Over 60% of consumers expect brands to provide the information they need when they need it. But less than 50% think that brands are delivering.
Are leaders ready to meet tomorrow’s consumer expectations?
The majority are struggling to meet today’s consumers’ expectations, and they fail to grasp just how quickly the consumer landscape is changing.
Customer service determines success or failure for companies – 84% of consumers switch from one brand to another just for great customer service.
There is a huge difference between having a CX department and embracing a CX mindset throughout the organization. For companies that embrace CX as a core competence across all the departments, there is an opportunity to succeed and gain a competitive edge.
For example, Hewlett Packard has been a pioneer in linking a CX department with product ideation and implementation, but this is not enough to meet consumers’ expectations.
Hewlett Packard’s products are user-centric, but communication and customer service don’t have the same vision. For the consumer, Hewlett Packard’s customer service is one of the worst, and communication doesn’t engage with their real interests and problems.
In contrast, Zappos is an online company with a CX mindset across the board. All the departments contribute to consumer perception that the brand delivers outstanding experiences in every single touchpoint.
What Is the Role of Consumers in Business Today?
You need more than a great product in today’s marketplace. Success is defined by how well you meet the needs of consumers and forge meaningful connections with your customers.
CX used to be focused on creating great, user-centric products and services. Today, CX is about opening meaningful conversations with consumers to understand their problems and improving peoples’ lives.
Consumers have more power than ever before.
How Is Consumer Behaviour Changing?
The impact of consumer behaviour in marketing, sales, and customer service is in a constant state of evolution, with technology and the effects of COVID-19 accelerating existing trends.
Modern consumers have taken control of the conversation with brands, dictating when, where, and how they engage.
Research shows that when they reach out, 76% of consumers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.
Companies that fail to understand what a consumer wants before they reach out will struggle to retain customers and succeed in today’s marketplace.
There is a difference between being reactive to consumer complaints and anticipating concerns before the consumer reaches out. Amazon is an excellent example of a company that takes steps to deliver proactive customer service.
These experiences create standout moments of customer experience that foster brand advocacy and drive positive word of mouth.
This is no passing trend. It’s a compounding shift in consumer behaviour that is driving businesses to evolve or face irrelevance.
Technology-driven changes to consumer behaviour are the biggest challenge that marketers face.
A recent survey revealed that 50% of US marketers state that the impact of technology on consumer behaviour is the number one trend that marketers need to pay attention to over the coming year.
Let’s take a look at some of the key stats:
- By 2021, US adults will spend an average of nearly four hours per day on their mobile devices.
- Consumers rank social media as the number one channel for brands to connect with customers.
- 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience across every channel they choose to engage.
- 87% of consumers start a product search on digital channels.
- 51% of smartphone users have purchased from a company other than the one they originally intended to because of the information provided at the moment they needed it.
As consumers’ expectations are raised by the experiences they receive from CX leading brands, they expect the same level of experience from other companies.
You’re not just competing with other companies in your industry, you’re competing with the CX leaders that are continually raising the bar.
Netflix is an example of a company that utilizes data to improve people’s lives. If I create an account, Netflix is immediately working out who I am and recommending the best content for me. There is a unique Netflix experience for each customer.
It’s a challenge for brands to keep up and offer experiences that improve and enrich their customers’ lives. At the end of the day, improving the lives of customers should be the end goal for every brand.
Are Leaders Ready to Meet Tomorrow’s Consumer Expectations?
Unfortunately, the answer is still no. Most organizations are still far from achieving this goal. CEOs struggle to meet their customers’ expectations, and most of them don’t know how the consumer is evolving.
I think it’s important to note that the problem is not a matter of technical knowledge; it is a cultural crisis.
They aren’t able to transform rigid structures that have served the company well in a bygone era. To meet consumer expectations, you must be fast with a structure that can react swiftly.
For example, if a big B2B multinational wants to implement a conversion-centered website, they need to go through 3-6 months of conversations with IT, Regulatory, etc.
This creates a gigantic gap between today’s consumer speed and the organization’s capabilities to adapt.
If we look at the current state of customer experience, just a few organizations have CX departments. Even in companies with a dedicated department, only 21% have direct reporting to the CEO.
This lack of C-Level support limits the effectiveness of CX initiatives, and companies are failing to meet their objectives.
The digital ecosystem plays a vital role in delivering exceptional customer experience. But only 54% of CX leaders have an accurate understanding of AI.
They are trying to lead this evolution with traditional and rigid CX processes that are not enough In this new era.
We strongly need to prepare our organizations with the right people and the right culture to enable this evolution.
3 Ways to Prepare Your Company For Tomorrow’s Consumer
Companies that embrace agile are better equipped to keep pace with continual changes to consumer behaviour.
Agile empowers teams to be more flexible. They can identify opportunities and collectively focus their efforts on projects, producing results in a much shorter time scale.
Increased cooperation and regular measurement enable teams to learn fast and make consistent improvements. It’s the most effective way to connect with audiences and achieve objectives.
Traditional structures are efficient at doing specific tasks, but they are rigid and unbending to change.
To deliver the experiences modern consumers demand, companies need to move fast. It’s a process of testing and learning at a rapid pace, taking on board the input from multiple departments, and scaling successful initiatives quickly.
An agile mindset helps companies to be more collaborative, better meet their customers’ needs, and keep pace with the speed of the modern consumer.
From my experience leading CX initiatives, a successful customer experience strategy is built on a collective vision and shared aim to improve peoples’ lives.
For example, my work with Merck Sharp & Dhome was about improving the lives of pet owners. We utilized quantitative market research to identify the problems and micro-moments that really matter to pet owners. We put the “We Are Family” campaign into action to help pet owners provide their pets with the preventative healthcare that a family member receives.
Larger organizations have established ways of working that may need to be changed. That’s why the CEO has such an important role to play in customer experience.
As leaders of the CX initiative, we need to ensure that every employee and department has a shared vision for the future and the experiences the brand wants to deliver to the consumer.
The shared vision should guide the actions and behaviour of employees throughout every level of the organization. CEOs need to take an active role and commit to a customer-centric strategy that delivers the vision and puts the customer at the heart of the organization.
Company leadership needs to align the company behind the strategy and equip customer-facing departments with the technologies they need to exceed consumer expectations.
Companies that succeed in the customer experience battleground empower their employees, giving them the resources and backing to be brave, and take calculated risks to delight customers.
AI & Machine Learning
I think that we are in the middle of a pivotal moment in the use of AI-powered technologies. Early adopters seeing a significant return on their AI initiatives, but the majority of companies are yet to fully leverage the technology to deliver consumer solutions.
There is still a great opportunity to gain a competitive advantage.
Companies can reveal previously undiscovered insights into the buyer’s journey by utilizing AI and machine learning to gain a deeper understanding of their customers.
These technologies help to identify frictions and improve the experience through every stage of the buyer’s journey and help determine new ways to deliver value and delight the customer.
The insights gained from this analysis can inspire new products, revenue streams, and business models.
By measuring customer interactions at scale and testing proactive initiatives, companies can be there for consumers in the micro-moments.
AI and machine learning allow for personalization in real-time. The experience can be personalized to individual consumers’ needs, from recommending relevant products to recognizing the preferences for communication and customer service.
Airbnb has leveraged machine learning through every aspect of the customer experience, with their initiatives well documented on the Airbnb Engineering & Data Science blog.
When a customer visits the Airbnb website, 100 different machine learning models are running to enhance the experience.
Machine learning powers the search autocomplete, makes recommendations, auto-categorizes listings, and makes predictions for amenities.
Customer support, payment security, and marketing campaigns all utilize AI-powered technologies.
The continual evolution of the digital world and its impact on consumer behaviour is ultimately about progress. Companies that innovate and adapt are rewarded with increased market share.
Consumers are moving faster, but this opens up new opportunities to forge meaningful connections with your customers.
The challenge for companies is to take advantage of the opportunities available. If you’re not laser-focused on improving the experience of buying from your company, you will be disrupted by a competitor or start-up that meets the needs of the consumer better and faster.
When the CEO shows leadership and empowers the organization with a shared vision and the technologies needed to deliver those experiences, increased market share, and improved KPIs will follow.