Since the term “Experience Economy” was coined by Pine and Gilmore in their 1998 HBR report, the theory has been growing not only in popularity but also in substance. For many brands, customer experience has become the central concern. However, the efforts to deliver what consumers wanted gave birth to a side product – the customer experience gap.
Experience is a very intrinsic concept. Hence, brands have a hard time grasping what it takes to deliver a superior customer experience.
This article will examine how the conversational approach and use of chatbots can help you bridge the CX gap.
In essence, the customer experience gap is the disparity between what the brand and customer consider important. Hence, in a typical CX gap scenario, the business believes it is customer-centric but the customers disagree.
Perhaps the most cited study regarding this issue is that of Bain & Company form 2005 which shows that of the brands surveyed, 80% believe they provide great customer experience but only 8% of their customers agree:
Now, you might argue that this data is outdated. And indeed, it’s old. But newer studies are not delivering any more optimistic results.
2012 McKinsey survey pointed out some interesting results. The aspects with which most brands affiliated had little or no influence on brand experience and vice versa.
Similarly, a 2016 study by Capgemini further confirmed the huge differences in perception of customer-centricity between businesses and their customers.
Geographically, Aisa-Pacific seems to be the only region where customer perception of centricity exceeds that of companies’.
Analyzing the issue by industry, Internet services are the only area to come close to a match. Regardless, globally the disparity is still an incredible 45%
The Reasons Behind Customer Experience Gap
You are probably wondering how on earth can the CX gap be that wide.
Naturally, some degree of disparity is to be expected. But failures to provide reliable customer experience are hitting new records.
The reason behind this can be explained by the complexity of experience. Its personal nature leaves many businesses lacking the understanding of what customer-centricity actually means. Companies are not aware of what consumers really want as they continue to underestimate the emotional reality of the customers.
That’s not all though. The CX gap is, most likely, a combination of accumulated cracks in brands’ business practices as a whole.
i-Scoop identified six different types of gaps that can affect customer experience on a whole.
There is often a gap between:
- What brands think customers want and what they actually want;
- How brands perceive the value of the customer experiences they enable and how customers perceive that value;
- The “front-end” and the “back-office” of the businesses;
- Departments within the company;
- Brand promises and actual brand experiences;
- The ways companies seek business value and the ways they offer and benefit from customer value.
The key to overcoming the discrepancies is not simply collecting data but also reviewing company culture. Every single department should respect the customer-centric approach. Furthermore, it should be upheld by every level in the compnay hierarchy, from an intern to the CEO. Customer experience starts with the employee experience.
“Customer service is not a department, it’s a philosophy. It’s a culture. It’s to be embraced by every employee of an organization. If a company is going to focus on the customer, it has to ask, ‘Does our culture allow us to do that?”
– Shep Hyken, a public speaker and author on CX –
Whether you like it or not, CX has an undeniable impact on business. Study after study affirms the importance of delivering relevant and reliable customer experience.
For instance, 2016 Forrester research discovered that CX leaders grow their average revenue significantly faster than CX laggards.
The aforementioned study by Capgemini also published several persuasive stats. The study noted the stock price of the Digital Customer Experience Index leaders grew at a significantly faster rate.
Unsurprisingly, they also recorded a correlation between DCX index and customers’ willingness to spend.
Furthermore, 2017/18 Customer experience survey by PWC found that bad CX is driving customers away (even from the brands they love,) faster than anyone could expect:
Over a decade ago marketing gurus Don Peppers and Martha Rogers claimed that “Customer experience is the single most important factor for business success.” Today, there is no escaping it.
In his 2018 Forbs’ article, S. Hyken – CX specialist – went as far as to say that “Focusing on customer experience management (CXM) may be the single most important investment a brand can make in today’s competitive business climate.”
It looks like they are not far from the truth.
The whole customer experience and customer-centricity issues are very complex.
Sure, the approaches to delivering superior CX differ. But most experts and professionals agree that to truly improve customer experience the ideology has to permeate the entire company culture.
Just the marketing department or just the customer service department exhorting fractioned efforts here and there won’t make much difference. For CX to become your key competitive differentiator, everyone needs to be on board. Customers don’t see brands as a collection of departments but as unified entities.
Hence, we are not here to say that conversational tech will single-handedly save your ass and be a miracle cure to everything that “is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
However, there are applications of conversational chatbot strategies that can help to improve data collection and analytics as well as humanize and streamline customer interactions with the brand.
Understanding how digital transformation can empower you on your journey to meet customer expectations is especially important since 74% of marketers worldwide feel that technology has made it harder, not easier, to offer customers personalized experiences.
So, there are three key factors to keep in mind when considering the role of chatbot technology in CX:
- Bots and other conversational tech is not designed to substitute your employees but to empower them and make their job more focused and meaningful;
- The technology won’t magically “fix” CX if not supported and driven by a cross-functional, customer-centric company culture;
- Good conversational experience on the front-end means nothing if the collected data isn’t properly stored and/or analyzed and used to personalize future encounters.
There are four major ways you can leverage conversational and bot technology in closing the gap between your and your customers’ perception of CX you are offering.
One of the most explicit ways to leverage bots is in feedback collection. Turning your classic survey into a conversational experience has several advantages.
Firstly, a chatbot survey provides a friendlier and more interactive experience that can take place on a multitude of channels. Hence, customers have the opportunity to respond using a channel with which they feel comfortable, be it desktop, mobile or a messaging app like WhatsApp.
Secondly, bot surveys have shown to perform better, doubling, or even tripling conversions. Having more people tell you how they feel about your business increases your chances of understanding their needs and behaviors.
Last but not least, conversational interfaces allow you to react in real-time, giving you the chance to personalize the flow of a survey based on individual user responses. This not only allows you to analyze issues in more depth but also step in and provide customer support right there and then if necessary.
One of the most complex struggles brands face is providing efficient personalized experiences on a large scale. Automation, while necessary, often takes its toll on personalization leaving customers feeling alienated.
Chatbots can help you automate most of your regular business processes. However, they can do so while providing ample opportunities to personalize each and every interaction.
- Lead generation bots can score and qualify leads in real-time as well as adjust the number of asked questions as necessary (e.g. by integrating service such as ClearBit into your dialog flow, you can use user’s business email to retrieve maximum data possible and design the bot to only ask the information that is missing);
- You can turn the dreaded online form into a conversational form that not only converts better but also allows you to analyze and optimize any detected points of friction;
- Bots can help you humanize and personalize your brand storytelling communicating the story not only through narrative but also through character features and personality traits. Plus, the conversational element allows users to become part of the storytelling as they are the ones who decide how the conversation progresses.
- Using conditional logic in bot’s dialog flow can be utilized to create an incredibly specific journey for complex sets of conditions allowing your address multiple segments of your target audiences with a single bot.
As mentioned, one of the cracks in the system contributing to the overall customer experience gap is the divide among brand’s departments. Often, the main cause of troubles is the lack or failure of communication or even loss and misinterpretation of information. The issue is that consumers tend to see brands as single entities. They hardly ever form feelings about particular divisions of a company.
Conversational flows can be easily integrated with a plethora of tools such as Salesforce or other CRMs. They enable you to not only send new data to a variety of databases but also check against those databases to ensure no information is duplicated. Better yet, every single conversation can plug into several integrations at once which means that departments using different tools are able to keep the customer profile synchronized and controlled.
There is nothing that can sell a brand better than a happy, enthusiastic employee. Happy employees are the kind that helps close holes in your boat.
What does a chatbot have to do with employee fulfillment? Well, one of the downfalls of any kind of service is being too busy to attend everyone as well as losing time with a lot of basic cases that take away focus from the more complex issues.
Chatbots, if designed well, can work as the first line of defense. They are advanced enough to deal with simple questions and requests. If a query is out of their league they can identify it. Thus, even if a bot can’t deal with an issue it fulfills an important job of assessing the type of the problem and alerting the responsible department only.
In fact, according to a 2017 report by Statista, chatbots can have an indirect impact on how valued and satisfied employees feel:
It’s becoming more and more evident that quality CX is one of the determining factors setting apart business leaders from the rest.
While many companies are aware that customer experience is crucial and try to deliver what they believe is most important, most lack the understanding of what their customers value the most.
The key to success is to take a step back and identify the differences between business and customer values. While businesses tend to focus on the quality of the product or their position on the market, consumers wish to be treated as individuals and often focus on the manner in which a brand communicates and treats them.
Closing the customer experience gap is a complex process that should start at the top permeating into every department. Conversational chatbot tech, or any technology really, is nothing but a sharp tool that makes the bridge construction easier, however, it is up to you how you utilize it.
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