Today’s Digital Customer Experience: Expected, Essential, and Often Elusive

I recently witnessed firsthand a truly terrible customer experience. After making a purchase online, my order was mistakenly cancelled, re-ordered, lost, cancelled again (it goes on). It was difficult to reach the company, and when I did, they just didn’t seem to care.

While it’s maddening to encounter a series of unapologetic dead-ends in exchange for your money, it’s also not entirely uncommon. And after I turned to Yelp to see if I was alone in my experience, I read page after page of similar complaints.

How can this company survive, when so many are so turned off that they’re (loudly) taking their business elsewhere? Doesn’t the company see these reviews? Do they simply not care?

The truth is, successful customer experience remains elusive to many companies. They’re certainly not blind to their waning customer retention metrics and lowered satisfaction scores. Most want to improve. But they respond by adding isolated offerings or channels without context. They pop up on digital platforms — everyone else is doing it!– and fail to connect with users. They rely on band-aids to fix deeper issues of structure and priority, on old customer tropes that are far from customer-centric.

But the customer landscape today is vastly different from years past. Accenture deems today’s consumer the “nonstop customer”, meaning they’re always evaluating options, have no qualms about switching companies, and expect more digital options than ever before.

And industry boundaries are no longer relevant. The playing field has leveled — and expanded; companies leading the way in customer experience are raising expectations across the board. So hotels no longer just compete with other hotels. Airlines no longer just compete with other airlines. Instead, they now compete with the top experiences — offered by innovators like Uber, Amazon, Southwest, Apple.

The winning companies are completely rethinking and reinventing every single one of their practices, centered on digital offerings and fueled by the needs of the always on(line) customer. They realize that the connected customer journey, seamless online and off, is the new measure of success: the ease with which a company connects with a customer across platforms and devices, the level of personalization in those interactions, and the lasting impressions made. They’re enhancing connections and prioritizing intuitive communication. They’re meeting the customer on social and community sharing sites, where they not only listen but also respond in helpful ways. And they’re proactive in designing new opportunities to engage and enrich the customer.

So every player in every industry needs to focus on experience as a business objective, prioritizing digital properties for intuitive, integrated customer journeys. Yes, it can be an overwhelming undertaking. But it’s essential to success — and survival.

In the meantime, I’ll still be waiting for my order to arrive.

By Emily Brill, Associate Strategist, MCD Partners