Customer experience, not omnichannel presence, is key to maintaining brand loyalty

Customer experience in part dictates brand loyalty

Brands should not confuse ‘omnichannel perfection’ with great customer experience, as consumers will abandon a brand for poor service and are not as loyal as expected to brand-developed social communities.

A recent survey by the CMO and SAP Hybrid entitled 'The Customer in Context' found that almost half of North American and European consumers surveyed will take their money elsewhere if they continuously encounter a poor, impersonal or frustrating customer experience across channels of engagement.

Additionally, consumers are critical when channels they expect to have access to, including company website, email, a phone number to call and a knowledgeable salesperson to speak with as part of their customer journey does not materialize.

The study is based on findings from an online survey of more than 2,000 consumers in early 2017. The audience was made up of 50% male and 50 percent female respondents across the United States (50%), Canada (25%), and Europe (25%).

"Today, the differentiator isn't whether we are able to individualize an experience, but rather having the insight and intelligence to know where, when and how a customer expects to be greeted with value and relevance," explained Liz Miller, senior vice president of Marketing at the CMO Council. "Consumers don't need personalization at every moment. But what this research amplifies is the requirement to get relevant, personalized experiences right for an audience of one in their micro-moment of need."

When asked to outline the key aspects of an exceptional customer experience, 52% expected fast response times to needs, suggestions or issues, and 47% wanted knowledgeable staff ready to assist wherever and whenever needed. Less important were elements like always-on assisted service (8%), brand-developed social communities to connect consumers with other fans (9%), and access to multiple touchpoints as part of the customer journey.

One area of frustration for consumers was price increases on products and when consumers are not treated like the loyal customers they are (36%).

The cost of continuing to frustrate consumers is brand abandonment as 47% say they will stop doing business with a brand. While 32% of consumers would email the company to complain and 29% would tell all family and friends, the overwhelming reaction to frustration was to abandon the brand and spend their money elsewhere.

Overall, consumers felt that brands were doing a fairly good job of delivering on the most important aspects of the customer experience as one in four consumers feels that brands are delivering personalized and relevant engagements across critical touchpoints. However, there is still work to be done as 38% say brands are almost there, and 22% say that brands are delivering, but only in digital channels.

The study also found that 70% of consumers are willing to share some degree of their personal data with brands; 22% say they will only share data if it is being used to deliver more relevant and better offers. Additionally, consumers are willing to share data in exchange for value. Value is clearly defined as something that saves money (77%), saves time (49%) or makes life easier (47%).

While men admit they prefer mostly digital experiences (61%), women (59%) admit that no channel really meets all of their needs. Perhaps this is why the top frustration for women ties back to the disconnect in physical and digital experiences as they are most irked by buying something online and not being able to return it in store (56%). Men, on the other hand, are most frustrated by constantly feeling the brands they do business with know nothing about them.

"Every customer takes a different path to their purchase, and our responsibility as brand leaders is to ensure that we are at the ready to greet them, not as strangers, but with the empathy, value and context they have earned as our customer," challenged Jamie Anderson, chief marketing fficer of SAP Hybris. "What this research proves is that we risk our own business success if we continue to leave our customer's voice out of our experience strategies. If we fail to deliver value, we fail to close that deal because our customer has left to do business with a competitor that has taken the time to respond, react and deliver relevance regardless of channel or location."

Laurie Fullerton

Laurie Fullerton is a writer based in Boston, MA with a background in business, sports, community, medical and travel writing. She has been a newspaper editor in the Boston-area, a sports writer covering yacht racing and a community reporter. She has been reporting for The Drum since October 2015.

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