“Customers are the lifeblood of every startup.”
-Matt Blumberg, Serial Entrepreneur, CEO, Bolster Blog
If customers are so critical to the success of a company, why are CEOs so hesitant to invest in a digital customer experience that delights and leads to long-term growth?
Given that the pandemic has caused an economic rollercoaster for all industries, it is reasonable to assume that companies are reassessing every expenditure, including their spending, on digital and high-touch experiences along the ‘post-sale’ journey. Completely dismissing or canceling technology that helps clients help themselves is a mistake.
Implementing a digital-led customer journey doesn’t just help the customer. It impacts nearly every part of the organization, from customer success to sales and product, to marketing. Initially, creating a digital strategy may seem like a big lift and expenditure, but long term, it can help with scale, community building, expansion, and referrals.
From a customer perspective, it is a requirement. Think of the companies you love. They likely have high net promoter scores (NPS) scores that have become household names. If you are a client of these companies, you may have never talked to a support agent and have rarely been stuck on finding an answer to a question online. The company likely has a rich digital-led experience with in application guidance, videos discussing the product, and a community. From my experience, companies like Apple, Zoom, and Smartsheet come to mind. I have no idea if I have a customer success manager guiding some of the products I invest in for my company, but I know how to get help if I need it - and it’s not through human touch.
From a company perspective, digital allows companies to scale faster. Customer Success Managers can focus on being proactive with their mid & enterprise customers, and support managers can address more complex tickets that digital experience can’t address. Communities can turn a post into a ticket, measure engagement, capture user data, and help build product heroes. All of these interactions lead to better customer understanding, ultimately resulting in better products being built.
According to a report published by Com100, chatbots chats have almost 90% satisfaction rates chatbots and “are capable of handling full conversations with customers and do so almost 70% of the time. Of course, chatbots can’t deal with every query, but they can be used to assist with common queries from start to finish.”
How to Justify a Digital Journey to Your C-Suite
Saving money is likely the main reason a CEO would approve the investment in either building or purchasing a license for an application that enables digital client experiences.
Every CFO and CEO our advisory team works with typically asks,
“How do I know if I am getting ROI from implementing a CSP or a more automated customer journey? How do I apply digital touches in my company? We are unique.”
Every company we work with tells us they are ‘unique’, and rightfully so, if they are building a sustainable company that addresses customer pain points in a way that others aren’t or if they are category creators. The ones that start a digital journey early scale faster with less.
Just as your company is unique, so are your customers! But they also have commonalities that will help you build your digital approach. Being unique is not an excuse to avoid or poorly implement a digital-led strategy.
Who is a Digital Journey Relevant For?
Nearly every client. I have never heard someone say they would prefer to search for an answer for hours, contact support, wait on hold, or get stuck in a platform.
Three experiences lead to churn faster than anything else:
1. Poor Onboarding. The psychology behind that first lousy experience is challenging to overcome. This applies to a poor first-sales interaction.
2. Poor Customer Support. We all have terrible support stories to share and countless statistics, including one from Paldesk that magnifies the impact of poor support.
“90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company.”
PS. Stop blaming it on the people you hire. You need to enable them to thrive with the proper training and technology.
3. A change in leadership that can’t quickly see the value in a technology investment. As a former CCO, I slashed over $100k in technology investment in less than six months. I am not alone in these drastic measures when CSAT, NPS, efficiency, and morale are low, but churn is increasing.
If poor customer experience and a lack of ROI justification are the top reasons for churn, investing in an interactive experience that meets the client where they want to engage is essential for all companies. As more people turn to text and app chat for interaction, shouldn’t your company offer the same?
If you don’t think your product needs to be simplified, think again. In 2022, United rolled out text support for their Gold + members, which worked. Initially skeptical, I decided to try it when I needed a ticket change for my departing flight home later that day. The agent on the text got to me 15 minutes faster than being on hold and, after confirming my identity, was able to move up my flight home. Was I happy? I was delighted. I even told several people how easy it was to chat with United, and now I am writing about it.
Before you default to common excuses such as our product is too complex, or the implementation is too much work or too expensive, our support team is good enough, think again. Your customers demand an interaction that doesn’t necessarily require a human touch to succeed.
How to Start a digital led customer experience:
Start with a Journey Map. Bringing the right people from different teams across the organization to identify the key moments of success and risk is critical.
Key Moments. Identify the following moments where a digital experience can:
- Improve the experience.
- Deflect a customer support ticket.
- Bring clients together to discuss your product, help one another, and ask questions that others can learn from
- Lead to an online positive customer review
Understand Your Clients:
- What are some typical pain points customers have that brought them to your product?
- Who are your user personas, and what do they care about? Do you have more than one user persona?
- What are the most common reasons customers contact your company for?
- How do customers most commonly contact you?
- What is each segment expecting from the client experience?
Do you have answers to these questions?
If not, start with a survey and ask your clients:
- What are the biggest challenges in their business?
- How do they prefer to interact with your team?
- What is one thing in your application they need help with?
These three simple questions can help you jumpstart your digital-led journey. Share the answers company-wide, and you will be surprised by how teams will rally around improving the customer experience.
The answers are the beginning of your digital program.
If the data in your survey identify text updates over email, consider how much time and money the implementation and training would take and weigh it against alternatives. Test the approach with a small group and learn before you launch a company-wide initiative.
Assess Digital-Led Options:
With so many options, take the time to understand the current tech stack supporting clients, your customer journey, and how digital can be best applied to meet customer needs.
Examples of Digital-led opportunities:
Advanced AI chatbots, in-application, text messaging services, sophisticated in-application guides, rich community features, virtual social media assistants, customer success platforms, support applications, sentiment predictors, and more.
Now is the Time to Invest in Digital Led Customer Experiences
If your team is repeatedly firefighting, answering the same questions from customers, and bug fixing vs. innovating, it is time to access your customer journey and digitize the customer experience.
Consider an outside advisory firm to help assess where a digital experience can be applied in the customer journey. They can also help you create use cases, implementation, and testing for an optimal outcome. Consultants can also accelerate the impact your customers will experience from the digital-led experience.
Emilia D’Anzica is the founder and managing director of Growth Molecules™, a management consulting firm focused on customer support and success. The company’s mission is to help organizations increase profit while maximizing customer value. Emilia is also on several global advisory boards and an active contributor to the Forbes Council. She is a part-time Adjunct MBA Marketing Metrics Professor at Saint Mary’s College of California.
As an early employee at several successful companies, Emilia amassed more than 20 years of customer experience as Vice President of Customer Engagement at WalkMe, Director of Client Service Operations at BrightEdge, and Director of Customer Success at Jobvite.
Emilia holds a BA from the University of British Columbia and an MBA with Honors from Saint Mary’s College of California. She is PMP and Scrum-certified. Emilia resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, with her three children and partner. Pressing ON as a Tech Mom is her first book.