There’s no question that the customer experience (CX) has undergone a sudden, dramatic shift in the past few years. Consumers are more online than ever, but this is more than just an acceleration of trends that were already in motion before COVID.

CX, like the rest of daily life, has become a true blend of the digital and “live” worlds. Customers may even be creating personalized blended experiences every day without even realizing it: Looking up product reviews on their phone while in the aisle of a store or buying items online and picking them up curbside.

Most people channel-switch without thinking these days, and consumers will only want the process to become more seamless as they return to physical stores. In-person shopping has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels, while smartphone purchases have undergone a 70 percent increase since 2019 and continue to grow. It seems unlikely that the digital-first generation will ever go back to a purely brick-and-mortar experience.

This is not the only way that customer priorities are beginning to shift. Buyers are more likely to empathize with the employee experience (EX), with the caveat that they expect personalized treatment from businesses in return. Customers are much more likely to maintain brand loyalty and spend at a premium if they trust that the company has their best interests at heart.

Identifying (with) Your Customer

Think of your target client right now. Imagine their demographics, their priorities and how they are accessing your services. You’ve probably put a lot of time building customer profiles and mapping journeys, but have you taken the time recently to consider the new profile of the always-online consumer?

As it turns out, 45 percent of businesses say fewer than half of their CX decisions are made using data, and only a quarter have a “single source of truth” for their customer journey, according to a study by 451 Research. While these may seem like discouraging numbers, the truth is you have the tools to gain insight into your clients at your fingertips.

Every communication with a customer is a chance to learn about their needs and priorities. Each call-center log, email exchange, text, chat and user history is data you can use to tailor your CX and develop the voice of the customer (VoC). Even if many transactions occur in the digital space, your forward-facing employees are experts in consumer pain points. The ability to capture and analyze these interactions allows you to find and narrow down the needs of your customers.

Once you’ve begun to create a data-centric customer profile, it’s time make sure your priorities align with theirs.

Digital, but Make It Personal

Half of all consumers reevaluated their purchasing motivations as a direct result of the pandemic, according to research by Accenture. These evolved customers prioritize personal considerations like brand values and ease of interactions over more traditional motivators like price and quality. They expect companies to understand how their needs reflect the changing times and aren’t afraid to take their business elsewhere if they don’t feel heard.

Because so many of these transactions take place in the digital space first, it’s more important than ever to prioritize investment in technology that supports client engagement. Being able to deliver curated products and personalized customer support goes a long way in making your customer feel like you truly care.

In addition, since person-to-person interactions have become more limited, customers want their human contact to be more valuable. Not only do they expect exceptional customer service, but they want to know that the brands they choose are prioritizing the employee experience in a challenging world.

CX is tied directly to EX; customers are increasingly sensitive to the person on the other end of the line and can tell when a company doesn’t prioritize staff well-being. Equipping your employees to work in hybrid or remote settings and giving them the tools to make informed decisions at any point in the customer journey makes everyone feel empowered in their situation.

Tips for Building Trust with the Digital-First Consumer

A little investment in the customer experience goes a long way towards building loyalty, ensuring they will continue to use and recommend your services. So, how can you build client trust in this complicated, digital-first world?

  • Lead with digital, finish with personal: Much of CX happens in a hands-off process, but customers want to feel that human element. Customize their experiences and connect with them personally to keep them engaged.
  • Discover new customer journeys: Your clients will be accessing your products from multiple channels. Do you know how to meet them every step of the way?
  • Define your values and follow through: Not only do consumers want to understand your brand values, they need to know that you see them through. Showing that you care about the same things as your customers will bring them back time and time again.
  • Provide excellent customer service: Employee happiness translates to customer happiness. Give your staff the technology they need to maximize CX.
  • Ensure data privacy: Customers are willing to give more of their personal data if they know it will be handled securely. This data can be used to customize interactions even more.

The Commercial Advantages of Blended CX

In the end, consumers vote with their dollars. Those who are satisfied with their experience will become devoted customers. The ones who don’t like the way they’ve been treated will simply leave.

Consumers are willing to pay a premium for positive transactions and are increasingly tying their personal values to their purchasing decisions. If you can meet customers on their terms, speak to them on a personal level and develop their trust, your investment will yield returns far beyond your expectations.

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