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3 Ways to Take Customer Experience from Underwhelming to Unforgettable

By now, you’ve probably heard about the importance of experience as a brand differentiator. Experts have declared today’s market the “Experience Economy” and we’ve been told again and again that millennial and Gen Z consumers are far more interested in spending their money on experiences over things. But what exactly makes an exceptional customer experience (CX)? And how do marketers today know if they’re actually keeping up with the rising tide of consumer expectations?

In an effort to better understand the current state of the CX landscape, Acquia commissioned our second annual global survey of more than 6,000 consumers and 600 marketers. The results captured in "Deliver the CX They Expect: Customer Experience Trends Report” casts a spotlight on the fact that brands today are falling short. 90% of customers and 94% of senior marketers believe that when it comes to delivering good customer experience, most brands fail to meet expectations

So how can we improve these interactions and turn customer insights into memorable, welcoming experiences? It’s all about having a CX strategy that combines human perception and innovative technology.  

1. Keep It Simple

When people talk about having an amazing experience touring a foreign country or climbing a mountain for the first time, they’re talking about the action and how they felt at an exact moment. If someone asked you to describe your “travel abroad experience,” you remember the sights you saw, the food you tasted, the people you met, etc. You’re likely not going to reminisce about booking your flight or packing your suitcase...that is, unless, something went wrong. We only tend to remember the logistics of an experience if it was poor. So if your flight was canceled at the last minute or the airline lost your luggage, your opinion of that brand might be forever tarnished. 72% of consumers say, “I am loyal to certain brands, but as soon as I have a bad experience with them, I move on.” With such high stakes for brands to earn and retain customers, it’s better to leave no impression than a bad one. The baseline for creating experiences should be making them as streamlined and unobtrusive as possible.  

Another challenge brands are facing in delivering stronger and more connected CX is the need to be always on and consistently communicating across a huge ecosystem of channels. Every time someone watches a webinar, speaks with a support representative or shares content on Twitter, they’re having a new digital experience. It's essential to make these behaviors feel seamless and not add needless friction to the customer journey with a difficult to navigate homepage, poor search visibility or other complicated requests. Our research found that 90% of consumers are looking for a convenient experience first and foremost when they interact with a brand online. Before you start designing what your experience will look like, make sure you’re meeting this most basic requirement: convenient and simple delivery. 

2. Prioritize Personalization

However, a convenient experience doesn’t mean a generic one. You know that warm feeling you get when you visit your local café and the barista not only remembers your coffee order but takes a few minutes to ask about your kid’s soccer game or your recent vacation? This attention to detail and going above and beyond is what turns a simple transaction into a satisfying experience that customers are likely to remember and choose to have again. Exceeding expectations and building long-term customer loyalty is all about getting these details right. However, oftentimes a brand’s attempt at personalization begins and ends with a generalized email template that swaps in their first name, but doesn’t do anything else to distinguish them from the rest of the thousands of names on their contact list. Today, 66% of customers said that when they engaged with businesses online, they felt as if they were being treated “as any other generic customer, not as an individual with my own preferences and needs.”   

However, those brands that do go above and beyond to listen to their users are rewarded with stronger, long-term customer relationships. Services like Netflix keep people binge-watching for hours by offering them personalized recommendations based on the genres of shows and movies they watch most. Any time a customer engages with a brand – whether that’s filling out a form, adding something to a shopping cart or opening an email – they’re offering valuable information about themselves. So don’t ignore them! Instead, use personalization to show that you’re paying attention. 

Even without a huge budget or large marketing team at your disposal, creating effective personalizations are possible as long as you have the right strategy in place. Good personalization depends on accessing and understanding consumer data. The more information you have about a specific customer, the more you are able to tailor your content to their needs and preferences. 85% of marketers said, ”A human touch is needed, in addition to technology, for a positive customer experience.” The strategy and thought behind any personalization matter far more than the packaging. 
When running personalizations, brands should be helpful, not creepy. With great data comes great responsibility, and privacy should still be a top concern for marketers. 77% of consumers reported, “Brands should not be able to use my personal data to send me more marketing messages/advertisements.” You want to anticipate what a user is searching for and bring it to them at that moment rather than blast your marketing messages at them every time they explore a new page or channel.

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3. Utilize “Open” Technology 

Many marketers are prioritizing personalization as part of their overall strategy, but believe they lack the resources to deliver personalized content at scale. Our survey found that 57% of senior marketers believe that “technology has made it harder, not easier, to offer customers personalized experiences.” Marketers have more tech tools available to them than ever before, yet too often the information being collected cannot be leveraged between different systems. 

We also found that nearly half of marketers surveyed face challenges with their technology when trying to create seamless, modern customer experiences:

  • 51% of marketers struggle with the speed at which they can bring new customer experiences to the market
  • 49% struggle when dealing with technology that is too complex to create good customer experiences. 

In order to do personalization right and not get overwhelmed by unwieldy and unrealistic projects, marketers shouldn’t try to do everything at once. Instead, it’s best to use data responsibly and transparently to establish a foundation of trust with your audience. Starting with personalized content based on basic data like geolocation, device type or pages visited is a simple way to segment customers and start building out personalized offers. Once you’ve established this baseline of trust, it’s much easier to start experimenting with tools like AI and marketing automation that can design connected, contextual personalized experiences at every touchpoint and even predict the action a customer is most likely to take next. 

A single brand experience is the sum of many connected parts. Everything from content management to search and navigation to commerce needs to flow together to build a holistic customer pathway. The key to achieving this is an open approach to technology. 

Open marketing and CX technology create seamless, omnichannel experiences that learn customer preferences over time and adjust responses based on a user’s engagement history. Using data to drive your personalization efforts requires investing in technology that can anticipate a consumer’s needs and is integrated throughout the entire customer journey. When data is able to move freely through open integrations and API-first technology, marketing teams have access to a comprehensive view of a customer in real time. This means they can have a real dialogue with their audience and adjust messaging to suit their customer’s responses rather than guess at what they want. An open tech stack removes any limitations on a marketer’s creativity and ambitions, empowering marketing teams to continuously experiment and refine new channels of communication and grow their relationships with customers over time.

Customer expectations are constantly changing and it’s the responsibility of brands to keep up with their needs rather than offer delayed, reactive solutions. Download "Deliver the CX They Expect: Customer Experience Trends Report” for a full look at what consumers expect and how marketers can deliver.

Lynne Capozzi

Lynne Capozzi

CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER Acquia, Inc.

As Acquia’s chief marketing officer, Lynne Capozzi oversees all global marketing functions including digital marketing, demand generation, operations, regional and field marketing, customer and partner marketing, events, vertical strategy, analyst relations, content and corporate communications.

Lynne is one of Acquia’s boomerang stories, first serving as Acquia CMO in 2009. Lynne left Acquia in 2011 to pursue her nonprofit work full-time. She returned to Acquia in late 2016 to lead the marketing organization into its next stage of growth.

Prior to her experience at Acquia, Lynne has held various marketing leadership roles in the technology space. She served as CMO at JackBe, an enterprise mashup software company for real-time intelligence applications that was acquired by Software AG, before that Lynne was CMO at Systinet, which was acquired by Mercury Interactive. Prior to that, Lynne was a VP at Lotus Development, which was later acquired by IBM.

Outside of her work at Acquia, Lynne is on the board of directors at the Boston Children’s Hospital Trust and runs a nonprofit through the hospital.