Shopping for Experiences, Not Products: A Primer on Retail Customer Experience in the Experience Economy

Retail brands’ primary objective used to be providing a great product, but as competition heats up and consumer expectations grow more complex, retailers need to find new, bolder ways to stand out from the crowd. And that’s why the retail customer experience is more important than ever before.

Consumers are no longer satisfied with “just” a product and are finding different, more fundamental means of identifying (and spending money) with brands.

Andrew Park, Vice President of Customer Experience Strategy & Enablement at InMoment, sat down with The Retail Focus Podcast to break down:

  1. Where customers’ expectations have been 
  2. Where they’re going
  3. What retailers can do to keep up with it all

What Is the Experience Economy?

As previously mentioned, customers used to consider a great product the end-all-be-all of an experience, but as those expectations have since evolved—and so must retail brands’ strategy. These days, retail customers prefer to spend money with brands that deliver great experiences, and great experiences go far beyond what’s on a store shelf.

It used to be that a retail experience consisted only of an in-store visit, but in this modern era (and especially since COVID), a customer’s retail experience spans so many different channels. For a customer, their overall experience is informed by a combination of the following:

  • Brand Identity 
  • Online Reviews
  • In-App Experience
  • Website Experience
  • In-Store Experience
  • Employee Interactions
  • And So Much More!

You might sense what we’re getting at here: customers consider experiences to be journeys, not single stops—and brands that fail to approach their experience accordingly won’t be able to differentiate in the experience economy.

For example, an airline may consider a passenger’s flight the extent of that individual’s experience, but this view fails to account for buying a ticket, waiting in the airport, finding a hotel, and all the other parts of the journey besides ‘just’ the flight.

What Makes for a Great Retail Customer Experience Journey?

Brands that focus only on one aspect of the experience are missing a huge opportunity. The winning organizations in the modern experience landscape create journeys that are:

Seamless

Customers should receive the same quality of experience whether they are online, in store or in app. Obviously, there will be some differences in the actual experience (in store purchases provide instant satisfaction, while online requires customers to wait for shipping), but the quality must remain the same.

A positive example of consistency comes from one of our home furnishing clients, who prides itself on the knowledgeability of its staff in store. It wanted to provide that same quality of service on their e-commerce site, and was ultimately able to stand up an online chat that gave its customers instant access to expertise.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s extremely disruptive to a customer when a product’s online and in-store price tags differ. Customers have come to expect seamless experiences—it’s key for brands to deliver on that expectation.

End-to-End

If you’re a regular on the InMoment Blog, you’ll be familiar with our phrase, “design with the end in mind.” And there’s a reason why we return to it time and time again. When it comes to retail customer experience (and really anything in life), if you aren’t actively thinking about your desired outcome when you’re in the planning stages, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll end up with the results you want. 

So, when you are designing a customer journey, be sure to think about every step of the process, but especially the end result. Do you want customers to post about their new product? Share their excitement with friends and family? Come back for more next month? There is so much you can do to influence these actions, if only you plan for them.

Consistent

This one is pretty straightforward. If you provide consistently disappointing experiences (out of stock items, check out lines a mile long, etc.) you will be hard pressed to convince customers to return—or make a purchase in the first place. If you provide consistently excellent experiences, customers will be excited for the next time they get to shop with you, they’ll tell your friends about you, and they’ll likely buy more when they shop with you.

Now, creating consistency across multiple locations with numerous employees is a lot of work, but it is so worth it. Our proprietary research has even found that customers will spend more money with a company that provides a great experience. If you’re looking for strategies to increase consistency, check out this post or this post (centered more around your employees).

Say it with us: Designing best-in-class retail customer experience journeys is a worthwhile investment! In our decades of experience working with the world’s best known retailers, we’ve found that great customer experiences have big business pay off in these four areas:

  1. Acquiring Customers
  2. Retaining Customers
  3. Increasing Customer Lifetime Value
  4. Reducing Business Costs

Learn more about how here!

Customers Expect Great Retail Customer Experiences

It’s become common in the last 5-10 years for retailers to be compared not just to each other, but to brands from other industries and the experiences they provide. It probably comes as little surprise to most retailers that customers frequently compare them to Amazon, but what about a restaurant? 

Restaurants are not retail outlets, but if they provide a great experience, customers will come to expect similar commitment from retailers and vice-versa. The same is true of other types of businesses. (You can learn more about this cross-industry experience expectations in our Retail Experience Trends Report here.)

The final word here is just that: expectation. As we mentioned up top, customers’ expectations are growing more complex as countless brands vie for their attention. This means that, no matter whether a brand sells shoes, cars, meals, or airline tickets, it’s no longer enough to focus solely on a product. 

Make no mistake, offering a quality product is obviously still important, but it’s no longer enough to capture and hold customers’ attention. Experience is the differentiator now, and brands that endeavor to deliver a great experience will come out on top in both their verticals and in customers’ eyes.

To hear more about retail customer experience in the experience economy, listen to the full podcast episode today!

The Best Way to Identify (and Share) the Moments that Matter with Frontline Employees

Metrics, metrics, metrics. It’s common for frontline employees like contact center agents to be inundated with them—schedule adherence, efficiency, handle time, and hopefully, amid all of that and more, customer experience (CX) metrics. Ostensibly, the goal with this information is to give contact center agents the guidance needed to create Experience Improvement (XI) for customers, but do they have the time and wherewithal to actually sort through comments and data? Should that even BE an organizational expectation?

Having plenty of data and feedback is certainly important, but inundating your contact center agents with it won’t make them better at their jobs. Today’s conversation briefly covers how to actually leverage data by being tactical and thoughtful with what you share with your frontline employees. We’ll also discuss how best to use data to recognize employees for excelling at the executing moments that matter to customers. Let’s get started!

Sharing What Matters with Frontline Employees

There’s no one specific type of information, insight, or data that supports frontline employees across all industries, but there are several high-level principles that brands can bear in mind when determining what those employees need to know. The first north star to aim for with sharing insights to frontline employees is to consider which of those insights will make your employees not just efficient, but actually better at their jobs and at creating Experience Improvement.

Organizations that make compliance and efficiency the high water mark for contact center excellence will not see remarkable agent performance, let alone the Experience Improvement that you need to acquire and retain customers. Finding the insights, data, and comments that will make employees better at their jobs begins with using an Experience Improvement platform to ingest data (especially customer comments) for actionable insights. Many brands end up wasting time by either trying to manually mine insights out of data mountains, or by gathering metrics and then quitting at that point because they think numbers alone can drive success.

The platform approach can help you avoid both of these pitfalls and make the most of all your data—both qualitative and quantitative. Finding relevant and actionable insights in your data will motivate your employees to act upon Experience Improvement opportunities. Enacting this approach will also enable your frontline employees to provide a far superior experience to customers. This strengthens brand connection and creates a customer-centric culture.

The Next Step

Giving your employees the tools to create Experience Improvement is one thing—demonstrating your appreciation for them successfully doing so is another. All of us—frontline agents, supervisors, and business leaders—can take advantage of data and insights that allow us to simply “be better.” However, there’s one more step on that road that is specifically applicable to driving to top-level frontline work: recognition. 

This is another area in which brands and experience program vendors underutilize  data, unstructured and otherwise. Data is great for strengthening experiences and the bottom line, but with the right plan and structure, it can drive another factor just as if not more fundamental: an employee-centric culture.

Many brands use data to measure employee performance as a matter of course, but  tracking something only accomplishes so much. Brands need to go beyond tracking—they must use data to celebrate success, continually create a positive culture, and recognize a job well done.

This is a fundamental component of being human in all of your experiences, and employees who feel both recognized and a part of the company’s success will be all the more effective in their roles. That is the heart of Experience Improvement, creating a customer-centric and employee-centric workplace, and identifying the moments that matter.

The Frontline Insights Universe

While we’ve covered a lot of ground in discussing how to improve and recognize frontline employee performance, there’s a lot more you can find by checking out my full-length point of view article here. I take a deeper dive into communicating insights to frontline employees, as well as additional strategies you can use to improve experiences for customers, employees, and your wider organization!

How Would You Rate Your Experience? A Primer on Transactional Surveys

Surveys are one of the most direct and effective means of gathering insights. They provide what many customers crave most: an easy-to-access platform they can use to voice their thoughts and opinions about a brand.

To make this process as efficient as possible (and to make it simpler for companies to source different kinds of feedback), several types of surveys have emerged over the years that make it easy to focus on customers’ opinions about transactions, brand relationships, and the like. I’ve found one such questionnaire, the transactional survey, to be an invaluable tool for assessing almost any customer touchpoint. Let’s briefly discuss how it works.

What Are Transactional Surveys? How Are They Used?

Transactional surveys can be used to gauge many touchpoints, but the one they’re typically associated with (and the one they’re named for) is a key part of the brand experience: the sale. In my experience, transactional surveys are an ideal way to gauge customers’ immediate feelings about a purchase because they can be used to solicit feedback quickly. Below is an example of a post-transaction survey in action:

Transactional Survey in Retail
A Post-Transaction Survey in Retail

I’ve seen organizations use this tool to learn everything about their customers’ short-term brand experience, including ease-of-purchase and how quickly that package actually arrived. Customers keep a company going—it literally pays to listen to them.

Using Transactional Surveys in the Call Center

Transactional surveys are a great way for customers to gauge purchases, but their utility extends far beyond the point of sale. I’ve also seen them be useful for evaluating call center experiences.

Poor call center interactions can quickly land an organization in a sea of bad reviews, but transactional surveys can provide an opportunity to ensure smooth operations, source invaluable feedback, and demonstrate that a company cares about their customer experience. Because surveys can be used to gather all of these insights quickly, I’ve found them to be a valuable tool for streamlining both customer experiences and feedback.

Using Transactional Surveys Online

Whether a customer is browsing an about page or trying to file a product claim, transactional surveys can easily be incorporated into website feedback tools. Companies can implement just about any question at just about any website touchpoint, making it simple to quickly collect feedback about website language, page click orders, and a host of other user experience elements.

This type of feedback is where transactional surveys’ ability to deliver feedback in real time is especially helpful. Companies can be made aware of website flaws or customer complaints just after they occur, enabling product teams to correct mistakes and respond to feedback faster.

Survey Symbiosis: Leveraging Transactional Surveys in Your Feedback Strategy

There’s no better means of capturing immediate feedback about a short-term brand experience than with transactional surveys. Their speed, size, and ease of use make them an invaluable way to connect customers and organizations.

I also believe, though, that while transactional surveys provide plenty of valuable information on their own, there are other types of surveys that can deliver insights that are just as valuable for other purposes. Companies that blend multiple types of surveys into a single feedback strategy can gain a much richer portrait of their audience.

Regardless of how many kinds of surveys an organization uses, though, they’re all only as relevant as the action that companies take with them. Proactivity and a willingness to act on feedback are the keys to whether a survey strategy is ultimately successful. That’s no less true for transactional surveys than for any other insight-gathering tool.

If you would like to learn more about transactional surveys—and how you can pair them with relationship surveys—check out “Uniting Transactional and Relationship Surveys to Capture the Entire Experience” today!

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The Employee Experience Maturity Path: How Does EX Improvement Impact Customer Behavior?

This article was originally posted on CustomerThink.com

Sacagawea, a knowledgeable young Shoshone woman, successfully guided Lewis & Clark through the Louisiana Purchase territory, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa, whose backyard was the Himalayas, successfully guided Edmund Hillary on the first successful ascent of Mount Everest. Ports around the world have skilled and experienced pilots whose detailed knowledge and map-memory of local shoals, sandbars and currents is essential to guide arriving ships to their berths. 

In the modern era, Tim Berners-Lee was the trailblazer of computer science—the inventor and mapmaker of the World Wide Web and HTML—without whom we simply wouldn’t have the internet of today. And then there’s Steve Wozniak, the technical pathfinder behind the initial system for Apple products and services. Every successful journey greatly benefits from having a reliable, capable, amply proven guide, especially one using a detailed, user-friendly map with signposts to mark steps needed to reach the intended goal. It is as true with employee experience (EX) improvement. There is a clear path to greater employee experience maturity and employee insights success, with a map and signposts to aid the guide.

4 Signposts on the Employee Experience Maturity Path Map 

There are four distinctive signposts which serve as a guide up the employee experience maturity path, each one bringing organizations closer to their goal of optimal employee behavior and value as enterprise assets. These signposts, or markers, represent the points along the path, or the trajectory, employee experience has taken, as companies become more mature in a) how they consider employee contribution, in other words the importance attached to it, and b) what role, or roles, employees have in enterprise culture, strategy, and business outcomes.

#1: Employee Satisfaction

The enterprise EX improvement and insights journey path often begins with very basic employee satisfaction, as companies are principally looking to manage and measure behavior at a macro level. For the employee experience maturity trajectory, it is the point of embarkation. Employee satisfaction will typically include job-related factors like compensation, workload, perceptions of management and leadership, flexibility, teamwork, resource availability, etc. 

#2: Employee Engagement

The next, and first real, EX journey signpost brings many organizations to employee engagement. Engaged employees have a stronger sense of purpose within the organization. Here, the predominant, HR-formed, construct is to consider employees as costs of doing the company’s business, and the overall objective is for their fit, utility, and productivity within the enterprise.

#3: Employee Commitment

This signpost represents and recognizes arrival on the path of a deeper awareness of what creates and shapes the full EX landscape: employee commitment to the organization, to its product and service value proposition ,and customers – and plan to optimize business outcomes and stakeholder value. Part of this more progressive awareness is also understanding, and mitigating, things which can impede EX success. Employee fit, utility, and productivity are certainly important, but they are insufficient where real employee experience and linkage to customer value delivery are concerned. Organizations need to have more contemporary and actionable insight into what motivates employees, connects them to the culture and customers, and drives their behavior as invested, highly contributory enterprise assets. 

#4: Employee Advocacy

This signpost has the EX parallel of the flag planted at the top of a mountain peak. Few organizations are able to reach this terminus point on the path (although it is certainly within reach, with strategic focus and discipline, for virtually any company). Companies with high rates of employee advocacy, and its accompanying strong set of business outcomes, are those which have embedded commitment and customer focus into the enterprise DNA, and where the culture, operations, and processes all flow through stakeholder value creation. 

How Does EX Improvement Impact Customer Behavior?

In looking at the progression from satisfaction to engagement to commitment and advocacy, we have examined research conducted over the past three decades. What we have observed are studies that examined some contributing factors of employee experience and value, such as reward and recognition, job fit, training, career opportunities, work environment, and departmental and management relationships. But the critical component often totally missing, or lightly addressed, from all of this material is the definitive linkage and commitment to customers.

Tony Hsieh, the late founder and CEO of Zappos, said: “The brand is just a lagging indicator of the company’s culture.” He hit the mark with that statement. Brand image needs to be complemented and supported by a culture and set of processes dedicated to both employee and customer experience. That brand promise has to be delivered for customers every time they interact with the company. Contribution to customer experience also needs to be fully, and strategically, baked into the organization and into every employee’s job description.

Consider how frequently your customers come in contact with your employees, either directly or indirectly. Whether it is through a computer screen in a customer service chat, on the telephone, or in person, every employee, whether customer-facing or not, should be an enthusiastic and committed representative for the brand. If, today, employee satisfaction and employee engagement are not designed to meet this critical objective of the customer experience, almost inevitably there will be a sub-optimal downstream result with regard to customer behavior.

The Importance of Creating a Culture of Commitment

In any group of employees, irrespective of whether it’s a service department, technical and operational division, or a branch office, there will be differing levels of commitment to the employer’s brand and the company itself, its value proposition, and its customers. If employees are negative to the point of undermining, and even sabotaging, customer experience value, they will actively work against business goals and outcomes. However, if employees are advocates, and whether they interact with customers directly, indirectly, or even not at all, they will better service and support customers.

For companies to create and sustain higher levels of employee advocacy, it’s also essential that the employee experience be given as much emphasis as the customer experience. If employee commitment and advocacy are to flourish, there must be value, and a sense of shared purpose, for the employee (as well as the company and customer) – in the form of recognition, reward(financial and training), and career opportunities. Combined with advanced analytics and other employee-related data, the advocacy concept can lead and enable any organization to be more stakeholder-centric, flexible, dynamic, and financially successful.

This is a clear path and map to EX maturity. Where is your company on the journey?

5 Ways to Ensure Employees Uphold Your Brand’s Values

When a business is in its nascent stage, everyone feels like an owner. Each employee—from the leadership to the frontline—has a personal stake and interest in building success through differentiated offerings and positive customer experiences, all while upholding the brand’s values.

Yet, as companies grow, the founders, owners, and executive leadership become less connected to the day-to-day operations, and in turn, their customers. In essence, they’re handing over the reigns of the company’s vision, mission, values, and culture to the frontline staff—who don’t necessarily harness the same passion and fervor for the company’s success. Plus, with growth comes the increased potential for customer service issues that must be rectified to deliver an experience in line with the company’s values.

So how can companies encourage frontline staff to “act like owners” in their interactions with customers? And when issues arise, how can brands reinforce the positive resolution of customer complaints? We have five strategies you can deploy to get your employees to uphold your brand’s values with pride!

How to Help Employees Uphold Your Brand’s Values

Strategy #1: Empowerment 

The best way to resolve customer complaints? Avoid them in the first place. Empower your employees to make management-level decisions without manager approval. When it makes sense, allow your staff to go outside of policies that frustrate customers—or better yet, remove/change those policies completely. When you empower frontline staff to act above their pay grade, you’ll get performance above their pay grade.

Strategy #2: Training

You need to have clear resolution practices in place that address specific complaints. Ensure your frontline responders know how to resolve common complaints, not only in process, but from an interpersonal point of view (e.g., how to deescalate frustrated customers). Again, allow for some flexibility for resolution as each case and customer is unique.

Strategy #3: Recognition

Everyone enjoys being acknowledged. Make customer verbatims and specific staff mentions in customer feedback visible in high-traffic areas and create a standardized program for recognizing top performers.

Strategy #4: Support

Management must fully support frontline staff in resolving customer complaints by listening, giving advice, and creating a culture where it is evident they have the employees’ best interest in mind. And when necessarily, be prepared to step in.

Strategy #5: Rewards

Especially in lower-paying positions, employees are driven by opportunities to increase their paychecks. Give employees an incentive to perform well—bonuses or even promotions for exceptional resolution rates and engagement with customers.

It’s simply not possible to be a part of every day-to-day customer interaction happening in your business. But when your employees are trained, encouraged, and empowered to act like owners, you know your brand’s reputation is in good hands.

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3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Create More Inclusive Employee & Customer Experiences

Diversity and inclusion initiatives have become front and center for many organizations in recent years. It’s important for brands to create diverse and inclusive customer experiences (CX) and employee experiences (EX)—not ‘just’ because being more inclusive is the right thing to do, but also because organizations have a lot to gain from accommodating greater diversity in every experience they create.

Of course, an organization stating diversity and inclusion goals is a good start, but how can brands like yours translate such goals into tangible Experience Improvement (XI) strategies and tactics that create more inclusive customer experiences? There are many, many opportunities here, but the most important thing to do is to just get started. 

So, here are three quick thoughts you should apply right now to create more inclusive employee and customer experiences.

3 Keys to Creating More Inclusive Customer Experiences

  1. Key #1: Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
  2. Key #2: Engage New and All Audiences
  3. Key #3: Apply What You’ve Learned

Key #1: Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

It’s understandable for organizations to be intimidated by the prospect of making mistakes while attempting to accommodate and include new audiences. Such mistakes can quickly become viral via social media, review sites, and other tools, creating headaches both for brands and the customers (or employees) at the heart of such events.

Though this worry is certainly a valid concern, it’s better to accept that mistakes might be made and press forward with your diversity and inclusion efforts than to allow timidity to outright impede either. These are the growing pains of becoming more inclusive with your customer and employee experiences, and facing them head-on will also give your team an opportunity to consider how best to handle such mistakes and learn from them. 

Experience shows that both customers and employees accept that mistakes inevitably occur and are a result of activity. Being passive is not an option when trying to create more inclusive customer experiences. Overcome the fear of making mistakes and concentrate on a transparent and authentic way to deal with them when they occur.

Key #2: Engage All Audiences

If you’re still concerned about how best to connect to audiences you haven’t consistently talked to before, this is the section for you. For many years now, the big idea behind CX and EX programs has been to simply gather as much feedback as possible from as many people as possible. However, before turning any listening posts on, you should sit down with your team and design (or reorient) your experience initiatives with your end goals in mind. You must ensure that you give all audiences you want to hear from the opportunity to provide feedback. 

In this case, if your goal is to create more inclusive experiences, you should consider which audiences you need to reach out to and how to do so. This means doing some legwork to find out how those audiences communicate, what their preferences are, and bringing all of those insights to bear when meaningfully improving your experiences to accommodate diversity and inclusion. 

Also, don’t forget: You need the right tool to collect feedback from all audiences as well as to disseminate that information to all members of your organization. Make sure you are using accessibility tools like screen readers, larger font sizes, higher contrasts, etc.

Key #3: Apply What You’ve Learned

You can and should apply the above mindset to any experience goal you have across the entirety of your business. Applying it here will give you the intelligence and landscape map you need to achieve Experience Improvement (XI) for new audiences. 

However, intelligence and roadmaps are only half the battle; taking action is imperative to actually making your experiences more inclusive. The work is ceaseless and oftentimes difficult, but if your team is ready to continue making an effort, you can be assured that the audiences you need to reach will respond.

As you continue to take action on what those audiences tell you, you’ll be able to meaningfully transform your business and realize your goal of a more inclusive experience. Being more inclusive is an invaluable component of marketplace leadership, but it’s also what will set your organization apart from your competitors in your customers’ eyes. The result is a mutually beneficial, meaningfully improved experience that will demonstrate to all your organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion as well as faster revenue growth and higher profitability.

Click here to learn more about the importance of diverse and inclusive experiences in my full-length point of view article. I take a closer look at the topics explored here and go over a few other best practices you might not have had the chance to read about elsewhere.

What the Supply Chain Crisis Means for Your Customer Experience

The ongoing global supply chain woes have created massive headaches for both customers and the brands that serve them. One of the many products of lingering COVID uncertainty, the supply chain crisis has resulted in steeper prices, logistics chaos, and a markedly lower supply of everything from video game consoles to garden furniture. Today’s discussion covers three factors brands should be aware of as they consider supply chain issues within the context of customer experience (CX).

3 Supply Chain Crisis Factors to Consider for the Customer Experience

  1. Manufacturing
  2. Logistics
  3. Commodity Prices

Factor #1: Manufacturing

The manufacturing gap is not the only cause of the supply chain’s current state, but it’s certainly one of the most important. As I’m sure you remember during the early days of the pandemic, COVID lockdowns weren’t restricted to offices and restaurants—many manufacturing facilities were also closed due to a combination of quarantine guidelines and falling demand. Now, as the world reawakens after what is hopefully the worst of the pandemic, the manufacturing sector is struggling to match the speed of reemergent customer demand. As a result, many brands find themselves with insufficient stock to actually meet that demand, which poses an obvious threat to customer experience.

Factor #2: Logistics

We’re all hopeful that manufacturing will eventually catch back up to demand, but production capacity is, unfortunately, just one reason the supply chain is currently creaking. The second factor to consider here is logistics, and how both shipping queues and an enduring truck driver shortage are preventing what goods can be manufactured from actually reaching store shelves. Many ships find themselves idling in harbors the world over, which of course increases shipping prices, while the aforementioned driver shortage is an outgrowth of the mass-quitting phenomenon the media have dubbed The Great Recession. Both problems further complicate acquiring stock and providing the experiences that your customers expect.

Factor #3: Commodity Prices

This is a more subtle element than the previous two, but no less important to understanding the supply chain. As it turns out, the higher prices that coffee, sugar, wheat, and other staples command right now aren’t strictly a byproduct of shipping or manufacturing problems. Rather, the reason they’re so high is because, to put it simply, customers bought and cooked with them all while stuck at home! This phenomenon feeds directly into the higher prices you’ve no doubt noticed while grocery shopping, and, of course, brands’ ability to purchase and make use of those same staples for their customers.

How Your Brand Can Respond

The problems I’ve touched on represent significant obstacles for any CX programme. Almost every industry is somehow being affected by the supply chain crisis, and though we all hope that things will improve soon, it’s imperative for your brand to take meaningful action in the meantime. Taking action will help you not just make the best of this problem, but will also help protect your customer experience and to maintain the connective relationships you’ve worked so hard to create. This is what the supply chain crisis means for your brand: action is more important now than ever before.

Click here to read my full-length point of view document on how best to take action against supply chain problems. I go into each of the issues I touched on here (and The Great Resignation) in more detail, followed by solutions that will allow you to continue creating powerful experiences and achieving meaningful change even in these uncertain times.

The Difference Between Customer Interactions and Customer Experiences

Recently, a client asked me what we at InMoment thought defines a “customer interaction,” as there had been some debate on the subject within his team. I pondered the subject and brought it back to my colleagues. Quickly, we were asking ourselves not only about the characteristics of an interaction, but beyond that, what falls under the larger umbrella of customer experience? Is there a difference? Today, we’ll be diving deeper into these questions.

What Is a Customer Interaction?

Webster’s defines “interaction” as:

  • Mutual or reciprocal action or influence
  • To act upon one another

From this definition, we see clearly that two or more parties are required for an interaction; for example, a company or brand and a prospect or customer.  

What Is a Customer Experience?

Harley Manning, VP, Research Director at Forrester, once defined customer experience as: How customers perceive their interactions with your company.  He went on to define an interaction as when you and your customers have a two-way exchange.1

Neither Here, Nor There

So what does that mean when a prospect or customer browses your website but does not make a purchase? Or a customer clicks a link in your brand’s email, but does not go any further? According to the definitions above, those are not interactions.  But there are a lot of people in companies working very hard to get these actions to happen (click through rate and time on website/app are very common marketing and ecommerce metrics).  

If they are not interactions, what are they? I would classify them as engagements.  A customer has engaged with your brand, but there was no interaction, because it was only unilateral. Thus, not all engagements are interactions.

And here is where it gets interesting.  If the examples listed above are not interactions, but engagements, are they considered part of your customer experience? You better believe it.  

The Intersection Between Customer Engagements and Customer Experiences

Customer experience is generally held to be the sum of all interactions someone has with your brand and the resulting feelings they have about your brand. But are experiences limited to interactions or engagements? Do customers have to interact with your people, products, services, or digital properties for their engagement to fall under customer experience?  

Today, a company’s policies regarding diversity and inclusion, for example, or the politics, causes, and charities they choose to support have an impact on people’s feelings about the brand. I would argue that these are part of the customer experience as well.  There are prospects out there that will choose to never do business with your company based on these issues and other customers who become more loyal for the same reasons.

Returning to the Question

To return to the original question, I would like to suggest that customer interactions and customer experience are concentric circles. An interaction is a subset of engagement, which in turn is a subset of experience.

Customer Experience versus Customer Engagement vs customer Interactions

And companies have to be attentive to all of the ways customers experience their brands, products, and services. Whether or not an engagement ever advances to the level of interaction is an integral piece of the CX puzzle.

Want to hear more from Eric about customer interactions, engagements, and experiences? Stay tuned for the next post in the series!

3 Ways Financial Services Customers Are Changing—and How Brands Should Adapt

Technology factors into customers’ changing wants and needs across many industries—especially in the financial services (finserv) world. We’ve noticed a lot of big changes in this sector just in the last few years, which means that banks like yours need to keep up in ways that are meaningful to your customers. Customer experience (CX) programs are a big help here; so too is human expertise that can guide your program goals. With that expertise in mind, here are three major ways we’re noticing how financial services customers are changing and why it matters!

3 Ways Financial Services Customers Are Changing

  • Key #1: Accept the Difficulty of Long-Term Client Maturity
  • Key #2: Finance as A Lifestyle Choice
  • Key #3: The Search for Meaning and Shared Values

Key #1: Accept the Difficulty of Long-Term Client Maturity

One of the biggest changes traditional banks are seeing is that it’s suddenly much harder to mature customers as long-term financial clients. There are two causes at play here: the first is that digitally savvy customers are constantly comparing your bank to the competition. The internet has made it easy to constantly compare brands, which is why customers may up and leave your attempts at long-term client relationships the minute they feel another bank is better.

The other factor, of course, is the rise of small but incredibly agile challenger institutions, which is the bucket that things like financial apps fall into. These challenger brands benefit from being able to offer customers quick, one-stop financial products that many larger banks simply haven’t developed yet, which has changed customers’ perceptions of what a financial product or service should be. The first step to staying ahead of this curve is to accept this paradigm shift.

Key #2: Finance as a Lifestyle Choice

Customers enjoy financial apps for their speed and lower prices, but there’s another element that these challenger brands have tapped into: the idea of specific financial lifestyles. A lot of larger, older banks see selling financial products as just that: a sale. However, the game has changed. More customers than ever before see financial products in a lifestyle sense, not just a monetary one. They want something that speaks specifically to their lifestyle identity, which means that banks must provide.

Turn to your CX program to see what customers are saying about your bank within this context. Understand what they find valuable about the products and services they provide, then think of ways to make your offering more personable. Capital One, for example, leveraged this process to create its novel Capital One Cafes, having learned that this was a feature that would make their brand more personable. Figuring out how to make your own brand more personable will make customers see you as a lifestyle institution, not ‘just’ a banking one.

Key #3: The Search for Meaning and Shared Values

We’ve discussed how finserv customers are constantly looking for the perfect bank, as well as how brands across the financial world must constantly strive to make themselves personable to those customers. This idea of a constantly perfect fit taps into something more fundamental than competing on price or turning your bank into a cafe: the notion of Experience Improvement (XI) and its vital importance to building mutually successful relationships with customers.

The truth is that, even though customers are much harder to retain than they used to be, they’re still looking for the brand whom they feel knows them as people. Couple that with the fact that these smaller challenger brands tend to focus much more on individual transactions than long-term relationships, and the result is an opportunity for larger banks to compete on customers’ search for meaning. This means creating a CX program tied to specific financial goals, uniting customer data from across your organization, and executing on that intel in a way customers will appreciate. This will allow you to build meaningful relationships in a way that challenger apps cannot while retaining and strengthening your book of business.

Click here to learn more about how the finserv customer has changed and what your bank can do to not just stay ahead, but thrive in this digital age. Senior Vice President Ashley Goode takes a magnifying glass to all the changes we’ve seen in recent years and how your brand can succeed with Experience Improvement!

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How to Build Story Frameworks for Executive Buy-In

Creating a compelling and emotional story is one of the best ways for experience practitioners to secure ROI from the boardroom. However, while a lot of program managers might be content to wing their way through those meetings, there are proven storytelling methods and frameworks out there that can greatly improve your chances of getting that executive buy-in. Today, we’re going to lay out a framework invented by famed consultant Barbara Minto called the Pyramid Principle, and it goes like this:

  1. The Situation
  2. The Complication
  3. The Question
  4. The Answer

Step #1: The Situation

This is the step in which you lay your story’s framework. When it comes to customer experience (CX) stories specifically, it’s handy to start this area out with a profile of the customer who’s at the heart of the interaction. Provide a few compelling personal details about this person as you build the world toward your brand being able to address their inevitable concern. This will tee the rest of your narrative up for how your organization saved this customer’s day.

Step #2: The Complication

Once you’ve set the stage by describing who your customer is and providing a few key background details, you can then dive into the problem that drove the customer to your brand. Take care not to describe the issue in solely problem-meets-product terms—emphasize how whatever the customer is dealing with is affecting them as a person. This approach builds empathy with the executives to whom you’re presenting and reinforces the notion of treating customers like people, not just clients, which is key to Experience Improvement (XI).

Step #3: The Question

This is the part where you establish how your brand can solve the customer’s problem, and it’s where the product and service piece that’s usually better to sidestep in step 2 can really come back in full force. Detail how your organization first came to the customer’s attention, why they believed your brand could assist them, and how your organization thought to solve the problem. Which brings us to the fourth and final step in the Pyramid Principle…

Step #4: The Answer

This step is a culmination of the personal elements established in step 2 and the business side outlined in step 3. Here’s where you can reveal not only how your brand solved the customer’s problem in a purely business sense, but more importantly, what that solution did for them personally. Don’t hold back when describing how happy your solution made the customer and whether they shared that joy with others online. That sort of connection is truly what creates a stronger bottom line for brands… and it’s something that executives are actually just as much if not more interested in than numbers.

Click here to learn more about how effective storytelling can inspire executive buy-in. Expert Simon Fraser has studied storytelling for well over a decade and has a lot more to say about how telling a good story can wow boardrooms, drum up ROI, and get your boardroom fired up for more.

Six Must-Dos for Executive-Level CX Reporting

Imagine you are a CEO in 2021. COVID-19 is rampant, lockdowns are everywhere, 90% of your staff are working from home, and your traditional customers are… not so traditional anymore. Each day brings a new challenge trying to navigate this unpredictable environment, as you spend 9 hours each day in back-to-back zoom meetings. Friday rolls around and your last zoom call ends at 6pm. You open your emails to notice 20 unread emails. 

As you read through them, you open an email from the customer experience (CX) team with insights from the previous month. The document is 15 pages, has 30 charts, a bunch of text, and a lot of numbers. You flick through each page, making sure the trend charts are not declining. You gauge that the numbers seem about normal, so you move on to the next email.

Do you feel excited about these extensive, exhaustive customer experience reports? Probably not.

Executive CX Reports Could Use A Shake Up

For most large businesses, this is quite common. Customer experience teams often ‘data dump’ their customer experience results into a fairly large, dense PowerPoint deck that is sent to the C-Suite once a month.These decks are usually time consuming to produce and may not even be read in its entirety. 

It is not the role of the CEO to analyse charts–that’s the analyst’s job. It is also not the role of the CEO to figure out an action plan to tackle each issue–that is the role of the CX team with each product or channel lead. 

The role of the CEO is to steer the ship. Like a ship’s captain, they will use their instruments to ensure the ship is sailing smoothly. A ships’ captain does not receive an in-depth deck on the engine’s health as they are sailing, and neither should a CEO. 

So, what kind of report should a CEO receive? Let’s take a look.

Must-Do #1: The Shorter, the Better

First up, shorten the report as much as possible. Best practice is one page maximum. CEOs should be looking at a scannable, summarised view that shows the high-level health of the company. 

Picture your report as an alert monitor. If there are any slight declining figures, the CEO will reach out to you for more information. But by this point, you and the product lead should have already identified any issues and drafted a plan of attack. To caveat this, if your NPS has dropped from 80 to 60 overnight, then definitely provide context on the reason why the drop has occurred. Most of the time, CEO’s will know this anyway, as it is probably due to a system outage that month or a negative media release.

Must-Do #2: Minimise Text and Maximise Visuals

The reports made up of mere bullet points are missing out on big opportunities. Best practice is to include infographics with as minimal text as possible. 

One of the most useful design tips to learn is the data ink ratio. This is where the “total amount of data ink” is divided by the “total ink to produce the graphic.” In essence, anything that does not help tell a story should be removed. 

It’s also important to make sure this one-page report is on brand. Your digital and marketing teams should already have branded icons and hex colour codes, so we would recommend reaching out to them for a template.

Must-Do #3: Only Include What the C-Suite Cares About

First and foremost, your report should include your northstar CX metric. This figure should be an overall score of all your touchpoints combined. It signifies the overall customer health of the business. 

Next, include customer churn numbers in the report. The number of customers defecting from your business is highly correlated to their customer experience with your brand. Make sure you include total churn numbers, not net flow of customers. 

Net flow of customers can mask the extent of customer defection due to the amount of money business pour into sales and acquisition. It is surprising how much money businesses spend on acquisition, yet they have the tightest rules for their customer service agents on what they can refund or grant as loyalty points. 

That leads us next to customer complaints and cases. CEOs need to be aware of the number of complaints that have been recorded, how long it takes to resolve them, and the satisfaction outcome of these complaints. 

What not to include? Agent friendliness, branch cleanliness, etc. Those questions are in your surveys to inform the front line and middle management, but are not needed in this report.

Must-Do #4: Show CX Scores Over Time

Showing a single score from an isolated month leaves a lot of key information out of the report. Instead, show CX scores over time so the CEO can see the trend. 

Let’s say you presented an NPS score of 60 with an upward green arrow showing a month-over-month increase of 2. Seems good, right? But, what if the business consistently had an NPS of around 80 for the previous 6 months? In light of this new context, the 60 score with the upward arrow is misleading. CEOs are interested in the direction of the business, not necessarily current scores. As I said before, their role is to steer the ship.

Must-Do #5: Include Customer Comments

CEOs need to be aware of what customers are saying. Copying and pasting your text analytics bar graph is not enough—there needs to be more context. Therefore, the data should be presented in an actionable and relatable way. 

We recommend segmenting your text analytics into three core categories: people, product/price, and process. These are three pillars that underpin an organisation and it is important to highlight the key strengths and weaknesses of each pillar. 

Make sure to also include customer verbatims of common themes. This turns black and white data into a real story with emotion. If a customer posted on your social media about an issue, include it, especially if it shows the pain point’s impact on the customer. Make sure you are showing common trending themes—your CX dashboards should already highlight these to you, so you should not have to go digging each month.

Must-Do #6: Show CX Impact 

Finally, it’s great to highlight the wins of the CX team. Include a section of positive initiatives the CX team has taken on to improve the customer experience or even examples of how frontline staff have gone above and beyond to solve a customer issue. This can help bridge the gap between the c-level and the people responsible for your direct customer experience.

At most organisations, the c-suite has probably never stepped foot in their contact centre. They often view the contact centre as something that has to be there and therefore, they might try to cut costs there as much as possible. To protect this asset, it’s up to you to change the perception of the CEO and highlight how these frontline staff financially contribute to the growth of the company by turning detractors into promoters. 

Wrapping Up

Best practice for exec-level CX reports is simplicity. Stick to a one-page, infographic-styled report that showcases key trending metrics with summarised common customer feedback. Speak with your customer success manager to set up dashboards that will have the information ready to go at any time! 

If you liked this blog, our new eBook will take your customer experience reports to the next level. Download “How To Tell A Story Using Market Research Data” for free here!

How Employee Experience Impacts Your Business

You’ve heard it time and time again: employees are your greatest asset for business success. 

We all know it’s true, but only a few experts can articulate (and prove) how the employee experience directly impacts the bottom line. And perhaps that’s why so many brands stick to the customer experience and fail to include employees in their efforts. The thing is, however, that the customer experience and the employee experience overlap in so many ways.

In the first episode InMoment’s “XI Expert Take” video series, VP of Global Employee Experience Stacy Bolger dives into that overlap and explains how businesses can leverage their employee experience for organization-wide success. Here are a couple of takeaways we want to highlight for you:

Lack of EX Investment Equals Significant Revenue Drainage

As a part of her role at InMoment, Stacy Bolger often visits brands to brainstorm solutions to their greatest EX challenges. Despite the fact that these brands span across industries and the globe, Bolger has found that she often sees the same phenomenon unfold: brands that don’t have a strategy in place to survey their employees lose money.

In her “XI Expert Take” episode, she uses the example of a call center to bring this point to life. In her story, call center agents regularly take the same call about a process inefficiency that causes customers frustration.

“Let’s say that [in that call center] 150 representatives take a call [for the same issue] twenty times per week. That comes out to three thousand times per week. At eight dollars per call, that now has translated to $24,000 a week on the same call. And when we annualize it? That comes to $1.2 million a year that we are spending on a single call type and a process that a frontline employee has the insight to fix, knows the solution to, and yet that brand simply does not have the process with which to gather that feedback.”

That’s right. If the brand in Stacy’s example simply surveyed its employees asking for insights about the customer experience, it could save over a million dollars! And though this situation is hypothetical, the same kind of revenue drain is all too real for brands that fail to invest in the employee experience and examine the voice of employee (VoE).

Failure to Listen to Employees Leads to Lower Engagement

Voice of employee initiatives definitely excel at removing customer-unfriendly processes, but they also are absolutely vital to keeping employee morale up and churn down. Why? Because employees who feel listened to feel valued, are more engaged, and are likely to stick around a lot longer.

Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. If you kept bringing up a recurring process or operations issue to your manager, but nothing was being done to fix that issue on a large scale, how would you feel? You’d feel small, you’d feel ignored, and you’d feel as if all the work you put in day after day amounts to nothing in the eyes of your employer. If you felt that way, would you stick around?

It’s safe to say that no one would enjoy that situation. And when unsatisfied employees leave, your organization loses tenured, passionate employees and a significant amount of money. In fact, turnover can cost a company about 33% of

an employee’s annual salary. How? Because when an employee leaves, the business has to take on multiple costs, including the cost to recruit and the cost to train! 

Putting a voice of employee program into place prevents this drainage. It creates a strategy with which brands can survey their employees about the customer experience. And when you combine strategic listening with advanced analytics that unearth trends in that data, you can alert the right teams within the company to take action and make change. 

When the employee sees a process they’ve flagged as an issue transformed into something more customer friendly, they feel like an imperative part of the organization (which, in truth, they are).

Tying Business Value Back to Employee Initiatives

In the rest of her episode, Stacy highlights other areas where employee initiatives excel, does some quick math to quantify the results, and tells you the steps you should take to get the ball rolling. 

But don’t take our word for it. You can watch the full twenty minute session for free here!

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