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biog header.pngCOVID Concerns Create New Customer Experiences

 

“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” - Kakuzo Okakaura

Turbulent times breed uncertainty, and uncertainty has an unsettling effect on consumer confidence. The pandemic we currently find ourselves in has created wide ranging impacts on our economy and society that will persist long after this crisis passes. As the customer experience of old makes way for the new, I want to examine the digital trends that are reshaping the CX landscape.

 

Addressing Consumer Anxieties: Trust and Convenience

When asked how the Post-COVID customer experience will differ from what we’ve known in the past, Officium Labs Chief Experience Officer and CX Accelerator Co-Founder, Nate Brown had this to say, “COVID has revealed to consumers which brands are dedicated to their brand promise, no matter what. Consumers can trust the market. Why should consumers with less disposable income waste their time on brands that don’t take them seriously?”

I attained Nate’s response via email, though I like to imagine he was dressed in one of his iconic, novelty suits as he typed his reply. The type of suit tailored for deep contemplation, bright and floral. My man makes a good point. When a lot of people have less money to spend, why should they waste their capital on brands that come off as tone deaf or inept. Successfully navigating this crisis requires staying true to your brand promise. 

But, what does that mean exactly? Let’s break this down into two parts: trust and convenience. 

Trust involves relationship building, which is established through messaging and actions. Messaging always comes before action. Before they try your product or experience your services, customers hear your brand voice. 

Nate’s advice for creating adept messaging: 

“Stick to your brand voice. Think about what your customer wants to hear from your company specifically, and make sure that it’s actually related to your product or service. Adding to the noise of identical statements from other brands is not going to help with consumer anxiety. Let them know the ways you are making their lives better and easier!”

Just as adept messaging is key to building a strong brand identity, convenience is key to building a quality customer experience. Emerging technologies provide infinite possibilities for streamlining and personalizing the customer experience. Digital Darwinism is the order of the day. Brands that leverage tech to deliver on their brand promise in innovative, new ways, while meeting the unique needs of every customer, will eventually win out. Companies who’ve become complacent with past success, and no longer see the need to innovate, won’t last through the end of the year. 

As CX expert and Customer Bliss founder Jeanne Bliss, so eloquently put it, “Customers are seeking companies who know them and can truly help them now, in a genuine manner.  For these reasons, company prioritization, swiftness to understand trends and the ability to show and prove the humanity of organizations will be key to those who survive and thrive out of where we are now.”

I would like to focus the remainder of this article on offering practical solutions for companies looking to capitalize on this new, digital frontier.

 

Stay Relevant in an Increasingly Digital World

For most industries, today’s customer experience is radically different from what we knew in the past. We’re reminded of this on an almost daily basis. Never in my life did I have to wait in line to enter a grocery store. Today, I’ll sometimes wait as long as thirty minutes to get inside. I shop in a surgeon’s mask, carefully obeying painted arrows dictating the flow of cart traffic. Fellow shoppers wearily do their best to maintain over six feet of distance between themselves and other patrons. These changes aren’t limited to supermarkets either. I now need to make reservations to workout at my local gym, and a visit to the barbershop means having your hair cut by a stylist wearing what looks like a hazmat mask. 

To the dismay of brick and mortar stores, there are simpler alternatives for most of our basic needs. Consumers can order groceries online and have them delivered. Apps providing instruction for at home workouts are a cheaper alternative to costly gym memberships, and many are choosing to grow their hair long, while some brave souls even attempt DIY haircuts. 

Ecommerce provides an attractive alternative to the rigors of physically shopping in a store. If anything, coronavirus is speeding up digitization. Late adopters are now forced to see the convenience of online shopping, while more and more companies are realizing the cost effective nature of minimizing physical infrastructure.

New rules for physical transactions have led consumers to increasingly rely on digital brand experiences. So what’s the upshot? Difficult circumstances have created a need for innovation, and the potential for unprecedented growth. The end game is to craft the best consumer experience possible using the tools at your disposal. 

In the words of CX Sage, Nate Brown, “For the more transactional experiences (retail and restaurants for example) convenience is now king. Consumers will not want to undergo unnecessary effort (or even risk) to achieve the things they need. The experience designer who makes it as simple as possible will win the day, even if things cost a bit more.” A large portion of consumers are willing to pay a premium for superior service. By crafting better experiences that require less effort, brands can hope to better weather the storm.

In our convenience driven economy, minimizing customer effort is essential to creating better brand interactions. 

Jeremy Watkin said it best when he described the effect of consumer effort in shaping the future of CX: 

“We often talk about reducing customer effort as a goal in improving customer experience. In many ways both companies and consumers must embrace the additional effort required to keep everyone safe and healthy. But this time will create opportunities for companies willing and agile enough to innovate, reinvent, and digitally transform themselves.” 

The best place to start any digital transformation is acquiring the right tools. Marketing automation and ticketing are two essential tools for any brand trying to navigate the challenges of digital transformation. Marketing automation allows companies to nurture relationships by creating intelligent, dynamic brand interactions. Using drips campaigns, workflows, and customer journey mapping, brands can craft experiences designed to better address each customer’s specific needs. 

GreenRope’s Journeys tool, for example, uses true/ false logic to deliver specific messages based on a contact’s previous actions or demographic information. Contrary to what its name implies, the applications of marketing automation go far beyond generating awareness and pushing merchandise. Marketing automation can be used to streamline all your digital communications. It can automatically deliver invoices, send alerts, modify a contact’s record, and assign follow ups to team members.

Just like marketing automation, ticketing is a sophisticated and malleable tool, with a diverse array of practical applications. The most common use for ticketing is customer support. Ticketing lets your customers create inquiries, upload files, and receive feedback through a simple one on one interface, with updates sent directly to their email. Ticketing is also great for development work and other complex projects. It’s also a convenient way for organic leads to request demos and meetings with sales reps.

 

Adding Value is More than Just an Email…

The companies who are excelling right now have nailed more than just the right messaging. They’re offering their customers real value using data driven insights!

During the initial COVID-19 lockdowns, my commitment to a daily exercise routine wavered. This wasn’t a life or death struggle by any means, but it significantly impacted my quality of life during the first few months of this crisis. Exercise is an integral part of my work-life balance, providing me a positive outlet to release stress. With gyms and outdoor recreational facilities shut down, I didn't know how to stay active. My solution was subscribing to a handful of at home workout apps, currently offered for free. Aware that my situation could change drastically over the next few months, I didn’t want to make any financial commitments. With apps like Peloton, HIIT, and Down Dog, I didn’t have to (at least not for a while). Thanks to these apps, I was able to maintain my sanity, stay healthy, and discover fun new ways to work out. When my lengthy three month trial did finally elapse, I decided to continue my subscription to Peloton. What had begun as a temporary expedient developed into a valuable relationship. Thanks to their deft response to the crisis, I found a product that is more cost effective, enjoyable, and convenient than a physical gym membership. If Peloton had merely posted on social media about their commitment to wellness and nothing more, we would have probably never crossed paths. 

Crisis management is about more than just messaging, it’s about data, both qualitative and quantitative. While Peloton’s decision to offer an extended free trial may instinctually seem like a great idea, few strategic decisions are made by companies of that size without data driven insights. Without looking at the data, who can reliably draw a strong correlation between trials and conversions, or assert that offering a longer trial period won’t lessen the quality of leads, undermining potential revenue? 

The right data allows for the creation of better, more streamlined customer experiences. Having reliable tools for data collection and analysis offers companies the insights needed to make key strategic decisions. To get a true 360-degree view of your business, you need a lot of data. 

Email and website tracking reveals what content your customers relate to. Support call transcripts and emails with sales reps will highlight the pain points in your customer journey. Surveys can be used to ask customers directly how you can best serve their needs. Just scratching the surface of the monumental scale of an effective data management strategy is enough to make my head spin.

When asked about promising tools for CX management, Jeremy Watkin noted: 

“The key here is CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Companies must use their CRM database to capture customer preferences and then leverage that information to create a personalized experience.” 

Most CX pros recognize the value of CRM as an effective means for data collection, management, and execution.

To avoid drowning in data, companies are investing more resources into integration. Complete CRM can consolidate whole oceans of data into a single database. Using the information they’ve collected, tech forward companies can manage their customer experience all within the confines of a single platform.

 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

With normalcy thrown into a tailspin, everyone is feeling the social and economic impact of COVID 19 differently. Some people are doing alright, but a lot of folks are struggling to navigate new and unfamiliar challenges. An individual's job, family life, location, and medical history all affect the unique challenges they face in a pandemic. 

Companies can ease tensions and improve lives in their communities, by delivering exceptional experiences. Companies must display an awareness of individual struggles, and offer genuine solutions. 

As Jeanne Bliss so masterfully put it: 

“It’s important now to put leaders in front of customers, partners and employees to listen…really listen to what is impacting their lives right now.  This is a moment to be remembered from how a company acts and leads in these times.  And it is an opportunity.” 

Difficult times present a golden opportunity for companies to reaffirm their level of commitment to their customers and improve their position in the marketplace. Conversely, insensitivity and unawareness can cripple a brand more than anything. Sound CX strategy is more important now than ever, and it begins with recognizing differences in circumstance. 

If you haven’t already, now is the time to shed the one size fits all approach to CX and marketing. If you listen to your customers and take a careful look at the data you collect, you’ll realize no two customers are alike. The popular ‘one size fits all’ approach to CX, that worked in decades past, is thoroughly outdated. Not only is it impersonal, but it adds to the effort required on the customer’s part. No one wants to sift through long, generic emails for what applies to them. Consumers know the technology for creating personalized content is out there.  

Nate Brown summed up the jaw dropping efficiency of a digitized customer experience, by noting: 

“When organizations get their digital experience right, customers have a great deal of control over their own experience. Information flows freely. And if you do need to interface with a live agent, the process to get to that person will be quicker and more efficient. Gone are the days of jumping through endless IVR hoops and other nonsense.” 

Nate’s succinct description of a seamless customer experience paints the practice with a simplicity that only an industry veteran can convey. Reaching CX enlightenment requires commitment on a company’s part. That’s why it’s important to find partners who understand your vision and offer the tools needed to execute it. 

“Hi tech should enable high touch. I call this building your ‘respect delivery machine.’  Know your customers’ preferences, behaviors, likes and dislikes so you can deliver them a personalized experience,” - Jeanne Bliss.

You’re only as good as your tools! A quality MarTech solution offers extensive tools for data collection, segmentation, and customization. Powerful digital tools, like customer journey mapping, contact filter options, and dynamic data rules help reduce customer effort through personalization. 

Journey Mapping

The importance of journey mapping cannot be overemphasized. This vital practice is the crux of any successful CX strategy. Journey mapping allows you to to plot out every single brand interaction that makes up your customer experience. You can evaluate the soundness of your strategy and easily revise your process so that customers move smoothly from one interaction to another, without bottlenecks or repetitive steps.

GreenRope’s Journeys tool lets you incorporate automation into your map. This way you don’t have to replicate the customer experience you mapped out in the system. As soon as you hit ‘Save’, your journey is live. 

Our drag and drop interface makes the process of building journeys fun and easy. The basic building blocks of any journey are action, delay, and decision. Actions can send emails, activate workflows, or modify a contact’s group membership. Decisions use true or false logic to send contacts on diverging paths based on their specific actions.

Ex. A contact who read or clicked your previous email might be added to your ‘Qualified Leads’ group and continue from there. A contact who didn’t might be sent a follow up email focused on nurturing them back into the fold.

Contact Segmentation

There’s a million ways to segment your customer base using both static and active data. Luckily, with GreenRope, all options are available for you to pick and choose what works best for you. Contacts can be strategically organized into groups, and tags can be attached to indicate certain statuses. Data fields define demographic information, and are a great way to segment contacts with similar attributes to receive relevant content. Beyond crafting mailing lists, automation can be set to trigger based on more dynamic data, like a contact’s growing relationship with your company. Modifications to a contact’s record can trigger workflows. 

Dynamic Data

Dynamic data rules are used to personalize the content a customer receives. An example might be “If Phone contains 858 Replace placeholder with,” information for upcoming events in the city of San Diego. Following this logic, you'd add other “if” cases that would provide information on events being held in other regions, based on a contact’s area code. Data rule placeholders are swapped with the relevant content upon delivery. That way you can send a single template to your contacts and have it appear personalized in their inbox.

 

Securing Your Data 

With a greater percentage of brand interactions facilitated online, there’s more information circulating online than ever before. When discussing the effects of digitization, Jeremy brought up the growing importance of cybersecurity, saying:

“While digital offers significant opportunity for efficiency, the major obstacle to overcome is security. Those transforming to digital must put in the hard work to ensure that customer information is never, ever compromised.” 

I couldn’t agree more. A company’s data is one of its most valuable assets. Most organizations at least recognize the vital importance of cybersecurity. Far fewer understand all the steps needed to properly secure their digital assets. I could take the time to rattle off the dozens of essential practices needed to safeguard your data, and I have (25 Cyber Security Tips), but today I’d like to zero in on two key principles: validation and integration.

All partnerships are predicated on trust, so before you upload all of your precious information into a new SaaS platform, you want to make sure it’s the real deal. For CRM, a few key credentials to look out for are,

  • EU-US Privacy Shield (listings can be found on the US Department of Commerce website)
  • CAN-SPAM, compliance 
  • CASL compliance 

These policies regulate commercial email in the EU, US, and Canada respectively. Anyone with a computer and internet connection will be able to access your site and sign up for your mailing list. It’s important that you be in compliance with international protocols. For someone unfamiliar with these rules, they can be easy to break. Offenders can be held personally liable, with violations of CAN-SPAM resulting in a million dollar fine and possible jail time. You may be asking yourself “what egregious crimes could lead to that punishment?” Well if you delete a contact from your mailing list who you’ve emailed in the last sixty days, you just won yourself the grand prize of a million dollar fine and possible jail time. So how do you insulate yourself from committing nefarious cybercrimes that you didn’t know existed? Invest in software that’s steadfast and compliant. At GreenRope, we’ve built our system in a way that makes you unable to commit these crimes. Contacts can’t easily be deleted and unsubscribe links are automatically inserted into every email. 

A second safeguard against security breaches is integration. Investing in a more complete business solution reduces the risk of cyber breaches. When your data is scattered across dozens of different platforms, you face greater vulnerability. If just one attack on any one of those sites succeeds, all your information could be at risk. By having all your business information consolidated into one secure platform, there are less moving parts to worry about. If you don’t have a thousand questionable MarTech apps sharing the same password, and all associated with the same email address, you no longer have to worry about the breach of one insecure site jeopardizing all your data. GreenRope's security credentials are unparalleled and our support staff is automatically notified of fraudulent seeming activity like excessive failed login attempts. 

 

Conclusion

Our world is rapidly digitizing. There’s no way around it. The pandemic only accelerated an existing trend. Consumer preference for digital is increasing as late adopters are forced to realize its convenience. For this reason, brands need to plan accordingly. Companies need to invest in tech that allows them to operate competitively in a digital landscape. The firms who get digital CX right will thrive for decades to come. It’s not just enough to offer digital services. Digital experiences need to be well thought out and reliable. That’s why more and more brands are turning to Complete CRM.

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