How strong is your partnership with your contact center leadership?
Not that long ago, strong, strategic collaborations between CMO and Customer Care were rare. While the marketing role was focused on everything related to attracting customers and driving sales revenue, the contact center was perceived as a cost center.
While the word empathy is easy to define for individual human beings, it has proven to be a lot trickier when asking an entire organization to be a consistently deliver an empathetic brand experience.
And that has become an urgent problem.
For some leading brands, a whole-hearted focus on building and sustaining brand empathy began long before last year. But for most, the pandemic intensified consumer emotions and needs throughout North America, exposing glaring gaps between what customers expect and what they experience began to widen.
Because, when a customer who is experiencing worry, vulnerability, and isolation reaches out to a brand they patronize, their don’t just expect courtesy, kindness, respect and accurate answers to their questions.
They need those things. But turning an entire organization into a truly empathetic business capable of meeting those needs is complex challenge. It doesn’t happen just by hiring a new CXO. As I’ve said so many times and as Mark Zablan points out in a recent article for Fast Company, customers crave a sense of connection when they interact with a brand. And after the year they’ve had, today’s customers have learned how to get their needs met.
They key, of course, is to build CX initiatives on a true foundation of empathy. And the key to that lies in making careful, long-term investments in how senior brand leaders set CX vision and how mindfully they collaborate with every partner – especially their customer care partner – in delivering on that vision.
You can read the entire article below. If you would like to learn more about how Skybridge Americas delivers empathetic customer experiences at every point of contact, please reach out. We would love to talk!
Why empathy is core to closing the customer experience gap
As the adoption of digital channels skyrockets, the businesses able to thrive are the ones that understand their customers’ needs and struggles, says this customer engagement leader.
By Mark Zablan
The last 12 months have been a crash course in customer experience for business leaders. Throughout 2020 and into 2021, enterprise organizations have been forced to rethink every customer touch point and rebuild their customer journeys at record speed. According to a McKinsey survey of C-level executives and senior business leads, digital transformation initiatives for U.S. businesses were accelerated by three to four years as companies were forced to activate new ways to reach customers and manage customer care.
The driving force behind these digital transformation efforts? Empathy. As the adoption of digital channels skyrocketed, the businesses able to thrive were the ones that understood—and were sensitive to—their customers’ needs and the struggles they faced. Business leaders prioritized digital transformation initiatives, not only to manage purchase transactions but to anticipate customer expectations. A Gartner survey of more than 6,000 customers underscored the need for empathetic business practices, revealing that proactive customer service programs (those that anticipate customer needs) increased net promoter scores and customer satisfaction scores by a full percentage point.
Now, more than a year into such massive business disruptions, the customer experience gap continues to remain a challenge for nearly every industry. Businesses have had to play catch-up as the number of customers going online to engage with businesses jumped significantly, with many consumers moving across the digital landscape, browsing brand websites, using apps, and switching between social platforms on a regular basis. After the roller-coaster ride of the past year, business leaders are facing multiple questions: How do we retain customers? How do we increase customer lifetime value? And, more important, how do we grow our revenue?
The key to these challenges hinges on a brand’s ability to close the customer experience gap by building more empathetic business practices.
WHAT IS THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE GAP?
The customer experience gap is centered on a customer’s expectations and the brand’s inability to meet those expectations: Brands believe they are delivering a top-notch customer service, while consumers report a less than satisfactory brand experience. The concept is not new. More than five years ago, research showed that 85% of brands believed they were delivering exemplary customer experiences, while less than 65% of customers were happy with brand experiences.
The disconnect between brands and customers has only intensified during the past year due to a number of reasons. For one, the Gen Z population is growing faster than any other demographic. These young adults are digital natives—they have grown up on screens, navigating their adult life through their mobile devices. This consumer segment is not connecting with a brand via a single channel. They are jumping in and out of the customer journey, visiting a brand’s social account, messaging the brand via Snapchat, and comparing products on Amazon, all channels outside of the brand’s control. The cross-channel proliferation of Gen Z is becoming more and more significant to the customer journey while simultaneously widening the customer experience gap.
And it’s not just a specific demographic impacting the customer experience gap. Social media adoption for customer care issues boomed during the pandemic, with many consumers turning to a business’s social page, not only to research a product or service but to purchase a product or engage with the brand over a product question or customer service issue.
With the introduction of in-app purchasing capabilities on sites like Facebook and Instagram, the full customer journey can now happen within one visit on a brand’s social media page—again, on platforms not directly controlled or owned by the brand. This social commerce trend means brands must devise new strategies to identify, acquire, and retain customers outside of their owned digital properties.
HOW EMPATHY CAN CLOSE THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE GAP
If your primary KPI (key performance strategy) is revenue growth, then your focus should be on boosting retention rates and increasing the lifetime value of your customers. These objectives go hand-in-hand with customer experiences built on empathy. Customers want to do business with brands that care about them and demonstrate the same values that they practice. (Last year, a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers found that 60% want companies to take a position on social issues.)
Brands aiming to grow their customer base, retention rates, and revenue must demonstrate that they care not only about the customer but about social issues and the world at large. Organizations that fail to align their values with their customers’ values are not only ignoring the customer experience gap, they risk losing millions of dollars in revenue. In fact, three years ago Forbes reported that poor customer experiences were costing businesses $75 billion a year, with many consumers ceasing to do business with a brand because they did not feel appreciated.
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
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