This article, “When Real-Time Customer Experience Isn’t Enough,” was originally published by MarTech Advisor on August 26, 2019.
Remember hearing when you were younger that the customer is always right? At the time, it probably just meant the customer service representative at your local retailer cheerfully accepted your return. But we’ve since moved way beyond that basic level of customer satisfaction.
Today’s businesses know their livelihood rests on making the customer incredibly happy. In response, companies are making customers the focus of everything they do — not just with customer support and success but also product design, marketing, and even top-level strategy — with the goal of actively spoiling them.
Fortunately, current technology can go a long way toward helping them achieve this goal. From live chat to easy-to-navigate online shops and even self-service password retrieval that we all need surprisingly often, companies are largely able to resolve issues as soon as they arise. This is referred to as real-time CX, meaning that companies are able to meet customer needs immediately.
Real-time might seem like the ultimate in customer experience. After all, customers receive the help they need right when they need it. But as companies work ever harder to spoil customers, the latter’s expectations keep growing. Now we’re getting to the point where they actually expect companies to not only meet their needs, but to anticipate them — which brings us to predictive CX.
Predictive CX: A New Frontier in Customer Experience
It all boils down to reactive vs. proactive thinking. Real-time CX is great, but fundamentally you’re still reacting. If you can instead anticipate needs before they occur, you can create an end-to-end customer experience that really knocks their socks off.
How does it work? Predictive CX requires having a deep understanding of the problems that customers typically experience and then taking steps to prevent them — or at least minimize them.
Here’s an example: A SaaS storage provider doesn’t want its enterprise customers to run out of storage space because it would frustrate them and deny the provider a potential sales opportunity. So the SaaS company sends a friendly email when customers hit 90 percent of their storage capacity, allowing them to address it before it becomes a problem.
Predictive CX takes advantage of everything you know about customers to give them the best possible experience every time they engage with you. If real-time CX is fixing a pothole as soon as it forms, predictive CX is building a road wherever a customer wants to drive, before they even know where they want to go.
Making Predictive CX Work for You
For predictive CX to work, you need to have solid data to make predictions. Fortunately, most companies today have a near endless supply of data at their fingertips — from how new and established customers compare to which support tickets are common for each product and how sales correlate with demographic information.
You can harness this data to head off potential problems. For example, if you notice a high number of support tickets immediately following a product update, you can send an alert to all remaining customers to save them from having to contact you with a complaint.
It’s not just about large trends, though. You’ve probably also got a lot of individual information about each customer — everything from their age and income to what they like to eat for breakfast. In addition, you know what their customer support needs have been in the past and which products they’ve purchased from you.
This information is a gold mine. It can help you customize the pre-sales experience to improve the chances of closing that first deal and can be used for tailored marketing messaging to drive ongoing engagement and purchases. It also helps identify sales trends, such as the products people often buy together, that can help you create future campaigns and even develop new products.
The Human Side of Predictive CX
While most of your marketing decisions should hinge on concrete, actionable data, individual customer feedback can also help you implement predictive CX. Online surveys, for example, allow you to hear directly from the customer about what they want and need, giving you access to insights that aren’t always visible in another way.
You shouldn’t let a few complaints upend your whole strategy since only one percent of customers actually provide feedback. But do be sure to listen to a variety of customers at different levels, then balance those comments with subject matter experts within the company to focus on core customer pain points.
The best thing about predictive CX is that it benefits everyone. The customer has a more positive interaction with the company every step of the way. The customer support and success teams have access to in-depth information on each customer they work with, helping them to anticipate questions and challenges. And the sales and marketing teams receive deep and broad insights that allow them to create more effective strategies that benefit the bottom line.
While actually knowing the future is still impossible, we can learn a lot about what customers are likely to need based on the data we collect. And by using that information to improve their experience with your company, one thing you can confidently predict is improved satisfaction levels and higher sales.
Featured image credit: Pxhere