The customer experience (CX) doesn’t start when the customer arrives. Internal processes, methods and data are the building blocks — and perhaps the limiters — on the quality of every customer experience. To deliver experiences that will win customers back time and time again, brands are digging deeper than polished scripts, perfected web pages and better-branded communications.
Great customer experiences require groups such as customer service, marketing and e-commerce to work together quickly and easily. Only by breaking down the barriers that separate these areas can companies hope to deliver the personalized, relevant value-adds that consumers crave. This is the secret that modern brands have unlocked and are bringing to the market — and taking to the bank.
Brands need true loyalty to thrive, and true loyalists care far more about the value they receive than surface-level loyalty programs. Generation Z’s ascension into the consumer sphere will accelerate that need. One recent survey found that less than half of Gen Z shoppers were influenced by loyalty programs, whereas nearly three-quarters of millennials responded to loyalty initiatives. To keep their customers, brands must turn their focus to the internal obstacles that are driving them away.
Silos Constrict Value Creation
Traditional organizational structures depend on a linear customer journey to function. Today’s customer journey takes a lot of shapes, but few (if any) journeys today follow a straight path.
Channel-specific customer interactions are already outdated. Marketing, e-commerce, operations and customer service teams that once treated their disciplines as separate pieces of the whole are now unifying their approaches. The more these departments share data, insights and strategy, the easier it is for organizations to provide the seamless experiences that have become the new standard.
The latest research corroborates this theory. Customers see brands as unified wholes, not collections of departments. When siloed functions break that illusion, customers feel disappointed and, at times, frustrated. Organizations can fix the problem by eliminating barriers, however, to build a better system, they must understand what type of experience today’s customers seek.
Changes in Customer Expectations
Today’s shoppers use a wide range of communication channels and mediums. That dynamic has led to an increase in expectations. When one company offers an exemplary experience, such as 24/7 availability and fast shipping, customers expect other brands to match the new standard. This "Amazon effect" isn’t necessarily fair, but it is real. And many businesses ignore outside pressures at their peril — especially when comparisons can come from other digital consumer experiences, not just online shopping.
Anywhere a brand boasts a presence, customers expect to be able to engage. That means company Instagram accounts must be prepared to handle inquiries, and Facebook accounts should be equipped to offer personalized service, not just branded posts. As customers expect faster and faster responses, companies must be ready to meet them on their turf.
Building a More Collaborative Structure
Meet raised customer expectations by using these new best practices to eliminate silos:
1. Facilitate interteam communications.
Encourage teams to exchange bite-sized communications from moment to moment, and give them the resources to do so. New research shows that increased communication improves prioritization. Therefore, give teams everything they need to start those conversations.
2. Share small data first.
Don’t overwhelm departments with terabytes of data dumps. Start small. Let marketing teams use recent customer sentiment in their campaigns. More than half of businesses store data in standard spreadsheets; instead, look for more collaborative ways to exchange data, and make it real time.
3. Take the conversation to the top.
When staff members lack the empowerment to establish or fulfill customer experience strategies, help them overcome the odds. Get the conversation in front of senior leadership teams to get buy-in and approval for new approaches to old problems that require cross-department planning and collaboration.
4. Peek at the competition.
Look at how other brands are rethinking their structures and take notes — even when those brands are in other industries. While near-neighbors might demonstrate improvements in customer centricity, consider how sports teams, restaurants, and others are adapting to changes in customer behavior.
Lofty customer expectations will only continue to climb. To meet evolving needs, brands need to learn from the modern innovators and open the door to more effective internal collaboration.
Fang Cheng is the CEO and co-founder of Linc Global, a customer care automation platform that helps brands differentiate themselves with automated services and experiences across the channels shoppers prefer.
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Fang Cheng is the CEO and co-founder of Linc Global, a customer care automation platform that helps brands differentiate themselves with automated services and experiences across the channels shoppers prefer. Linc Global has served over 15 percent of U.S. shoppers, creating a competitive advantage, reducing customer service costs, and turning service interactions into new engagement and revenue. Linc Global's clients include Carter’s, eBags, Stein Mart, Lamps Plus, JustFab.com, Tarte, Hugo Boss, Vineyard Vines, and P&G Shop.
With a passion and relentlessness for improving the customer experience, Fang brought together a seasoned team of technologists and product-minded people to empower brands with the ability to serve and engage shoppers and to drive profitable growth in the face of rising competition and customer expectations. With a Ph.D. in bioinformatics from NYU, Fang previously co-founded a business acquired by Amazon, and prior to that, she worked as a hedge fund manager.