Picture the scene: you’ve popped into a shop to pick up a ‘treat’ you saw through the window; cake, a piece of vintage clothing or limited edition jewelry.The line is long, and you keep getting “I’m sorry, I’ll be with you as soon as I can” looks from the store employees. For this reason you stay until they can serve you. While this customer experience model may still work offline for speciality items, it doesn’t always work in the digital world.
In a virtual shopping reality, customers are far less forgiving, and if you don’t have them at "hello", they will instantly dump their shopping basket and head straight to your competitor. In fact, research has shown that even a ten-second wait for a page to load can make half of your customers give up and quit. Milliseconds matter, with Microsoft finding that a website begins to lose traffic to competitors if it takes 250 milliseconds longer to load.
Thanks to the increasingly powerful “Uberized” millennial consumer (you know, the one that expects a ride within five minutes and their groceries to be delivered that day), the whole market is now rife with impatience, especially when using the internet. Online customers expect far quicker response rates, with 66% demanding same-day response as the standard, and 43% expecting to be contacted within an hour.
For these reasons, business commentators are heralding customer experience as the “new marketing,”or as cited by Forrester: “the new battleground.”
To put this in context, at the beginning of the decade 36% of companies competed primarily on the basis of customer experience. Now that figure is 89% according to Gartner. Consequently, the main weaponry companies are interested in developing relate to the customer experience: by next year it’s projected that half of all consumer product investments will relate to ‘customer experience innovations’. If you deliver a good experience, there’s less churn, better customer relationships, more brand equity and more opportunities to monetise. This is true for any product that is commoditized, particularly when you look at specialized goods vs. those that are generally available. In my case, I choose to use an iPhone over Samsung because it’s an all around better product. However, for things like ride sharing, banking and telco, there is little to differentiate within the core product.
But what does a “winning” digital customer experience actually look like? The most defining characteristic is consistency. Whichever channel a customer is using – whether it be mobile, tablet or TV – they want their experience to be seamless. They expect their providers to be be always-on and instantly-gratifying. They want to gain control of their products and services and feel empowered, so they can make changes to their accounts at the touch of a screen.
As the gateway to the mobile internet, it’s particularly important that CSPs are ahead of this disruptive curve. Telcos are used to dealing in milliseconds when it comes to connecting customers to their networks. Now they must apply that same thinking and approach across everything their customers do. They must apply their concept of network reliability and quality of service to their customers’ entire journey. They have managed to hide the complexity of signing up to a network. Now it’s time to be consistent and hide the complexity of customer experience. If they get this right, they will earn their customers' trust and advocacy. Get it wrong and, in these ruthlessly impatient times, your brand will lose out to the competition.