By Mark Bower, MD of digital agency, Coolpink.
There are many brands not getting the basics of managing their online customer experience successfully, which is costing them dearly. Customers will not ‘make do’ with sites that have issues, they will simply move on to one of your competitors. The customer must therefore be placed at the heart of your digital strategy.
Customers who choose to engage online want to receive the same level of customer care and the same personalised experience as they would 1 on 1. Brands must strive to deliver not good, but great customer experiences, frankly anything less is unacceptable.
1. Everyone must raise the bar.
Sites who do not offer great experiences are subject to negative impact on their bottom line - the extra revenue that can be generated ranges from £9-39 million. The only way to generate this additional sum is to hone in on the online customer journey.
Websites embracing user generated content such as product/service reviews have been praised by consumers, however due to the success of this option there is now a need to tailor this content more specifically to the customer's needs. They need to now evolve and reverse at the same time –offering less content, by only serving up relevant content.
2. Personalisation is powerful.
Retail brands in particular need to be looking to integrate user generated content into their websites, and offer personalised experiences as websites are no longer what they were. Brochure sites full of corporate sales info or mere shop windows are outdated. Websites should now be communication channels, ways to get customers in conversation with brands. Falling short of this will result in losing relevance.
Think about how your offline marketing provides consumers with the right personalised offer, at the right time, and then focus to ensure your website does exactly the same.
3. Understanding the customer journey is crucial.
In a wider marketing context, you must look at how the web experience is key for both acquisition and retention and why it’s important to recognise the stage in which your customer/prospect is at in their buying cycle, when engaging online.
The web may only be a small part of a customer sales cycle. What’s important is to focus on a holistic end-to-end experience. Once this is achieved and the balance is right you'll be spawning happy customers resulting in brand advocates. Customers doing the selling for you, both on your website and out in the social sphere, is the result you want.
4. Going social can open cans of worms.
Would your customers currently do more damage than good if let loose? That’s the real acid test. Are you ready to offer total transparency, as customers share information and compare experiences? This is already happening, whether or not you're a part of it, so it really is time to get a grip with how it works.
• If your customer service or your product sucks this is when you hit trouble. So, the fundamentals of your business need to be reviewed and perfected before you openly expose your brand.
• They then need to be constantly monitored, reviewed and improved using the new data you're privy to from customer input.
• By monitoring usage of your site you can optimise your customers’ experiences and improve your conversion rates.
• By capturing their data you can target them more cleverly and improve the effectiveness of your sales cycle.
Customers demand good customer service. If you excel in it they will love you and support you. If you fail, they will shout it from the rooftops. The question is 'what are we all doing to make sure it's the former?'
5. It's simple.
These steps are not a new concept, but they are crucial. Brands that are not doing this now are not just a bit slow in reacting, but are at risk of being left very, very far behind. Rather than having gradually evolved, they will be looking at substantial overhauls of their websites and a dramatic culture change across the business to get back in the game.
The key message is to keep up with the customers. Remember “it’s all about me” – not me Mark Bower - but me, your customer, then you’re heading down the right track.’
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