Researchers: Customer Experience is the New Battlefield

Buyer behavior has changed, and brands that fail to change with it will see its profits sink, say researchers.

In today’s market, it’s the customer experience — not cost, quality, appearance, or other factors — that influence most buying decisions, and “the only truly durable competitive advantage,” argues Jake Sorofman, former research VP for Gartner.

It’s not a matter of opinion. Pull together findings from countless studies, surveys, and self-reported brand data, and the outcome is the same: Today’s buyers want every interaction to be connected, relevant and convenient, reports Salesforce.

How can Indianapolis-based audio visual integrator Electronic Evolutions help define the customer experience for your company?

That means making each step of the buyer/user experience as easy as can be, removing redundant steps, and looking for ways to delight customers at every turn.

It also means delivering a consistent experience each time someone interacts with your brand, personalizing offers and service, and removing any speed bumps that could allow confusion, discomfort or irrelevance to creep in, keeping buyers from handing over their credit cards or returning for a repeat buy.

Stakes are higher than ever, writes Salesforce, citing feedback from 7,037 consumers and business buyers in its State of the Connected Customer report:

  • 58% of consumers say technology has drastically changed their expectations of how companies should interact with them.
  • 70% agree technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere when a brand delivers a subpar experience.
  • 80% of business buyers and 64% of consumers expect companies to respond and interact with them in real time.
  • 57% say it’s critical for companies they purchase from to be innovative.
  • 75% say they expect companies to provide a consistent experience wherever they engage with them. (On that note, 73% will switch brands if a company provides inconsistent service levels.)
  • 69% say it’s critical or very important for companies to offer self-service options so they can easily solve their own problems.

We could go on with similar stats from various sources, but they boil down to this: “Use technology to make every inch of my experience with your brand delightful, or I’ll take my money elsewhere.”

What’s next?

If you consider your own screen habit — that craving for instant access and gratification from the technology around you — it’s easy to see why customers now expect the same from companies they’re writing big checks to. Those expectations will only climb in the coming months and years.

By 2020, Salesforce reports, 8 in 10 surveyed business buyers want…

  • to be identified upon contacting customer service
  • vendors to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before buyers contact them
  • self-service or self-diagnostics capabilities
  • ‘round-the-clock access and support, and more.

Where to begin?

  1. Examine each step of your buyers’ path to purchase, and how they use your product/service post-purchase. What’s tripping them up? What’s generating FAQs and calls to customer support? What seems to trigger objections or confusion? Can you spot any patterns in where people abandon their purchase, or stop using your product?
  2. Then examine those things from the viewpoint of your support and sales staff. What steps, delays or bottlenecks are keeping them from serving customers better and faster?
  3. Once you have a list of those tripping points, choose one you can eliminate or alleviate in the next few days or weeks. Then another, and another.

“If businesses don’t evolve into this new [experience] era, they may find themselves on the wrong side of history,” caution Robert Rose and Carla Johnson, authors of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing.

As for budget considerations, Joanna Beerman of Salesforce offers a sobering perspective: “Switching costs are low when the world’s largest shopping mall rests in every customer’s pockets,” and they can easily move on to greener pastures.

After all, buyers won’t abandon their tech habits. Whether those habits will work for or against your brand is up to you.