Henry Ford once said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Achieving a good customer experience (CX) is a fine line that comes down to building what the customer wants and building what might solve a problem the customer doesn’t yet know they have. 

When companies focus on CX, they are able to create a unique and differentiated offering that is hard to replicate. This, in turn, leads to increased customer loyalty and brand equity.

The pandemic has forced people to practice social distancing and stay home, resulting in a drop in offline channel sales. In contrast, the pandemic has driven consumers to primarily shop online.

What the customers do know they want, is a constantly fast and reliable CX. 

According to the report The Future of CX: 2022, customers will expect companies to respond to their queries within the first hour, deliver a personalized experience, be proactive in offering help, and be accessible across all devices and the social media platforms that customers prefer by the end of this year. Over the course of the study, Freshworks surveyed over 4,500 businesses and analyzed 107 million customer interactions to understand the key driver of customer satisfaction. 

“It’s hard to predict a user’s journey. They might see an ad on Instagram, move to the website, chat with an agent, visit a physical store before finally making a purchase, and then take to social media to share their experiences. They expect to be able to shift channels at any point in their journey,” the report stated. 

The benefits of meeting the customers where they are most comfortable clearly show. For example, the services booking platform Klook saw increased customer retention by 40%. Sixty-eight percent of WhatsApp users believe that the platform is the most convenient way to engage with a brand. 

Also, 61% of customers admire companies that use a smart mix of self-service and humans who can support them with empathy and speed. 

To deliver an excellent customer experience, companies need to keep up with the ever-changing customer expectations. This is where customer experience management (CEM) comes into the picture. CEM is a process that helps businesses track and manage the customer experience that helps businesses deliver a great customer experience by understanding customer needs and expectations and designing customer-centric processes. 

Jason Wong, a distinguished VP and analyst on the software design and development team at Gartner said that design teams should be leading the charge for ensuring great CX, yet many organizations don’t allocate enough resources to this, especially those that didn’t start out as digital-native. 

“Design should be ongoing as well to really understand the implications of not only the behavioral patterns, the usage patterns of the application, but taking into account new technologies that might be coming down the pipeline whether it’s web XR, or conversational, or IoT, and then think how do we actually create value here?” Wong said. “That’s something that very few companies do well.”

It’s the digital-native teams that use quick prototyping and A&B testing within the production environments to see what are the differences. On the other hand, in mainstream enterprises transitioning from project-centric delivery to product-centric delivery, design is still often not as embedded within the teams, and also not at a strategic enough level where they’re doing that ongoing user research and analysis of taking back into production, but also testing new concepts upfront, according to Wong. 

“A lot of the problem is proving out the value of UX; like how do you show that if we don’t do this UX, we don’t get this value? So it’s hard for a lot of organizations to invest heavily in UX,” Wong added. 

The skills that are necessary within a UX team also differ based on how complex the application is. At the top of these design teams are usually the experience lead that has a broad set of skills to help a product team. So the experience researcher is in there understanding the user. They’re not only doing interviews, but almost like anthropologists they’re going out and observing in the wild, what’s happening, and identifying motivations.

“They’re finding out instance like why are mobile field service people still reluctant to use their mobile apps in the field, and they wait until they go back to the depot or the warehouse in order to enter in their information? Maybe it’s because they had dirty hands? Like, those are things that the experience researcher would pick up on. So instead of us giving him a graphical interface, we need to have it voice-enabled. or maybe we should make it into a head-mounted display: a Google Glass or HoloLens or something like that, for them to have hands free access,” Wong said. “So that’s the type of thing that needs to be done upfront, but then on an ongoing basis as well, as new technologies emerge. So it’s not one app anymore. Oftentimes, we are going from one experience to another digital experience.” 

Often, the design aspect of building applications is outsourced and organizations bring in a design agency to come and help with the user research. But this can be flawed because the company needs to take it upon itself to understand the users and to understand the ongoing process, Wong explained. 

Reliability is the biggest consideration for good CX

Good CX can mean a lot of things but the biggest part of that is making sure your app is running as intended in the first place, according to Mehdi Daoudi, the CEO and co-founder of Catchpoint. 

Customers now expect apps to be more reliable than ever before. If an app crashes, it is now seen as a reflection of the company behind the app, and not just the app itself.

“Let’s say you have to take Uber three times a day because you have to go and drop the kids off at school, go to work, and then hire another Uber in the afternoon at 3pm. So the reliability concept is how consistent are you capable to delivering a great user experience throughout the day for 365 days a year?,” Daoudi said. 

Today, the expectations of customers are extremely high no matter what type of app they’re on.

“We are working with a few luxury brands these days, and interestingly enough, some have told us ‘well our customers are special. They don’t care about performance.’ Actually, you know, your customers, like every other customer is used to Google and Amazon. And they’re used to a great user experience, which is a fast user experience. The reason why Amazon is so good, or Shopify is so good is because they fundamentally care about speed performance. And that’s the name of the game,” Daoudi added. 

One approach is to not put all the eggs in one basket and instead to opt for running an app on a hybrid cloud. Another way to improve reliability is to invest in the monitoring and visibility of one’s app, but also to make sure that the tools are being used in the right way. 

Companies need to start measuring their performance, and then setting goals such as how do we lower the flow in an e-commerce site from a minute to just five seconds. Some companies such as Shopify do a great job at that. They have developer experience teams that are continuously monitoring, Daoudi added. 

The performance space is also a great place for marketing and engineering teams to collaborate and to avoid implementing something that might seem like a feature of better CX but would actually make performance take a hit. 

“What you don’t want is to add 15 tracking pixels, for example, to slow down the website or I’ve seen that a few times where the graphic team gives a 10 meg file a picture because it’s beautiful, but well, 10 meg file is a little bit too much for a website. I mean nobody has a screen that can take full advantage of those things,” Daoudi said. 

CX is also about good employee experience

Many applications now are dual-purpose: to serve the customer but also to ensure that employees can find out what customers want easily. 

“With the interaction between a customer and a customer service rep, you have your mobile app, you have your web portal for the customer. And then on the back end, you have the support service system for the rep. But that interfaces into the portal and into the chatbot.

And not only do you need the information to sync, but you also need the ability for the employee to understand the context really quickly,” Gartner’s Wong said. 

Also, the use of smart bots and AI can automate, predict customer behavior, and scale customer services. Businesses are beginning to realize that bots can help keep pace with customer demands efficiently by personalizing the experience for their customers and they can augment the experience for employees. Brands have reported a 7% increase in customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores as a result of successful bot implementations, according to the Future of CX: 2022 report. 

Whereas consumer-facing bots are common, new agent-assistant bots come with AI features like process automation for repetitive support tasks or article suggestions for the next steps customers should take. 

AI in customer experience is now able to analyze data and find correlations that a human might not be able to discern. For example, a human customer support agent might not be able to tell that a customer who is asking for a refund is more likely to purchase a product in the future if they receive their refund quickly. But an AI system can analyze the data and reach that conclusion. 

In addition, AI can automate customer support tasks like answering simple questions and responding to customer inquiries. This frees up human customer support agents to handle more complex issues. AI can also be used to proactively reach out to customers who are at risk of churning. For example, an AI system can analyze a customer’s purchase history and support interactions to identify when a customer is unhappy. The AI system can then reach out to the customer proactively to try to solve the issue before the customer decides to churn.