The New Rules of Designing Customer Experiences

05/10/2017 09:16 am ET Updated May 10, 2017

By Robi Ganguly

The important question is no longer, “Is that customer visiting my website?” or “Is that a mobile app customer?” It doesn’t matter. Consumer expectations aren’t dependent upon the channel anymore. Because of smartphones, the customer experience (CX) has shifted from being contained in silos to being a seamless blur independent of the channel it takes place in.

Today’s customer is on the go, always connected, and one bad experience away from leaving you forever.

A study by Forrester discovered that people are willing to pay almost five times as much for an exceptional customer experience over an experience that doesn’t meet their expectations. Consumers aren’t just saying that either — they’re putting their money where their mouth is. CX innovators lead companies with poor experiences in growth by more than 500 percent.

Consumers’ new expectations for connected experiences are high and require a new paradigm for designing CX to meet or exceed their expectations. It’s essential that brands embrace this change in expectation and design their customer experience accordingly. Designing CX within the new paradigm is dependent upon two points: voice and choice. Based on what I've seen, I've developed the following ways to think about these two new rules:

Give Customers a Voice

With mobile devices, every person is just a few swipes away from talking about your company publicly, privately or both. This capability is just starting to be utilized en masse. There have never been more customer conversations or platforms for those conversations to take place. Customers use their phones to post on social media, leave ratings and reviews, text and more -- all in a matter of minutes. And there's no shortage of customer experiences to talk about: some are well designed, others are horrible and frustrating, while many are mediocre and forgettable.

The shift in customer expectations presents a huge opportunity to move from being in a reactive state to a proactive one. In an environment where every customer has a voice, companies should seek out customers, wherever they are, and ask them how they’re doing.

Leveraging your mobile app to ask customers for their thoughts opens up pandora’s box of untapped feedback that you can use to direct your product map, close gaps in your CX, test new features, etc. Gone are the days where you have to wait months to find out how a new feature resonates with your audience. For example, one of our clients sent an in-app survey to people who had recently used a new beta feature in their app. They received 10,000 responses within the first week.

T-Mobile [disclosure: T-Mobile is a client of Apptentive] is a good example of a company that gives their customers a voice. It has embedded in-app surveys throughout the customer journey that people can click on and fill out when (and if) they feel like it. Additionally, it has set up two-way messaging within the app that connects customers to a real person instead of a bot, and gives customers the option to schedule a call with one of its customer care representatives too.

There are a number of different ways you can give customers a voice. Consider setting up social media accounts dedicated to customer service. Design your app to be a listening tool with surveys and other feedback channels that make it easy for customers to get in touch with you however they prefer (whether that’s email, phone, text or two-way in-app messaging). If your company isn’t easy to talk to, you risk losing a customer.

Be Conscientious About Consumers’ Choices

The number of choices consumers have has exploded online. We can walk into a furniture store, find something we like, and buy it on the spot in the store, on our phone, or from a competitor who has a much better price.

As a consumer, the current state of being is to constantly research and ask questions. Is this the best price? Is this product highly rated? Is this vendor's return policy as good as Amazon’s? Will this company stand behind the purchase I make?

Because people are constantly aware of how many options there are, they are always one bad interaction away from spending their money at another company. All it takes is one experience where the customer doesn’t feel heard or they aren’t able to get a resolution for them to look at another option.

Above All, Be Proactive

All customers are mobile today, which means they can easily exercise their voice and find new choices, anytime, anywhere. In order to embrace what this means to your business, you have to focus on proactively talking to and learning from your customers. As much as possible, try to get in front of your customers to find out how they’re doing and learn about how to make them happy.

Customers are going to talk regardless of whether anyone is listening. Smart companies capitalize on that. You can let your customers express themselves in a vacuum or you can direct them to a place (by proactively asking for their feedback) where your team can learn and the customer can be heard.

Amazing customer experiences are designed to recognize, embrace and incorporate consumers’ voices. If customers know their voices are heard and your CX stands up to their expectations, that combination will infinitely improve your chances of always being their first choice. The choice is yours. What will you do?

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Robi Ganguly is the CEO of Apptentive, the easiest way for companies with a mobile app to listen to, engage and retain their customers.

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