Customer experience (CX) is a phrase readily used in sales and marketing circles in 2016. Although the in store environment is critical to the sale, Customer Experience encompasses more than just the experience at point of sale and its importance for your business. But what is it, why does it matter to the South African consumer, and how can you use it to drive business in a recessionary and competition environment?
What is Customer Experience?
According to SAS, customer experience, also known as CX is defined as your customers’ perceptions, both conscious and subconscious, of their relationship with your brand resulting from all their interactions with your brand during the customer life cycle. Gartner defines customer experience management as the practise of designing and reacting to customer interactions for the purpose of meeting or exceeding customer expectations, thereby increasing customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.
The goal of CX is to create a consistent customer experience across all touch points that meets or exceeds the standard you have set in terms of what you want to deliver. At every touch point, you will ensure that the promise of a positive experience is being upheld and that the customer can experience a certain level of superior service.
A positive customer experience is important in that customers are savvy and have the power to choose between competing companies.
Customer Experience Benefits
CX is a critical differentiator in today’s hyper-competitive, hyper-connected global marketplace and the benefits of good customer experience include
- Improved customer satisfaction
- Repeat customers and customer loyalty
- Increased customer advocacy and referrals
- Reduced customer churn
- Increased revenue and sales, especially from word-of-mouth sales
- Stronger customer relationships
- Strengthened brand preference through differentiated experiences – making you more competitive
Although South Africa is still considered a third world country, the wealth of the population is steadily improving, with the ranks of the upper and middle class growing. LSM 1 – 4 makes up roughly, 38%, LSM 5-6 is approximately 32%, LSM 7- 8 is sitting at 16% and LSM 9 – 10 is at 14%.
According to McKinsey & Company, over the past decade, more than three and a half million South Africans have been lifted out of extreme poverty. As of 2015, the country’s consuming class, defined as households with annual income exceeding $5,000, grew to encompass about nine million households, accounting for $191 billion. The recent recession has slowed down consumer spend, not surprisingly, then, that they are cutting back on spending, delaying purchases, and shopping around for the best possible deals.
A recent survey conducted by McKinsey&Company found the following interesting findings regarding South African shoppers and the importance of good customer experience:
- South Africans proactively search for savings, seventy-five percent of South Africans agreed that they’re “increasingly looking for ways to save money.”
- South Africans are brand loyal, but only if the price is right, three out of every four South African survey respondents said they’ve modified their buying behavior when it comes to their favorite brands.
- Once they trade down, they might not go back – 21% of South African consumers, are buying cheaper brands or private-label products instead of their preferred brands.
- South Africans shop across channels and find value at discounters, South Africans claimed to have shifted a considerable fraction of their spending toward modern retailers and away from the small independent retailers.
South African shoppers are developing and demanding more creative, engaging and integrating experiences from their brands. There is a rise in multi-channel access points, social media and digital platforms are becoming more and more important and your website is slowly acting as your store window and becoming an alternative to your store.
But what about retail and purchasing of consumer goods?
A survey of retail trade by PWC, found the following interesting facts.
- A compelling brand story that promises a distinctive experience is important:
Retailers should better establish a strong brand promise that solidifies a core of loyal customers. A high percentage of survey respondents were attracted to brands that tell a story in an engaging manner. 92% of South Africans say they shop at their favourite retailers/brands because they trust the brand.
- Customised offers based on totally protected, personal preferences and information:
Online shoppers increasingly said they want personalisation based on their past purchases. Companies have implemented “what goes with recent purchases” or “showing you things you might be interested in”, “favourites” and re-marketing tactics.
- An enhanced and consistent experience across all devices:
As mobile based broadband internet penetration in South Africa is increasing and the use of mobile phones and apps will likely accelerate.
- Transparency, real time, into a retailer’s inventory
Consumers want actionable inventory information from retailers, pushing retailers to upgrade technology on their supply chain, stock-levels, how products are tracked, warehoused and distribution process/ timelines.
- Favourite retailers are everywhere
When shoppers were asked what they would do if their favourite retailer closed down its local store, 70% of South African respondents noted they would locate the next nearest physical store of the same retailer.
- Two-way social media engagement
Enthusiasm for social media by retailers and brands is driving consumers to engage, comment and even effect change. When asked what attracted them to a particular brand’s social media site, 49% of South African respondents noted attractive deals and promotions, 38% indicated the opportunity to participate in competitions and 36% are interested in new product offerings
Implementing effective customer experience management takes hard work, constant updating and commitment from everyone within the organization. Tiny changes can make or break your CX.
- Find the “little elephants”, the small ideas that will have a big impact.
- Always remember that a good CX will be driven by the customer and the customer needs and not technological possibilities.
- Constantly maintain and update customer profiles, the more you know your customers, the more effective you’ll be at delivering relevant offers to them.
- The more relevant your offers are, the closer the relationship between your business and your customer becomes, driving loyalty and retention.
- Try as best as possible to personalize customer interactions, customers have more presence, power and choice than ever before. If you don’t provide a personal, relevant, timely and insightful message, you will alienate them immediately. But if you do, you will drive brand loyalty.
- Create consistent brand experiences across channels. Keep consistent in your efforts to drive continuity and the customers’ expectations in terms of what to expect with your brand.
- Integrate channel and brand experiences.
- Understand customer journeys
- Understand customer moments of truth: What actually happened, how the customer felt or experienced what happened.
- Create and embed a customer-centric culture throughout the organisation’s levels.