Posts Taged customer-empathy

A Sustainable Customer Experience

CX

What used to be a “nice-to-have” or an after-thought has now become a necessity. Yes, we are referring to ‘Omni-channel Customer Experience (CX)’. Small wonder that CX figures at the top of every organization’s list of things to achieve and deliver. CX has become all the more important now that the ‘power to contact’ has shifted to the consumers. And this ‘power to contact’ is through so many new and emerging channels that an omni-channel CX is the need of the hour to bridge all the silos and offer seamless transition across the customer journey. That’s why the event on “Shaping the future of Customer Experience – Vision 2020” by Zendesk and Trescon was so relevant and we were so glad to be a part of it.

So, what exactly is omni-channel?

A true Omni-channel Customer Experience is all about ensuring a consistent customer experience across any channel that the customer chooses to interact with a brand/company. In other words, it’s about providing a seamless, unified and a connected customer journey across channels without losing any context.

What are the driving forces that are enforcing organizations to plan for an omni-channel customer experience?

There’s a paradigm shift in the customer buying behavior today. The shift is from the traditional Offline mode to more of an Online/Offline mode with more focus on self-service as shown below:

As per a report published by Dell in a recent report, the key drivers for organizations are:

Needless to say, it’s important to embed the changing customer buying behavior into your omni-channel customer experience strategy to stay in the game and to keep your top-line intact.

Top 5 recommended strategies to implement an omni-channel customer experience

A true omni-channel customer experience touches all parts of the organization, from IT to marketing to customer services, and sometimes even external partners. Achieving the omni-channel promise requires an ongoing investment in people, processes, and technology, along with a long-term vision of how you want to treat your customers when they interact with your brand.

Here are our top 5 recommended strategies:

1. Analyze your customer personas, their channel preferences and how a typical customer journey looks like when they interact with your organization: Who are your target users? What are their demographics and channel preferences when they interact with your brand/product/service? Which platform do they use for performing the key transactions – do they call, email, request a chat, or take some other avenue?

Your first goal should be to understand your target customer’s preferred channel and a typical customer journey. Then work towards supporting context-sharing among those channels your customers frequently use to accomplish a single task.

2. Define channel-specific business strategy: The success of an omni-channel customer experience depends on the clarity about your customers’ needs and then aligning the business objectives.

  • Is there an opportunity to close more online sales with web chat? If yes, then can we leverage AI Chat bots so that we can provide sales support 24*7?
  • Are text-based communications more effective for technical help? If yes, then can we leverage AI Email Bots to smartly find the right answers and communicate back to customers?
  • Is your goal to automate routine inquiries through effective self-service?

Having such clarity and goals would allow you to adjust your organizational strategies to optimize omni-channel goals and align resources more effectively.

Here’s a Cost vs. Value Creation comparison across various channels:

3. Empower agents with 360 degree view of the customers prior to their interactions, and train them to handle priority callers more effectively: Customer adoption of digital channels doesn’t undermine the importance of the voice channel. Instead, the role of this channel changes and its importance increases to promote customer loyalty. It becomes a medium for handling complex interactions. So empower your agents with the right information in real-time through the right technology and systems. Evaluate if there’s an opportunity to leverage Chatbots/Artificial Intelligence to assist agents with Support Requests to provide faster and accurate response.

4. Evaluate agent performance across all touchpoints: Invest in a customer support solution that is capable of call or chat routing, recording and evaluating quality across channels. Also ensure that the customer support solution you choose has certified integrations across all commonly used applications in your organization. This ensures personalized and contextual interactions which is the prerequisite/foundation to enable a true omni-channel customer experience

5. Ensure that your customer support application vendor has the right experience and reputation: Do your research, opt for their trials and evaluate their value propositions vs. your requirement. Look for vendors who have SaaS offerings. Look for customer success and failure stories to objectively take an informed decision.

Final Thoughts

Given the fact that IoT is one of the emerging channels of customer engaging with products and services; it’s a no holds barred game that enterprises must win to stay relevant. Knocking off or slighting over existing multi-channel investments isn’t an option. Customers prefer dealing with enterprises that provide a memorable experience and all have some sort of game plan to handle it. So what’s your CX story?

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The Cross Connection: UI / UX

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Three Letter Acronyms (TLA) are here to stay and will make our lives as clichéd as it can be, but it’s the other, often used TLA that is even more confusing. We are referring to the Two Letter Acronym (TLA Again!). Once such “TLA Again” is UI (User Interface) and the other one is UX (User Experience).  Though both are connected and mutually inclusive, they are different. While UI is the space where interactions occurs between humans and a product; UX is how a human perceives something that is visual and has cognitive connotations.

Let’s look at the differences using a very simple example.

 

“User Experience is RELATIVE & CONTEXTUAL” – Mahuya

User Experience is multidisciplinary in the sense that it has been influenced by other disciplines such as graphic design, psychology, research and anthropology.  This of course is not exhaustive. But more often than not, UX is perceived to be just interface design and visual design. Typically, information design comes before interaction design and interaction design comes before visual design.

Let’s see how UX can make a person who prefers cookies with his/her coffee, really smile with delight.

As you can see, the thought process, visual strengths and design principles involved in creating the above product need both a UX Designer and a UI Designer. They all tie in together to create an unforgettable user experience that succeeds in taking a functional product to the next level.

Interestingly, a good UX can exist with a bad UI and vice versa. But it is extremely important to understand the difference between UI and UX as this is where innovation actually gets delivered.

From Lame-storming to Design-storming

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We’ve got a lot of offline requests after we wrote “Design Thinking: The Continuum of Innovation” asking us to elaborate more on the Design Thinking Approach – so, here you go!

The concepts of Design Thinking are extremely useful in creating new products or enhancing an existing offering. It is equipped to provide a multidimensional solution by considering human-centric experiences that add and provide value.

Mahuya Ghosh

The first step of the process involves discovering the particular problem and associating it to relevant and concrete experiences. This leads to the research phase wherein we try to analyze and understand the underlying issues and complexities of the problem. The idea is to start with in-depth research with special emphasis on understanding the nature of the problem and studying human behavior. This helps us build out our observations.

After the observations have been collated, the next important phase of synthesis kicks in. This is the phase wherein; we start converging on different ideas and start to develop them further. This process transforms the ideas from abstract world and then synthesizes them to identify insights and areas of opportunity in the real world. This results in a vision that would ultimately serve as a platform for the final concept generation.

The vision based ideas from synthesis phase needs to be bounced off others. This is what the reflection phase is all about.  As the stakeholders reflect on the ideas, contradictions emerge and help in discovering new elements that were not seen or observed before.

The penultimate phase is Launch 1.0. This involves placing small bets having short feedback loops. This is in line with the last phase of evolution wherein heavy iterations take place. We start listening to users, prototype, fail early and then pick up the pieces and launch again.

Design thinking based Product Management involves executing a combination of design, development and content creation to bring a product to the market. It is an on-going process of testing, refining, creating an optimized plan to analyze performance and fine-tuning, till the final product hits the market. Having reached the final product launch, the product manager would have sufficiently tried, tested, failed and re-tried to make the product or solution in line with what the actual users needs (not what buyers’ just want)

Mapping out a Buyer’s Journey in SaaS World

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When it comes to B2B SaaS products, optimizing the revenue growth is the most difficult job for sales and marketing. Set aside the pipelines, funnels and all sales related plumbing and what you have is an unpredictable buyer behavior. We should note that the Buyer’s Journey is often non-linear and that’s because there has been shift from selling to buying, proliferation of connected devices to allow social interaction and channel agnostic behavior.

Pipelines and funnels always existed in the sales cycle and organizations still rely on them for revenue growth predictability. But in reality, the concepts of pipeline and funnels should be relegated to plumber’s toolboxes (no offence to Plumbers). There are many variables at play that affect visibility to buyers and that’s why the entire buyer’s journey needs to be reimagined to get insights into sales predictability. Now you’d ask as to what changed? Quite a lot in fact! For instance, we cannot rely on past history of customers buying pattern and that the existing paradigm of buying experience is out of sync with the non-linear journeys taken by the buyers of today. These are few of the variables that impacts traditional or conventional sales or marketing channels (not an exhaustive list but you get the drift).

Transformation of buyer’s journey is the wake-up call that is making organizations sit up and go for B2B SaaS product buyer experience redesign. The broad categories of halts that a buyer takes in their journey from being a casual prospect to the time they are on-boarded are full of uncertainties. Design thinking approach is ideal to minimize these uncertainties and in some cases, eliminate them entirely.

At all stages of Awareness, Research, Try and Buy, a combination of information and nurturing is required to bring home the deal. One of the reasons for crisis in confidence in Awareness, Research and Try phases is that the content marketing success is measured by how much content is produced and distributed in the shortest amount of time instead of how effective it is at facilitating sales.

Even before marketers start drawing up a list of the various targeted content that is required for each phase, they should make sure that the content adheres to the tenets of “Experience Marketing” in the following sense:

  • Be Human: The tone of the content should be human, real; using conversational language over formal tone.
  • Go Visual: Making use of visual content like videos, visual notes and infographics over plain text to focus on value propositions being demonstrated over told.
  • Curate and Fine-Tune: Experiment and experiment regularly with the content. If needed, make A/B Testing part of your daily content marketing mantra.
  • Be Agile: Take feedback and constantly improve the content & landing page design.

The very first step starts with the buyer realizing that they want a change to fix an issue. This is where they recognize the pain points and come to terms with the fact that the existing impasse needs to be broken for proceeding to the next step.

The buyer now explores the options that exist to solve the issue and then shortlists potential solution providers. Design Thinking should kick into this phase by justifying the investment. This justification is not the feature-set but the quantified indicators of the value that the solution brings to impact bottom-line and ROI. Sellers bring out your crayons and start storytelling to drive home the value.

Design Thinking approach for the Try and Buy phase is extremely important for conversions and sustained revenue inflow. Some of the things (but not limited to) that we feel are important for these phases are the ones that may be seemingly small at the face of it but are real value-additions since they make the approach human-centric.

For instance, the website landing page of a B2B SaaS application is just like the reception area of a restaurant. If it clicks for the customer, then they will have an enjoyable evening and would even come back. If the landing page is a put off, then we have seen the last of that customer. Testimonials are like you are talking about your product but through the face of a credible customer. They are more important than stock marketing images or even whitepapers.

Entice your prospects with targeted value propositions and just when they are ready to be hooked, present the “Trial Registration” page. In B2B SaaS landscape, trust is a huge factor: Trust that you are delivering what your product promises so profusely in your marketing materials, trust that customer-support exists and trust that the actual product is as good as the trial looks. The focus should be on making the registration process as simple as it can get by asking very basic information.

Next dimension is on deciding how long should the trial be: 14 days, 30 days or 60 days. We would not go into details of what is the right duration of trial as it is a topic in itself that has no right answer or formula. Simply put, it depends on the nature and complexity of the product and the sales cycle.  Another variable to consider is whether you are using the “Trial” as a lead generation tool or a lead conversion tool.If you are using the “Trial” as a lead generation tool and believe that 14 days is what it would take for a prospect to evaluate your product – then that’s your answer!

Once the prospect logs into the trial, you should start the show. Based on the profile of the prospect, the trial should create a seamless and ‘wow’ first impression showcasing the value proposition of the application. Context sensitive help, Jeeves like application Butler and helpful but non-intrusive overlays are some of the things that create this ‘wow’ factor. All through the phases, it is absolutely important that communication is in a form that nurtures the relationship but then there is a thin line between the right level of communication and spamming.

Handling the Buyer’s Journey is an art that not many can master and that’s why there should always be a feedback loop to tweak and fine-tune the content delivery. For instance do you think that a SaaS product would benefit if they changed the call to action from a focus on payments to a focus on value and convenience? It’s actually a very good idea to constantly take feedback from customers so that the product messaging and the product itself can be bettered over time.

The idea is to reimagine your Buyer’s Journey by treating it as a set of personas, using visual storytelling and even ethnography approaches. There is no correct or single method to create the best journey but a framework should exist for understanding it so that a targeted strategy can be devised for the engagement touch-points. And that’s a tall order!

Design Thinking: The Continuum of Innovation

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Some would vouch that left is more important; others would swear by the right. But which one is more important? We are referring to our brain if you didn’t get the drift. When it comes to creating a product or an innovative solution, what should we be relying on? The left analytical side or the right creative side? There is no definitive answer. What is definitive is “Design Thinking!” Design thinking is a mindset and set of principles that engages both analytical and creative thinking for solving a customer problem. Till now Product Managers have been heavily relying on number crunching to find a solution to a customer problem. But in the current technology landscape, innovation and winning can only come from design thinking- but only if applied appropriately.

Before we delve intoBuyer’s Journey in SaaS Ecosystem’ in our next article, we would like to set the stage for design thinking. And “Why?” you ask?For the simple reason that it is going to push the frontiers of Product Management to deliver breakthrough innovations and competitive advantage.

So what is Design Thinking?

In this age of innovation-hungry and competitive-advantage driven companies, design thinking is an approach to solve customer problems by combining right-brain creative thinking with left-brain analytical thinking. But more than that; it is all about the journey and not the destination.

The customer problem might manifest itself in multiple, unknown and non-linear ways. In the same way, the understanding of the solution would always fall in the realm of ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ and that should be the starting point of innovation.

New age Product Managers should comprehend the core concept of starting with the unknown and learning as they go into the process by playing small but fast bets. The focus of Product Managers should be to start small but with genuine intent on focusing on meeting human needs. The idea is to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket and be willing to explore multiple options.

It has always been traditionally perceived that Product Management is supposed to be an analytical role. Product Managers were expected to rely on statistics and numbers to decide on the product they are creating. Product Managers love ‘big’ ideas but they always have been obsessed with analysis. That is the reason why they get trapped in ‘growth gridlock’. If the time to market is to be shortened and the process has to become lean, then just analytical thinking will never work. In this age of SaaS products where time to market is paramount, it’s not just numbers that you can rely on; there is need for empathy-based thinking as well. This is also known as human-centric or design thinking approach. This is true for both enhancing an existing product and creating entirely a new solution/product for customers.

Historically, designers have always focused on improving the look/feel and functionality of products but it was not enough and we know that it’s much more than that. Simply put, it’s non-linear and allows interactive and iterative understanding of a problem or a solution that is both analytical and experiential. The germ of design thinking starts with discovery of the customer’s problem. Since design thinking is option focused, the next step is about researching and understanding of the actual people or users involved. The next step is to ideate on how clearly we understand the problem itself and what are the options to solve it. Once the options are in place, we start experimenting with them and quickly discard any option that doesn’t work or ‘wows’. This takes us to synthesis. We should understand that when creating a product from scratch or adding new features, the option that we choose from experimentation has to be given time to grow, adapt and evolve before it becomes usable. It is an iterative process based on feedback and reflection, as the underlying concept of design thinking is that of being human-centric. Finally the solution needs to evolve and not be stagnant. Otherwise it runs the risk of becoming obsolete.

Competitive advantage doesn’t come overnight as it is a continuous process of adhering to principles ranging from mindset to process which can be aligned and applied to solve complex problems of customers. Competitive advantage through innovation most often occurs within a set of constraints, such as viability, profitability and desirability and that a traditional business-minded rational/analytic approach should be complemented with design thinking.