actions and to har­mo­nize prac­tices. An unre­ward­ing task, because these depart­ments are used to oper­ate inde­pen­dent­ly. Again, data is the argu­ment that allow to make every­one see eye to eye, and to focus the efforts on opti­miz­ing the over­all expe­ri­ence. To suc­ceed in con­vinc­ing these dif­fer­ent teams, tools such as empa­thy cards or cus­tomer jour­ney maps are high­ly effec­tive to put cus­tomers at the cen­ter of the expe­ri­ence (rather than out­lin­ing the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence based on con­fines), but also in order to take a step back and adopt a holis­tic view of its journey.

Data allows you to bet­ter under­stand the needs and the actu­al behav­iour of con­sumers, but also their feel­ings for each major step of their jour­ney (research, con­sid­er­a­tion, pref­er­ence, pur­chase, sat­is­fac­tion, rec­om­men­da­tion …). The Holy Grail for any brand is to pro­vide a con­sis­tent and seam­less expe­ri­ence, an expe­ri­ence where the sat­is­fac­tion lev­el nev­er drops below the crit­i­cal thresh­old where cus­tomers can be seduced by a cheap­er com­pet­ing offer. If the three expe­ri­ences described above (brand expe­ri­ence, cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, user expe­ri­ence) are con­vinc­ing, then cus­tomers will nat­u­ral­ly rec­om­mend the prod­uct / ser­vice to their friends and fam­i­lies, and con­tribute to enhance the brand expe­ri­ence, cre­at­ing a vir­tu­ous circle.

Data to go from a reac­tive to a proac­tive logic

Final­ly, the oth­er great advan­tage of data is to help you to antic­i­pate cus­tomers’ behav­iour. Until now, com­pa­nies use to set­tle for a post-pur­chase sat­is­fac­tion analy­sis, and used to put in place cor­rec­tive mea­sures in case of dis­sat­is­fac­tion (e.g. dis­count on the next pur­chase). With pre­dic­tive ana­lyt­ics solu­tions offered by big data, you have the abil­i­ty to mod­el stan­dard behav­iour and to pre­dict the cross­ing of a thresh­old of sat­is­fac­tion. Tel­cos use pre­dic­tive analy­sis to iden­ti­fy cus­tomers whose behav­iour match with those who can­celled their sub­scrip­tion. They can then antic­i­pate this ter­mi­na­tion by offer­ing proac­tive­ly alter­na­tive offers in line with the expec­ta­tions of these cus­tomers “at risk”. Of course, tel­cos are in a priv­i­leged posi­tion because they have a very clear vision of the uses of their cus­tomers, but things are chang­ing with the rise of the Inter­net of Things.

Con­nect­ed objects offer unri­valled poten­tial for busi­ness­es to col­lect very valu­able data on their clients. Not per­son­al data (a sen­si­tive top­ic), but usage data. Some insur­ance com­pa­nies encour­age their cus­tomers to install a sen­sor on their car in order to adjust the amount of the pre­mi­um accord­ing to their dri­ving behav­iour (the famous “pay as you dri­ve”). Some house­hold appli­ance brands like Sam­sung also com­mer­cial­ize prod­ucts capa­ble of col­lect­ing and trans­mit­ting data that allow cus­tomers to mon­i­tor the health of their equip­ment. In this scheme, every­one wins: clients are able to antic­i­pate a fail­ure and the man­u­fac­tur­er can give them a per­son­al­ized renew­al offer in a pro-active way.

The three rules of cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion: data, data and data

The dis­tri­b­u­tion world is gov­erned by three rules: loca­tion, loca­tion and loca­tion. The gen­er­al­iza­tion of smart­phones tends to under­mine these three rules, mak­ing the con­cept of catch­ment area obso­lete, but we can replace them with three new rules: data, data and data. Data to mea­sure the per­for­mance of cus­tomer acqui­si­tion mech­a­nisms. Data to max­i­mize the con­ver­sion poten­tial of offers and points of sale (phys­i­cal, dig­i­tal and remote). Final­ly, data to assess and max­i­mize cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion. If we’ve been talk­ing so much about data in recent years, it is because they pro­vide the basis of a rev­o­lu­tion for busi­ness­es, par­tic­u­lar­ly in how to man­age their cam­paigns, offers and transactions.

Sev­er­al stud­ies show that the most dis­cern­ing con­sumers pre­fer expe­ri­ence over pos­ses­sion (The Sci­ence Of Why You Should Spend Your Mon­ey On Expe­ri­ences, Not Things). This trend should prompt you to place the expe­ri­ence on top of your pri­or­i­ties and to define a clear roadmap, in order to col­lect more data and make us of them more effec­tive­ly, in the aim of opti­miz­ing the expe­ri­ence, rather than try­ing to improve the month’s turnover at any cost. It is real­ly time to con­sid­er expe­ri­ence and data as strate­gic assets of your business.