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Digital customer experience lessons companies can learn from the unicorns

What is the key to the success of the so-called unicorns? Alex Klose, head of marketing at digital customer engagement specialist IMImobile argues that companies seeking to emulate such success should look to deliver the best customer experience possible whilst questioning the value brought to customers.
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With over 80 per cent of the ride-hailing market in the US and having logged over 2bn trips, Uber is by far the world’s largest taxi company, yet it owns no cars. Similarly, Facebook is the most popular media owner but creates no content. Alibaba is the most valuable retailer, yet owns no inventory. And Airbnb is the world’s largest hotel provider but owns no real-estate. Each of these unicorns dominate long-established industries by offering a slick and almost effortless customer experience, anchored around digital and mobile channels.

So what digital customer experience lessons can other companies learn from these so-called unicorn startups?

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1) Understand your customer’s problem (and solve it)

Fundamentally, customers want you to solve their problem. Today, we are living in a fast-moving world where we crave instant gratification and everything needs to happen instantly. Shopping on your mobile? With Amazon, it’s ordered and delivered in a few clicks. Want to complain about an inadequate customer service experience? A Tweet with 140 characters will grab a business’s attention right away. And if you want to share a special moment with your friends, you simply send a photo on Snapchat or post it on Instagram.

The shift in consumer values shows that today’s digital and mobile savvy consumer cares more than ever about the experience you deliver. Recognising this shift, identifying the problems your customers face, and figuring out fast and efficient solutions will help to develop your customer experience vision and keep you at the forefront of your customer minds.

2) Unicorns create a customer experience vision

The customer experience can be your biggest differentiator and the rewards for getting it right are plenty. But none of these can be realised without a good customer experience vision. According to management consulting firm, Bain and Company, 80 per cent of CEOs believe they deliver a superior customer experience (CX), but only eight per cent of customers agree. With such a disparity between perception and truth, bosses should stop assuming they know what their customers want and spend time listening to them.

You can adopt a number of strategies to gain a better understanding of your customers. Data, both qualitative and qualitative, is the foundation of which experience is being defined and delivered. Asking a customer for qualitative feedback about interactions helps to deepen understanding and uncover unmet needs. While analysing unstructured data, such as social media posts, combined with customer analytics enables you to gain an insight into customers’ values, needs and expectations and identify patterns and trends in customer’s behaviour.

Working out your core customer experience priorities is key. Model the impact that customer experience quality has on your core business goals – whether it’s driving revenue growth or customer retention – and identify the most important customer groups and the characteristics that each core customer experience must have. This will help you to focus your vision and keep it aligned to your key business objectives. Other customer experience practices that businesses should also master, according to Forrester’s Customer Experience Management Maturity Model, include:

• Design – Have a process in place for designing and updating each of the company’s core customer experiences and check that the design of each core experience aligns with the CX vision.

• Delivery – Provide tools that help employees deliver core experiences the right way every time and offer the right training to coach frontline employees on how to execute the part of the customer experience that they personally deliver.

• Measurement – Measure customers’ overall perception of core customer experiences and design measurement communications so that they are useful and usable for employees.
Businesses should take all of these practices into account when creating their customer experience vision.

3) Drive internal change to align your customer experience vision

Without a doubt, aligning, unifying and empowering your internal stakeholders is the biggest challenge when it comes to implementing your customer experience vision. Whether it is the IT or marketing department, everyone in your organisation needs to work towards the same goal and long-established business processes need to be re-established to make your organisation more nimble and able to respond to ever-changing customer needs.

Engendering the right culture – much like unicorns do – is paramount if you want to get all employees on board with your vision. Provide your employees with an education on your customers and CX vision, using the insight you’ve gathered from your qualitative research. Highlight the positive impact good customer experience has on growth, customer retention and business bottom line.

4) Go the way of the unicorns: Embrace new technology for integrated communication

A successful customer experience relies on an integrated omni-channel communication strategy. The integration of all digital, mobile and social channels within a business’ existing systems and the orchestration of processes associated with customer journeys is vital to delivering a unified and personalised customer experience. Research from Ember, Gartner and others suggests that such companies perform financially better than peers: the companies were found to have nine per cent higher revenues, 26 per cent higher profits and 12 per cent higher market valuations.

Businesses hoping to learn from the unicorns should therefore seek to understand and overcome the technical challenges of integration. By abiding by these customer experience principles, businesses can leverage digital innovations, and in doing so, give themselves a shot at hitting the heights of the unicorn start-ups.

Alex Klose is head of marketing at digital customer engagement specialist IMImobile

Image: Shutterstock

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