The Secret to Improving Digital Experiences: Listen to and Engage with Customers

Written by Medallia
May 06, 2021

By engaging with and listening to your customers, you can continually learn and be ready for what’s next. It’s the secret to improving digital experiences.

It’s an understatement to say that times have changed. Fueled by a global pandemic, digital transformation happened almost overnight. As McKinsey puts it, 10 years worth of ecommerce acceleration happened within just three months.

But while company leaders have been focused on digital for years, 78% wouldn’t rate their strategies as being very effective and only 30% of digital transformation efforts have met expectations. That’s a major gap to fill — and one that’s absolutely critical for survival post-pandemic amid ever-changing consumer behaviors. After all, the pandemic showed that customers were not afraid to shift loyalty — with 76% of consumers changing brands or shopping habits — if they felt a competitor offered a better experience.

To both attract and keep customers in the long run, you must adapt and innovate in this digital environment faster than the competition. And to make it happen quickly, you’ll need to:

  • Pinpoint what pain points and experiences to address and optimize in the moment
  • Predict what customers will want next both in the short-term and long-term
  • Collect insights faster to determine how and where to focus your resources

In other words, improving digital experiences to near perfection hinges on your efforts to listen to, engage with, and understand your customers.

Meet customers where they are and engage in the moment

Building customer relationships in a digital age is a balancing act in which customer needs have to be met while anticipating tomorrow’s preferences. But, the pandemic showed us just how quickly business conditions can change. That’s why having the ability to adapt in real time has become so important today — across all industries.

“In the public sector, we are seeing agencies working quickly to reinvent themselves in real time,” said Lee Becker, VP, Solutions Principal, public sector and regulated industries, Medallia, who previously spent 11 years in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs helping lead the federal government’s first customer experience office. “These agencies are still trying to figure out how to best engage and support employees and customers at scale through these changes. And with many government services covered by so many laws and regulations, and where customer experience is not a primary business focus yet, agencies tend to be in a reactionary state. Like the private sector, it is critical for government agencies to focus on their customers and employees to move from a reactionary to a proactive state that will improve mission impact and outcome for all.”

Businesses across nearly every industry have spent the past year scrambling to adapt to rapidly changing conditions and consumer behaviors. In the automotive industry, for example, the pandemic supercharged the car ecommerce marketplace.

“Whether it is Carvana, Tesla or the like, there are options for buying vehicles that are more aligned with the ever-increasing population who wants to shop and purchase a vehicle in a digital format,” said Bryan Long, Medallia’s solution principal for automotive, who’s spent three decades working in the industry for major manufacturers. “In order to better understand what automotive customers are looking for, industry leaders are looking for richer feedback throughout the customer journey.”

And the best way to create richer insights around digital experience starts with making it easier for customers to provide feedback and by engaging with them across all the channels they interact with you.

This includes pivotal touchpoints like your website and mobile app along with chat services, social media, contact centers, email — even via drive-through or curbside services at physical locations. Make sure customers have the ability to provide feedback across multiple channels. Capture all the signals your customers are sending you in real time, from both direct (e.g surveys) and indirect feedback (e.g. social media), operational data and observed behavior (e.g. digital body language).

Use real-time insights to understand what your customers want

Today’s consumer is smarter, more connected, and expects more than ever, with 75% of consumers saying they want consistent experiences across multiple channels (web, mobile, in-person, social) and 73% likely to switch brands if they don’t get it.

“Customer reacquisition and retention are the biggest focus for companies today,” said Geoffrey Ryskamp, Global Head of Hospitality for Medallia, who has two decades of experience in the hospitality sector with PwC, Marriott, and Hilton; most recently a founding member of the asset management team at Pebblebrook Hotel Trust. “Habits have reset, and many customers are trying new brands for the first time. We are seeing previously loyal and more predictable customers revisit their purchasing criteria.”

In retail, brands that launched or quickly improved their digital offerings, including buy online and pickup in store or curbside options, maintained, and in some cases, grew revenue. COVID-19-related shifts in buying behavior translated into an additional $41.54 billion in digital revenue for retailers November through December in 2020.

“While convenience has always been critical to customer experiences, customers today have redefined what convenience means,” said Zack Hamilton, Medallia’s Solution Principal for Retail, who previously spent over 10 years leading customer experience strategy, customer service operations and sales strategy for a North American retailer. “Ease and speed coupled with authentic human interactions is the winning recipe for the future.”

There’s no going back — digital is here to stay

Digital is now at the heart of almost every brand as consumers begin to gravitate toward online channels to shop, explore, and interact. To get — and to stay — ahead in this digital-first world, organizations must continually transform by gleaning insights and feedback from customers.

By putting people first, and engaging with and listening to your customers, you can continually find new opportunities to improve digital experience and be ready for what’s next. It’s becoming the only way to stay ahead of your customers — and the competition.

Discover how to take your digital experiences to the next level with a free ticket to Medallia’s Experience 21. One of the most highly anticipated user conferences in experience management, register for Experience 21 to join an industry-wide community of business leaders and peers putting the customer and employee first.

Topics: Customer Experience, Digital Experience, Digital Transformation
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