Today’s customers are unlike anything the business world has ever seen. Savvy, self-sufficient, and comfortable demanding the treatment they deserve, these consumers are reshaping the shopping experience just by raising their own expectations. The unfortunate truth is that those expectations change faster than light—so how can your brand keep up?
Today, we’ll explore “the need for speed” driving the business world and what you can do to consistently delight your audiences.
What’s driving all this change?
First things first: why are we having this conversation in the first place?
It may be tempting to blame mounting customer expectations entirely on the pandemic. However, while COVID-19 certainly continues to change the way we shop, it’s not the only driver in this consumer revolution—nor the most significant one.
Far more relevant in the growth of customer expectations is the digitization of our experiences. Smartphones, apps, user-friendly websites, and even AI assistants have made it possible to snap your fingers and get whatever your heart desires.
But for generations raised on sci-fi movies, that simply isn’t enough. Today’s customer doesn’t want a cold, impersonal experience built exclusively around interactions with AI. They want to build real relationships with brands that treat them like valuable, insightful individuals. AI’s assistance is a great option for simple, quick answers, but for more advanced operations, customers want someone they can trust. A human.
For companies like yours, that means finding a balance between two things:
- In-depth, personable service from human representatives for complex situations
- Quick, reliable answers from self-service and AI channels for simple questions
That may sound simple enough—but as digital options expand, that ideal balance constantly shifts, which means you’re left chasing it or trying to keep up.
That’s where a customer’s perspective comes in handy.
A customer’s perspective
As you try to find that delicate balance, it’s easy to get caught up in the details and forget what it feels like to actually be a customer. For that reason, it’s often helpful to take a walk in your customers’ shoes.
You want to be gratified
Even if your shopping experience starts with a need, every decision you make from that point forward is about want. You could get what you need from a huge variety of brands—so when it comes to choosing one over the other, you have to decide which will make you feel gratified. It doesn’t matter how you define gratification, because it’s up to those companies to figure out how to please you; however, Salesforce research shows that for roughly 80% of consumers, gratification has just as much to do with experience as it does with the product or service you’re buying.
You want to simplify your shopping experience
As a customer, you’re probably not trying to make a company’s life more difficult. You just want to make your own life easier. That’s why, according to Hubspot Research, you and 93% of customers overall are likely to make repeat purchases when a brand offers excellent customer service. Put simply, it’s easier to shop with a business if you already know they’re going to treat you well.
You want to make your own choices
Although personalization is important, it doesn’t mean you want a brand to make all your choices for you. Instead, you want to shop your way. For example, according to Zendesk, more than 50% of consumers use the phone to reach out to customer service teams, but Comm101 adds that millennials prefer live chat whenever possible. For businesses, that means it’s critical to offer a variety of options for service, and create an experience that can be tailored to fast-changing personal preferences.
How brands can keep up
It’s clear that, whether you’re looking at things as a customer or a company, modern expectations can be summed up in three words: “Right away, always.” How can your brand keep up when that’s the basis for a good customer experience?
The key, as it turns out, is to build relationships.
Although customers expect increasingly digitized experiences, it’s the human element that really differentiates a brand from the competition—and it’s also your way to get close to them so you’re the first to know when they want something new or different. This proactive approach is so effective that, when leveraged properly, it can even help you notice fluctuations before your audience does.
Here lies the value of the insight community.
An insight community is a customer engagement platform businesses use to uncover agile, actionable, first-party data from the right people at the right time. Ongoing, real-time customer feedback informs strategic decision making, validates brand and marketing plans, accelerates the development of new services and products, and enables you to build best-in-class customer experiences.
Say your customers are starting to shift toward live interactions instead of self-service solutions, but no one has come right out and said anything. Your insight community can flag this development early, or you may discover it through a members’ survey.
To deliver just what customers want before they know they want it, you can test new strategies and campaigns within your community. Often the result is a groundbreaking experience that moves even faster than customer expectations.
The secret to getting close
So, how do you build these close relationships so you can keep up with fast-moving customer expectations? Simple: start listening to your audience.
Take insight communities: At the most basic level, an insight community can be used to explore, develop, test, and validate aspects of the marketing mix. Customers engage with your brand because they want to have a positive impact on the products and services that matter to them. And, because customers engage repeatedly over time, you can build rich, relevant customer profiles that complement and enhance the data stored in your system of record. These profiles align stakeholders across the business around a unified understanding of the customer.
If you come prepared with fast, effective ways to gather, analyze, and utilize feedback, you’ll always have the foundation you need to start valuable conversations and notice even the slightest shift in consumer behavior.
To start getting closer to your audience, check out Alida’s customer experience solutions today.