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How big is your customer experience gap?

Understanding and managing relationships with consumers is increasingly complex.

While the well-known business lesson to put consumers first is true, for retailers to succeed in today’s highly competitive marketplace, they must address the growing experience gap between what customers expect and what retailers provide.

For a prolonged period, the organisations have been focused on the collection of operational or O-data, namely information regarding sales and revenue, direct competitors and suppliers. Even the most data-driven organisations, are often blindsided because they are reaching the limits of what they know and what they can predict using this data.

They don’t use their experience or X-data, which brings human factor data including feedback from consumers about their experiences, expectations, and intentions into strategic decision making. This data is useful to form a picture of why a certain demographic of consumers are not returning, and to help predict what will occur next.

Essentially, O-data is about the past, X-data is about the future.

What has resulted is a large gap between a business’s capacity to know what’s happening, why, and how to adapt. This is known as the experience gap.

To provide a superior customer experience, businesses must bridge this gap. Successful organisations are more likely to produce greater revenues and experience faster growth than competitors if they do so.

However, bridging this gap means more than simply being nicer to customers or responding to them faster.

Managing the customer experience effectively takes more than simply identifying rates of satisfaction. It means understanding how and why customers are behaving in certain ways, which demographic is the most important for business success, and how to attract this segment to the brand.

Loyalty leaders obsess about customers and they create an organic conversation at every level of customer interaction by ensuring they have feedback channels throughout all customer touchpoints. They use this data to learn what consumers like and dislike, and what encourages them to buy more so that they can innovate customer experiences.

Enquiring about customer’s experiences and, importantly, acting on their feedback, can establish greater brand loyalty and assist in optimising the brand’s image. Consumers are likely to view a retailer more favourably when they are made to feel valued, heard and understood.

There are organisations who believe they already offer a superior customer experience.

While this may be true, even these businesses should review their customer experience to stay one-step ahead and boost the retailer’s status in their consumers’ eyes. Reviewing customer feedback and translating it into action may lead to greater loyalty and further purchases.

An essential element in successfully closing the customer experience gap is a retailer’s ability to collect, analyse, and act in real-time on feedback given by consumers across all touchpoints and moments of truth. This will deliver the greatest benefits in the long-run.

Vicky Katsabaris is a customer experience subject matter expert at Qualtrics. 

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