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Featured Story | Written by Stuart Banbery
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Successful Digital Customer Experience Brand Strategy in 2019

Digital customer experience (CX) strategy is fast-becoming the key battleground for leading organisations - even for those brands that never previously considered needing a strong online offering.

21 Feb - 5 min read

Earning customer loyalty

When we look at what’s driving this new trend it’s not hard to see why. In a study of 10,000 US consumers by leading independent think tank the Tempkin Group, it was found that 86% of those who received a great customer experience were likely to repurchase from the same company. This is compared to just 13% of those who received a poor CX.

With Deloitte Consulting reporting that online purchasing in the UK has now overtaken in-store purchasing for the first time, and 92% of senior business leaders from across Europe ranking CX as a priority for 2019, it’s clear to see why the online battle is intensifying with each day.

So we wanted to take a closer look at what strategies some of the UK’s best practitioners of digital customer experience were developing and deploying in 2019 to keep them ahead of the pack. We asked leaders from a diverse range of well-known organisations to share some of the behind the screens secrets that will underpin their success for the year ahead.

Kayla Sheik - Head of Social Media Customer Services, Virgin Trains

Digital Customer Experience (CX) Strategy in 2019 _ 3 Brand Stories - Kalyla Sheik“We are on a mission to build a highly-engaged community of people on social who love our brand and we believe the best way to do that is to show as much personality and personalisation in our customer conversations as we can…whilst providing a stellar service of course.

When speaking to brands online, it’s often easy for people to forget there’s a real human behind the screen wanting to do everything they can to help. There is now a standard expectation for speedy and informative responses via an organisations’ social media account, so we’re big believers in going the extra mile to create powerful and emotional customer experiences and that’s what we feel will set us apart from the rest.

One of the ways we do this is to proactively look for opportunities to surprise and delight those who engage with us. This can be something as little as a tray of cupcakes delivered directly to someone’s office just for some Monday motivation, to an experience at a llama sanctuary because, well, their Twitter bio says they like llamas!

‘With Heart, Delightfully Surprising’ and ‘Red Hot’ are just a few of the values we live and breathe at Virgin Trains, and those philosophies are followed through and through when engaging with our customers online, as we believe there’s more to customer service than just offering an answer to a question.”

Akhil Vyas - Senior Social Media Manager, Thames Water

Digital Customer Experience (CX) Strategy in 2019 | 3 Brand Stories - Akhil Vyas

“For us, customer experience is essential, and in fact, our business function is called Customer Experience, emphasising just how key it is. We measure in two ways, as half of our customers will be those who have contacted us, but the other half will be those customers who we’ve never spoken to.

Therefore, our customer experience needs to encompass being ‘here for our customers’, but also, our proactive marketing and brand campaigning is equally important so we ensure both sides of the customer base are aware of the great work that Thames Water does.

Emotion is huge in every industry. If you are a customer of a water company or energy supplier and you don’t have water or energy, that’s going to trigger an emotional response. For us, we know self-service is vital for our customers and we’re always working to improve our digital assets.

Responding to users quickly but factually is so important – customers could be without water and in a state of panic, so part of our role on social media is to ensure they trust that we’re in control. We want to get even better at this and spend a lot of time communicating updates internally, as it’s a team effort to get the latest news out across all channels – no one can do this alone.

We look at sentiment throughout the user journey in a lot of detail – we’re interested in any change of sentiment. If people come in negative and leave positive, we know we’ve done our job well – but if they come in negative and leave negative, or worse still, come in positive and leave negative, we want to know why. Sometimes, we see there’s nothing we could have done to prevent this, but we still want to understand it and where we can make changes, we will.”

Darren Caveney - Creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd

Digital Customer Experience (CX) Strategy in 2019 | 3 Brand Stories - Darren Caveney

“Customer experience in the public sector is a rich and varied landscape. For many organisations in this sector, investment in communications, customer services and technology has decreased during the austerity cuts which have hit since 2010. And this at a time when demand and expectation for better online services from customers is increasing year on year.

At odds with this, though, is an observation I have from reviewing public sector social media accounts and its this: some customers are surprised when they receive a reply on social media from their local council, NHS Trust or housing provider. But this is not enough and most public sector organisations realise this.

Customers will subconsciously benchmark levels of service with better resourced private sector responses, systems and teams. Over-deliver and surprise and public sector customer expectations really can be exceeded.

Organisations like Scottish Water are a good example here with agreed social media response times of just 15 minutes. That’s impressive by any standards and a tremendous level of online service for Scottish customers.

The chance to tell engaging stories to build on emotion and encourage trust.

Some of the social media campaigns and content being created across the public sector are genuinely brilliant and the equal of the best in the private sector. It’s heartfelt, honest and free from the pressure to deliver profits.

Take a look at the Local Government Association’s #OurDay 2018 hashtag and you’ll see over 33k tweets from 10k contributors displaying superbly crafted storytelling about the vital jobs which local government and its partners deliver for us each and every day – services which are often taken for granted or, worse still, are unknown to citizens. Lack of choice needs to be considered.

A key challenge for the public sector is that many of its customers have no choice in the selection of their service providers. This can be a challenge in terms of building trust, a hugely important emotion within the customer experience context.

The way around this is to deliver the best possible services to the people who need them most, and wherever they need them. Then we need to tell stories effectively across all channels to engage and make access to services simple and customer interactions speedy, helpful, empathetic and honest.”

Meeting customer expectations

Regardless of industry, company size or market conditions, businesses need to continually assess the experience they are delivering versus what their customers now expect. Consumers are becoming savvy with self-service, brands are reducing overheads with automation and streamlining, but we still need to be mindful that sometimes the empathy and emotional intelligence that a human possesses is irreplaceable. Therein lies the challenge, how do you truly interpret your customers’ needs and achieve the perfect balance between digital transformation and human engagement. The customer is still king, and in today’s hyper-connected world, it’s going to be customer “experience” – and not just “service” – that sets you apart from the rest.

Access the latest independent digital CX research and understand what senior business leaders from across Europe will be focussing on in 2019. Download the “Emotive online CX Trends 2019 Guidebook”, here.

Stuart Banbery is the Marketing Director at Orlo, he has a background spanning multiple industries and is responsible for all strategic and brand operations. Stuart is passionate about helping organisations harness the power emotional connections to create powerful customer experiences. Outside of work Stuart loves outdoor pursuits, travelling and is a keen Triathlon competitor.

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