The phrase “customer experience” (CX) is often thought of in terms of the way that customers interact with an online interface or web page, or the service they receive from a call centre or when making a purchase. However, customer experience is a much more difficult concept to encapsulate than that because it goes beyond an interface, interaction or transaction, and comprises too of a mixture of concepts like privacy, personalisation, individuality, brand value or “weight,” and critically, trust.
If your business sells online, then establishing a bond of trust between you and your customers (consumers or other companies – it’s irrelevant in this context) is not something that happens by accident. And even if it’s sought after proactively by astute businesses and organisations, it can be difficult to attain and is even more easily lost, just like trust in human to human relationships.
In online commerce terms, the first step in creating positive customer experiences is establishing and building up trust, a process which in practical terms starts by ensuring privacy and personalisation. People with whom you do business online need to be sure that their data, given freely to you as an organisation, is safely held, respected and never misused. And secondly, the customer would like to be treated as an individual, so shown a degree of personalisation, based on previous interactions or preferences indicated on the first contact.
On that first score, privacy, it’s probably worth saying that depending on where you do your business in the world, it’s a good idea to go well above and beyond any stipulations and laws of the region where it comes to data privacy and security. Legislatures are infamously slow on the uptake when it comes to digital matters, and merely adhering to local data protection governance may not be enough to convince a potential customer that their data is in safe hands.
The second element of trust, personalisation, is also a practical matter. Creating a personalised service to every customer via what’s essentially an anonymous channel – online – is a difficult thing to achieve, but one that is, as we’ve established, a cornerstone of a positive customer experience.
The creation of a fuller picture of the way your organisation does business, will combine operational data (the hard facts and figures coming from your business processes, such as sales, financials, supply chain) with experience data that tells you why the customer behaved a certain way or made a decision based on what they were feeling (where and why a customer abandoned a cart, or why a wholesaler has cut their order levels, for example). Creating brand loyalty and repeat business means a process, therefore, of business “soul-searching” in combination with hard, empirical facts. That way, you build trust, ensure privacy and provide personalisation.
The importance of not just considering customers in this journey might raise some eyebrows, but many businesses sell down multiple channels: to various retailers, distributors, markets, resellers, and direct to customers. As you build trust and create positive customer experiences, you should find that because of brand awareness and developing loyalty, more business will come to you and repeat business will build, down each channel. If your distribution methods include direct sales, they too should increase – in some quarters the figures here are seen as the “purest” indicator of brand loyalty.
There’s also access to an online marketplace that offers further extensibility through other apps, integrations with common business systems and various data mining and publishing mechanisms, so you can build your platform using what are essentially ready-mades.