What Is a Unified Customer Experience and How Can It Benefit the Bottom Line?

unified-customer-service

The customer relationship management space is buzzing with tips about providing a unified customer experience, but what exactly does that mean in the context of customer experience management (CXM)?

Simply put, a unified customer experience is when customers feel like they are interacting with a single company, regardless of their channel. The reality is that it takes quite a bit of work to accomplish a unified experience in today’s digital environment.

The easiest way to understand the concept is to think of a relationship between two people. The friendship analogy is not far-fetched. A study by Deloitte showed that 62% of consumers already feel they have a relationship with their favorite brands.

The challenge lies in how to scale personalization and relationship building, right? Forbes reports that more than 40% of respondents said their organizations could not aggregate and use customer data, despite the need for compelling customer insights.

This blog post will discuss unified customer experience and tools you can use to achieve it for your business.

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Why Is It Important to Provide a Unified Customer Experience?

We can all agree that customers increasingly expect to interact with companies via various digital channels. The chart below from McKinsey proves what most executives already sense. Consumer interest in digital engagement is increasing across many sectors.

(Source: McKinsey blog Service industries can fuel growth by making digital customer experiences a priority., April 30, 2020)

A unified customer experience is the holy grail of customer service because it builds trust and increases customer satisfaction. Benefits include fewer annoying points of friction for customers, company access to more customer data, and better knowledge of context for customer service agents.

Consumers are busy, too. The growth in the food delivery segment, even post-COVID19, is just one example of where convenience is king. According to a study by PWC, almost 80% of American consumers say speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service as the most important elements of a positive customer experience.

Scaling this seamless, personalized relationship with all of your customers is crucial because a unified customer experience can decrease customer attrition, build brand loyalty and increase customer lifetime value (CLV).

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How to Deliver a Unified Customer Experience

Let’s say someone is trying to deepen their relationship with you. They want you in their life for a long time. What are your expectations of their behavior?

You expect them to know who you are, understand your context, and remember your past conversations. You want them to show up with the same personality, whether you are texting, talking, reading one of their posts, or sending emails.

You want them to be available. If your friend is unreachable via chat, your favorite way of interacting, you will not feel very satisfied. You want them to be consistent. If they don’t follow up or seem fake or distant in different contexts, you might begin to doubt them or lose trust.

Companies need to try to provide similar benefits to build trusting, long-lasting relationships with their customers. In today’s business environment, the customer experience is more important than ever. With so many choices available, customers will take their business to the company that provides the best experience.

To help customer service agents deliver the best experience, companies need to provide a single view of the customer experience across all channels – from the initial contact to post-purchase follow-up.

Providing a unified customer experience requires careful planning and execution. Here are some tips to help you get started: 

  • Define your customer profile: Who are your target customers? What do they want and need? What motivates them? Understanding your target customer is essential to providing a customized experience.
  • Start with touchpoints: The good news is, according to a Feb. 2020 Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights survey, 78% of online shoppers have had a unified customer experience touch point in the last six months. (ncr.com)

Start collecting your touchpoints by considering where your customers interact with your brand. In what order do they typically engage with you?

Touchpoints can include everything from your website to in-person interactions with sales and customer service representatives. Companies can develop a strategy to integrate these touchpoints into a unified conversation. 

  • Create a customer journey map: Once you know who your target customer is and what their journey looks like, you can start to map out the ideal experience. Customer journey mapping helps you identify opportunities to improve the experience at each touchpoint. We cover the customer journey map in a bit more detail below.
  • Align your team: Every team member should understand the importance of the customer experience and know how their role fits into the bigger picture. Make sure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal.
  • Training in best practices is key: Your service agents are the face of your brand, so it’s vital that you provide training in delivering a unified customer experience and make sure employees have the resources they need to be successful.
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By following these tips, you can start to deliver a more unified customer experience that will delight customers and help grow your business.

Mapping the Customer Journey

A unified approach is essential not just from the customers’ point of view but also for the company’s systems. Trying to fix just one stop of the customer journey often creates more complexity. As Forbes says, “One point solutions create chaos.”

One way to create a systematic approach to unified customer experiences is by creating a customer journey map.

A customer journey map is a visual representation of the steps your customers take to reach their goal, from initial awareness all the way through to purchase and advocacy. By mapping out the entire journey, you can clearly understand what your customers are thinking and feeling at each stage and identify any pain points along the way.

A customer journey map provides insights to optimize the customer experience, see red flags, and identify opportunities to increase customer satisfaction.

There are several ways to map out a customer journey. Below are some overview considerations, and you can also check out our blog article What is a Customer Journey for more detail.

A robust customer journey map includes a few key elements:

  1. The different journey stages: You’ll need to identify all the key stages your customers go through during interactions with your company.
  2. The communication channels customers prefer: Track which channels (e.g., paid search, organic search, social media, email) your customers use at each stage of their journey.
  3. The customer touchpoints: As noted above, a touchpoint is any interaction your customer has with your brand, whether it’s visiting your website, reading an email, or speaking to customer service. It’s essential to note all their touchpoints so you can identify where there might be gaps or opportunities for improvement.
  4. Customer mindset during their journey: What are your customer’s thinking and feeling at each stage? A customer’s emotional state is one of the most important aspects of a customer journey map as it gives insights into their needs and pain points.
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Once you’ve mapped out the customer journey, you can look for ways to improve it, such as changing the order of steps, adding new touchpoints, or providing helpful content at critical stages. You can see a big difference in the overall experience and increase conversions by making even minor tweaks.

Treating Each Customer As An Individual

Anyone who has renewed their driver’s license at the state office knows how it feels to be treated like a number. Is that how you want your customers to feel about your brand?

In today’s customer landscape, it’s more important than ever to treat each customer as an individual. The basis for the relationship is the conversation. We encourage clients to stop thinking in terms of tickets and instead think about conversations.

The technology tools simply help us do a better job of effectively managing more conversations. By engaging in customer conversations and taking the time to understand their unique needs, service agents can create a personalized experience that will keep them coming back for more. When you equip your team to treat your customers as individuals, you’ll be sure to nurture lasting relationships.

Choosing the Right Tools for a Unified Customer Experience

The key to long-term satisfied customers is consistent and cohesive touchpoints experiences.  To achieve this flow, you need the right tools in place.

The crucial ingredient service agents need to deliver customer satisfaction starts with the ability to see the context and history of that customer’s experience in one view. This data might come from transactions, contact forms, social media, surveys, etc.

Having this data in one place will give service agents a well-rounded view of each customer and their interactions with your brand. Investing in the right tools enables you to create a unified customer experience that is well worth the effort.

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