How to Elevate Your Digital Customer Experience from So-So to Spectacular

The Modern Workplace 365 is a five-part series designed to help small to midsize business teams and lean startups understand the megatrends reshaping customer and employee experiences in order to thrive.  

In the first post, Why Small Businesses Need to Digitally Transform into the Modern Workplace, we introduce the benefits, challenges, and opportunities of digital transformation; and the priorities to consider when charting your digital business strategy.  

In this second post, we explore the impacts of rising customer expectations on the Modern Workplace and business solutions to help you attract and retain more customers.

Facing the Challenge of Evolving Customer Experience Expectations

You recognize a world-class customer experience the moment you see it.

It inspires you to not only come back for more, but to also share your experience with your colleagues, friends, and family members. An exceptional customer experience may very well be the most effective form of marketing there is.

Consider this heartening example from the Hern Family.

The first night home from a vacation at the Ritz-Carlton, Chris Hurn (CEO of Fountainhead Commercial Capital) discovered his son had left his beloved stuffed giraffe, “Joshie,” behind:

“My son is extremely fond of his Joshie, and was absolutely distraught with the idea of going to sleep without his favorite pal,” explained Chris. “While trying to put him to bed, I decided to tell a little white lie: ‘Joshie is fine,’ I said. ‘He’s just taking an extra long vacation at the resort.’ My son seemed to buy it.

“That very night, the Ritz-Carlton called to tell us they had Joshie. Thankfully, he had been found, no worse for wear, in the laundry. I came clean about my story I told my son and asked if they would mind taking a picture of Joshie by the poolside.

“A couple days went by and we received a package from the hotel. It was Joshie, some Ritz-Carlton-branded ‘goodies,’ and a binder that meticulously documented his extended stay. It showed Joshie wearing shades by the pool, getting a massage at the spa, and driving a golf cart. [He] was even issued a Ritz-Carlton ID badge and worked a shift in front of the security monitors.”

As a small business leader or entrepreneur, you need to ask yourself whether your company is consistently delivering the best customer experience possible.

There is simply too much competition to not provide this level of excellence in your customer experience at every touchpoint. Maintaining an exemplary level of customer satisfaction is critical to acquiring new business and retaining existing customers.

The challenge is: where do you start? How do you – as a small or midsize business with finite resources – provide a standard of excellence that is on par with the best experiences out there?

Microsoft, for one, offers a compelling technology foundation.

To deal with evolving business needs, heightened customer expectations, distributed teams, and an increasingly complex environment, Microsoft has developed the Modern Workplace.

These employee-centric environments — powered by Office 365 and embedded third-party business solutions like Nimble CRM — offer millions of small business teams secure, highly reliable platforms for exchanging ideas, having multi-channel conversations, making informed decisions, collaborating, and doing their best work all around.”  

How Customers’ Expectations Have Changed in Digital

According to CX keynote speaker and New York Times best-selling author Shep Hyken, the biggest change within the customer’s decision-making process is they’re very aware of what great customer service looks and feels like.

“Smarter, more informed customers no longer compare you to your direct competitors,” explains Shep. “They compare you to the best service they’ve ever received, and that could be from a Ritz-Carlton or the neighborhood store owner who also has her customer’s favorite soda and chips waiting before they’re asked. That’s where the benchmark is set.”

Like it or not, you’re being compared to the fervent attentiveness of Nordstrom’s customer centricity; the simplicity and personalized shopping experience on Amazon; the singular devotion to delight every customer entering an Apple store; and to any number of stellar brands that we all know and love.

How Can Technology Enable the Best Customer Experience?

Your customer’s online expectations are immediate.

For starters, they expect that product information is available online, interactive, and visually compelling. They know that competitive products are a click away; they expect pricing to be visible, transparent, and competitive.

They also expect you to know them, what they have bought in the past, and to know what they are interested in. Their fulfillment expectations may be measured in hours or minutes and not days.

Throughout the buyer’s journey, they expect you to respond promptly in relevant and personalized ways, regardless of how they contact you:

If somebody has been tweeting you and that’s been their primary mode of communication, the next time they pick up the phone and call you shouldn’t have to ask them to start over. You should be able to look in their profile and see everything they communicated with us about and that’s a pretty simple thing to create.

“So that’s a really important tool — to have the place where all customer information that’s relevant to the experience. That all has to be on one spot for somebody to see, an employee to see. A CRM like Nimble that captures your communications as you work is probably one of the most important ingredients in an outstanding CX.”

Shep HykenCustomer Service Expert, Author, and Speaker

Technology has raised the performance bar for everyone in terms of creating expectations of immediacy, personalization, and superior digital experiences.

The good news for SMBs with limited resources is that technology solutions can help to fulfill these expectations by helping employees take advantage of every touch point in more cost-effective ways than ever.

“As a company that specializes in crafting stories and the experiences behind them, we’re consciously making our connections more personal. All of them. This means reaching out one-at-a-time to folks through email, phone, video, and in-person.

“To do so, we’re communicating to smaller, more defined groups. We hate getting communications that interrupt and don’t add value to our customer experience, so we tune our communications to smaller groups, tailoring the content to their situation and personalizing communications with the details we have in our small business and social-friendly Nimble CRM.  We love how individualized Nimble is and how easy it is to shape the get-to-know-us part of the experience from the very earliest stages.”

Mike Wittenstein, Managing Partner of CX consultancy StoryMiners

An effective CRM technology investment can have a major impact on the ability of your marketing teams to deliver relevant, targeted messages to potential sales leads. This will directly improve their ability to deliver qualified opportunities to the sales team.  

Sales analytics tools can help your sales teams to identify the best leads to focus on. Sales intelligence tools can help your team to cultivate lifelong relationships, and sales enablement tools can help them close more business.  

Your sales team needs to have all of the relevant customer interactions in a single data source, regardless of the channel the customer chooses to use.

Your support teams can then deliver the best possible experience to your customers by accessing any and all information about that customer; including prior support issues they have had and knowing what products and services the customer has already invested in.

Cloud-based applications don’t require the large, up-front investment in a software license that were common a few years ago. Additionally cloud applications require less technical and administrative support, making the SaaS-based CRM tools that are on the market today more cost-effective than ever.  

When building your best possible customer experience, you are now able to do so in a way that makes business and bottom-line sense.  

Microsoft Office 365 offers the ability to manage your email communications, but doesn’t provide cross-team functionality; valuable contact data and engagement history is siloed. That’s where a CRM comes into play and keeps your team connected.  

Based on input from your sales, marketing and support teams, as well as your IT goals, you can choose from a wide range of SaaS CRM, marketing automation, sales enablement and customer service apps to integrate.  Alternatively, you can look for an easy-to-implement, all-in-one social sales and marketing CRM — such as Nimble.

Nimble integrates emails, social contacts, and communications into a unified relationship manager for small business teams. It uses pre-configured data analysis to automate mundane research and data entry tasks and provides actionable insights for personalized outreach with templated and trackable emails. It supports multiple pipelines to project income and track multi-stage workflows, and it provides simple, automated reporting to ensure every member of the team is on the same page.

Customers and prospects expect everyone they interact with at your company to be “in the loop”: to know who they last spoke with, what their questions or concerns are, and what needs to be done next.  To support these expectations and deliver the best possible experience, everyone on the team that has interactions with the customer should be on the same CRM platform and have access to the same customer information.

“Microsoft customers are fortunate in that they have the opportunity to select among the best CRM solutions on the market. Fast-growing startups and small business teams with basic sales and marketing requirements can choose to go with Office 365 and embedded CRM tools like Nimble. Companies that need to support aa larger number of users, or that have more complex requirements that span both CRM and ERP, may opt for Dynamics 365 and Office 365.”  

Jason Brown, Vice President, Product Sherweb, a leading hosted services provider for more than 40,000 Microsoft customers

Technology is only part of the solution; partners with specialized industry or technology expertise can help with implementations, integration, custom development, and augment your own possibly limited technical resources may not be able to handle.

Partners with experience in CRM or CX can also align the technology with your teams’ vision for customer experience and to deliver the tools, processes, and implementation services needed to make this vision a reality.

“As a CSP and technology company, we’re connected via multiple devices and have access to data and information 24/7. Our SMB customers want similar, on-demand access to their data and a 360-degree view of the organization in order to better serve their buyers.  Nowadays, business doesn’t stop at the end of the workday, and neither does customer service. Customers log into portals and different self-serve resources at all hours.

“We’re educating customers about these and other changes in the customer journey, which doesn’t stop when you sign a deal. The journey continues thereafter, and we’re helping small businesses serve their customers over the lifetime of their engagement using innovative technology.”

Eamon Moore, Founder & CEO, Hikari Data Solutions

The Scales are Tipping, And Customers Are Winning

If there is any message that should come through loud and clear, it’s that the scales are tipping.  Now more than ever, your customer is in the driver’s seat and is now in charge.

Expectations for an engaging, relevant, and worthwhile customer experience are exceedingly high. Delivering a white glove customer experience can make the difference between your sales teams missing or exceeding their sales goals. It helps to determine whether a one-time customer becomes a repeat customer that actively promotes your company to their friends.

“The customer journey has evolved and forced us to alter the way we market and sell to customers.  We need to be sure that we identify the buying intent early and correctly. We need to supply the prospect with exactly the relevant information on the channel he/she wants to receive it.  In the foreseeable future, marketing will become more of a pull rather than pushing information to people who might not be interested in it. This also means that there is an additional need to recombine pieces of information into a meaningful, individualized document or presentation, instead of having ‘one size fits all’ prebuilt information packs.”

Thomas Wieberneit, Co-Founder, Co-CEO and Principal, aheadCRM

At a minimum, the requirement for delivering the best customer experience means having a single version of the truth for all of your customer data, interactions, information, and channels.

SMBs should take the time to evaluate CRM solutions that can capture this information and make it available to your customer-facing teams in a way that is useful to those teams.

Meet the customer on their terms, communicating via any channel (email, social, chat, or web site) they choose. Being able to flip between those multiple channels while still knowing who the customer is, what they are interested in, and what they want makes or breaks the deal.

Closing Thoughts

Here are the three main takeaways to keep in mind as you work to understand how your company can deliver the best possible customer experience:

1. The Customer Journey is whatever the customer wants it to be.  

Your customer can and will take multiple paths to research, evaluate, and purchase a product or service.

2. Your customer expects you to know them.

Not only to know them, but to remember them and to meet their admittedly very high expectations. – Delivering that experience means equipping your customer teams with the best tools, data, and insight available so they can be successful.

3. Teams win games.  

To deliver an exceptional experience, your team needs to effectively collaborate to engage your community and grow. With numerous levers to pull and balls to keep up in the air in order to deliver on your brand’s promise, it’s critical your organization invests in technology that keeps your team organized, focused as well as keeps your customers and the experiences they have with you top line.