In this age of social media and instant communication, customers share their experiences broadly, especially if those experiences are negative. People vote with their feet, taking their business elsewhere based on the comments of friends, peers, and even strangers online. Businesses therefore need to understand that the customer experience is critical to financial success.
The impact of social media cuts both ways: while customers can share their experiences, both good and bad with all their followers, businesses themselves can clearly hear what customers are saying. In theory, this should make it simple to deliver an experience that delights customers and has them lining up to buy from the company again and recommend it to their friends.
However, too many businesses are failing to provide an exceptional customer experience and online retailers are amongst the worst culprits. In a global research study, Qualtrics surveyed 1,700 online shoppers including respondents from Australia and New Zealand. These customers said they believe their feedback is ignored 40% of the time, regardless of whether complaints are given via social media, surveys, or made directly to staff.
Online shoppers have high expectations for how quickly retailers should reply to questions and complaints. Nearly half (46%) of respondents expect a response to their social media post on the day of posting, while the majority of online shoppers expect a response within a few days (82%).
The same survey found that 61% of shoppers base their expectations on opinions shared through social media or referrals from family and friends.
Therefore, retailers and other businesses that fail to collect, analyse, and, most importantly, act on feedback from customers are missing out on a huge opportunity to grow their businesses.
Most companies offer a platform for feedback, whether it’s a simple Facebook page or a more formal survey process. However, too many companies gather this feedback then fail to act on it. Retailers who do this should stop asking for feedback altogether. The damage that can be done by asking for feedback then failing to act on it is significant, and can be worse than never asking for feedback at all. This is because customers develop a more intensely negative opinion of the brand if they’re asked for feedback, then never see a result, compared with how they would feel if they had never had the opportunity to provide feedback. People want to be listened to. When a company says it’s listening, then demonstrates that it hasn’t listened, people feel betrayed.
When retailers receive feedback they need to act fast so customers know their voice has been heard and their suggestions considered. Even if the customer’s initial experience was negative, by demonstrating that the business is eager to rectify the situation, retailers can turn unhappy customers into loyal ones.
Managing the customer experience takes more than simply listening to their feedback and making changes. Providing an excellent customer experience means listening to the right customers, at the right time, through the right channel and then acting on that feedback either individually or systemically to improve the experience journey. Turning customers from merely being satisfied into being promoters for the brand depends on delivering outstanding experiences across every touch-point. For online retailers, their digital experience is a key part to success.
Firstly, online retailers must identify key moments. Google Analytics can tell you a lot of information about how visitors enter your site and how frequently they visit, but they can’t tell you the why. This where feedback comes in. For an online retailer, that key moment may occur within seconds of a customer landing on a product page or at check out. Each retailer’s key moments will be different because your site visitors are different, but the underlying principle remains that if you can engage your customers where it matters most, you can drastically improve site conversion and create customers who keep coming back.
Online retailers must also target customers at the right time. Requesting for feedback as soon as someone hits your website will only cause annoyance. Online retailers must give customers a chance to engage with your site, which in turn allows you to build rich profiles based on their behaviour. It is also recommended not to use the same questions over and over. Consider behavioural or profile-based targeting, which allows you to engage a customer at critical moments. For example, leveraging a sophisticated experience management tool, will allow you to intercept a website visitor who has been idle on a page for a certain number of time and ask if they need help finding an item. Similarly, you can intercept a frequent return visitor with special offers such as free shipping.
When online retailers leverage an experience management platform, it can be extremely powerful as it allows you make big impacts on your digital experience and overall site conversion. Engaging site visitors at the right time not only gives online retailers the insight they need to automate and streamline processes but also improve the overall customer experience. By knowing customer pain points, online retailers can adapt their services to deliver more value and in turn increase their customer’s propensity to buy and overall their return on investment.
When online retailers get experience management right, they will be disproportionately positively rewarded and those who get it wrong, will be disproportionately punished in terms of lost customers, lost revenue, reduced market share and damaged brand reputation.
About the Author
Bill McMurray is the Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Japan, Qualtrics. The company builds solutions to help its customers gather, analyse and taking meaningful actions with data that’s relevant to their employees, customers and markets.