Digital technologies are disrupting business models and changing customers’ expectations. According to Altimeter Group, digital customer experiences are being driven partly by technology and also by the evolution of customer behavior.
In 2014, your customers expect more. They want you to deliver customer experiences that are tailored to their needs. They want you to know when they have a problem, and they want you to deliver a solution, straight away.
Companies that can effectively engage digital customers at every touch point in the customer experience lifestyle will be the ones that saw ahead of the crowd and find a competitive advantage.
Irving Wladawsky-Berger, WSJ contributor, sums this up very well. He said, “A company can differentiate itself from competitors in one of two key ways: by providing superior customer experience or by offering the lowest prices. For companies that prefer the former, digital technologies are the best means of engaging with customers and providing them a superior experience at affordable costs. ”
This is something I’ve been discussing a lot with our customers at Client Heartbeat. As we enter the digital age, we are all losing our competitive advantages and points of differentiation. Now, with low barriers to entry and an abundant of information available to new entrants, competitors can easily mirror your product offering.
So unless you are competing on price (very risky), focusing on the customer experience and keeping customers happy is a viable way to regain a competitive edge. In fact, Forrester analysts Harley Manning and Stephen Powers go one step further. They say the “customer experience is your only source of sustainable competitive advantage.”
If you agree with Manning and Powers, this blog post is for you.
I’ll be exploring how three companies use digital customer experiences to deliver more value and create stronger loyalty – thus, improving their competitive advantage.
1. Hubspot uses Mobile Apps to extend the digital customer experience.
Hubspot Mobile App: Take the Power of HubSpot with You Everywhere.
Hubspot is an inbound marketing software platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.
Their typical customers are marketing savvy professionals who are constantly on the go, strategizing and implementing marketing strategies to drive new leads and sales. They might be out working with partners, hustling at meetups or attending conferences – in all scenarios, they are expected to keep a handle on their marketing initiatives.
So how does Hubspot exceed expectations and extend the customer experience?
They use a mobile app. “We know that your life as a marketer is hectic, and your phone is your trusted companion through the chaos. You need apps that can keep up with you, allowing you to stay connected to important data and the lifeblood of your business – leads,” said Juliette Kopecky, who was an inbound marketing specialist for Hubspot at the time.
The Hubspot mobile app helps its customers take all the important information they need to know, and puts it in an easy to use mobile app. This is a perfect example of using digital technologies to deliver convenience to the customer.
Convenience to track metrics while on the go. Convenience to instantly receive lead notifications. Convenience to post important social media updates while away from the computer.
In this example, you can see how customer expectations have changed over the past 10 years as a result of technology. Our behaviors are different; we are out of the office more and now rely on digital technologies to do our job.
Hubspot has done an extremely good job with this digital customer experience. They have been able to meet new customer expectations and deliver convenience. I’d go as far to say that this mobile app offers a strong competitive advantage against other inbound marketing software solutions (e.g. Hatchbuck and Infusionsoft do not have a mobile app.)
- Mobile is a great digital technology to add convenience: think about your customers and how you can add convenience via a mobile site or app.
- Customers are now more mobile than ever before. They expect your products and services to be accessible when they are on the go.
- Look at your competitors: are they using mobile as a competitive advantage to win new business? Can you risk losing customers because you haven’t leveraged a mobile app to extend of the customer experience?
2. Salesforce leverages user-generated content online to be more useful.
Salesforce: IdeaExchange – Success Community.
Salesforce is a leading provider of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions for small and large businesses.
Salesforce customers are all types of businesses with all sorts of needs. They use Salesforce as their main customer management system, but they also use it to connect to their other applications (think accounting, email, marketing). These customers like to customize the platform to meet their company needs. As a result, many are asking questions about how they can get their existing applications talking to Salesforce, or how they can configure Salesforce to do XYZ.
After answering a lot of idea requests, the company saw this as an opportunity to leverage user-generated content as a way to develop ideas.
They leveraged an online forum-style discussion board, IdeaExchange, to let customers post ideas and vote on ideas they would also like to see. This digital customer experience extends beyond the bare Salesforce product offering. It helps customers feel like they have a voice and that their ideas and opinions are being heard.
Allowing your users to contribute their thoughts, feelings, and ideas to the development process is extremely valuable. It helps customers be heard by the development team, and exposes the development team to the real issues faced by the users of their product.
This communication is invaluable when improving an existing product, and deciding where to spend limited development resources.
As a software company ourselves (Client Heartbeat), we know that we can’t implement every idea our customers give us. But what we do want to do is give our customers a voice – make them feel a part of the development process, make them feel we care. David Lumley, lead engineer at Client Heartbeat, adds: “It helps the development team hear users and exposes the development team to the real issues faced by the users of their product.”
This is essential because if a customer feels like they are not being heard, they will likely find a solution that will listen to them. Idea exchanges offer a platform to extend the customer experience in a digital world – making it easy for companies to listen to customer feedback.
- User-generated content is a great way to gather customer feedback and show that you care.
- It offers a way for customers to communicate their frustrations while also contributing to developing the product.
- These types of communities keep customers loyal. If customers feel like they are being heard, and their ideas are being added to the roadmap – they will likely also feel their expectations are being met.
3. The Athlete’s Foot uses content targeting to deliver better tailored email offers.
Leading the Way with Content Targeting: The Athlete’s Foot.
The Athlete’s Foot is an Australian retailer focused on the shoe industry. The group took its first digital steps two years ago with an ecommerce site. Now they have extended on that and started using digital technology to enhance the customer experience.
The company has started using Adobe Campaign, a marketing tool, to build customer profiles. For example, they know the shoe sizes and favorite colors and styles of their customers..
This has helped Athletes Foot create digital customer experiences that include personalized messaging and tailored offers. For example, in the past the company would send out an email blast to all their customers and generate x amount of revenue.
Now, they can send out an email about a specific show, ASIC Kayanos, but only send it to people that have a foot type that suits the shoe. By using the data from Adobe Campaign, they are able to see which customers will likely respond best to that particular style. “Through the data we can better target and identify that user experience,” said Mark Teperson, head of multi-channel at Athletes Foot.
Mark is spot on. Gone are the days of sending email blasts to your entire email list. The technologies are available for companies to gather important information about their customers and deliver them better emails that are more relevant.
Research by global computer and telecommunications research company, The Radicati Group, reveals that works can expect to receive 140 emails each day in 2018. That’s a lot of emails.
As customers, we are now expected to deal with more distractions. It will be the companies that can be more personalized and relevant that will win our attention. Athlete’s Foot is leading the way by using new digital technologies to offer their customers a better experience.
How are you engaging your customers via email? Do you have enough information to send them tailored information that they want to open and read?
These are the questions you should be asking yourself.
- Companies are fighting for customer’s attention – use digital technologies to tailor the customer experience by offering targeting content and messaging.
- Start capturing more information from your customers. A good start is to get an email address. Then look to capture data points like purchase behavior and topics of interest.
Digital technologies are changing customer expectations
As more and more companies move towards implementing CRM tools and focus on the customer experience, your customer’s behaviors will change.
They will start to expect you to deliver a better experience across all touchpoints: social, mobile, email and real life.
I challenge you to think about how you are going to handle these multi-touchpoint relationships. Do you have digital technologies that can help create better experiences?
If you don’t, you’re competitors might.
Interested in learning more? I recommend these blog posts and resources:
- The Digital Transformation of the Customer Experience
- Digital Transformation Report by Altimeter
- Eight Areas You’ll Invest In For Great Digital Customer Experiences
- 5 Must-Have Digital Customer Experience Tools in the Age of the Customer
- Customer Experience Strategies: 5 Tactics That Work
- What is Customer Experience Management? Why Does It Matter?