Customer Experience Is Built on Numbers

Thank goodness the first era of customer experience is over. Trends like this have a definite life cycle, and the first part was much like the ugly caterpillar that we couldn't wait to see turn into a butterfly, if only to get it to stop eating our plants.

CRM brought us the first era, which was weird, frankly. Companies obsessed about how to create a "relationship" with customers that mirrored a real personal relationship. They tried collecting all sorts of data on customer behavior thinking they could intuit enough from how long someone stayed on a page or which buttons people clicked to enable them to magically make good and relevant offers. It wasn't terribly successful.

Others thought that a customer experience ought to include atmospherics--ease of use, ambience, and especially things that you consume along with the product or service that you have signed up for. That's fairly easy to do if you are encountering customers in a brick-and-mortar setting. Good lighting, friendly people doing things that are relevant to the product and experience work. But since we are increasingly doing things online by either purchasing through e-commerce sites or subscribing to products as services, everything from the user interface to the ease of entering a credit card number comes under the microscope.

The question of what a business relationship is or ought to be, whether in a B2B or B2C setting, is very much still up for grabs, but we have hopefully learned a few things since our CRM salad days. Here are a few things that I have noticed.

Customers are affluent, educated, urban, aspiring, and busy. All of them? Of course not, but why quibble? Ask a thousand people how many of these attributes fit them and you will find very few who demur. That's the center of the bull's-eye today, so when you set out to create the ideal customer experience, keep these attributes in mind and you won't be disappointed.

This demographic suggests people who value service and will, perhaps, pay a little more for it or at least they won't be as price sensitive as people shopping at a bargain basement. That sounds like the makings of loyalty, and isn't customer loyalty really what we're after in creating a customer experience? So cater to it.

Make them feel less busy and less rushed by offering comprehensive service for your offering. Do this by remembering their needs and preferences and making your services available online and via mobile access.

Make them feel special. Figure out something exclusive that you can offer your best customers, whether it's early access to new products, features, sales, or new conveniences. Very little of that last sentence has anything to do with selling today's product today but it does have a lot to do with keeping customers loyal and returning. See? It's a relationship, not a transaction.

Ok, how do you do that?

Honestly, it depends on your business, so I can't tell you specifically, or maybe I can.  Stay away from stalking--following them around in person or on the website continuously asking can I help you?  Instead let your systems follow them around collecting data about what they buy and like and how they act. Then, and this is what separates the stalkers from the ninja marketers, use analytics to separate the noise from the truly valuable nuggets.

Know what you'll find? Two things, if you do this right. First, through analytics you will discover who your best customers are and you might also find that the target markets you so diligently cultivate might not include all the customer types that you want to address. More than one client has told me of a eureka moment when they found customers from a nontargeted industry all over their Web site.

Second, use predictive modeling. Too much attention has been lavished on analytics and too little on modeling. What's the difference? Analytics report on what is or was while modeling tells you what might come to pass. If analytics can tell you who your best customers are, modeling can literally get you more, as in tell me where I can find more customers with these attributes. Too many people forget that and use modeling only to come up with the next best offer after the customer says no, thanks. Without a doubt these are both important, but finding new customers is the hardest job known to humankind--okay, that's a stretch, but it needs all the help it can get.

When you concentrate on capturing data and analyzing and modeling it, you can quickly get to a point where certain measurements can be used repeatedly to run your business. You'll also have a much better sense of who your customers are even if you don't have a buddy-buddy relationship with each of them, and you'll hit new heights in building the kinds of customer experiences that keep them coming back.