Every company, big or small, must find ways to maintain continuous real-time presence with customers, say Wharton professors.
When it comes to engaging with customers, the era of making the sale and moving on is over. Nowadays, connecting with the customer is a 24×7 affair. So, in an era in which customers are bombarded with choices at the click of a mouse or touchscreen, what does it take to make such a connection and maintain it?
Enterprises need to formulate “connected strategies” that ensure customers get dramatically improved experiences and do it more efficiently. Every company regardless of size must find ways to maintain 24×7, real-time presence with customers, according to Nicolaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch, professors at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, in Harvard Business Review.
While this connectivity is enabled by technology ranging from mobile apps to artificial intelligence, what’s most important is that businesses change their way of thinking about customer relationships. In a recent interview on CXOTalk, the pair point out that ensuring superior customer experience goes beyond technology, no matter how sophisticated. “We’re limited by our imagination,” says Terwiesch.
In their HBR article, the co-authors say the challenge for many organizations is too much data; decision-makers often don’t know where to begin. The professors offer four key connected strategies that help energize customer experience:
Respond to desire. Provide customers with services and products as soon as they’re requested – through fast delivery, minimal friction, flexibility, and precise execution. “What matters most to customers is the amount of energy they have to expend—the less, the better!” Look at the successes of online services such as Lyft and Amazon.
Curate offerings. This means getting involved at the sweet spot of a sale – “after the customers have figured out what they need, but before they’ve decided how to fill that need.” There is an efficiency opportunity for the company as well, since recommendations may involve “products and services that firms can easily provide at the time.”
Coach behavior. This style of strategy overcomes issues with customers unable to identify exactly what they want or need. It’s essentially the digital equivalent to a helpful nudge. Importantly, the authors add, “a company needs to receive information constantly from its customers so that it doesn’t miss the right moment to suggest action.”
Execute automatically. Here, customers entrust companies to fulfill orders or complete transactions. Siggelkow and Terwiesch caution, however, that automatic execution isn’t for everyone. “People differ in the degree to which they feel comfortable sharing data and in having the companies serving them act on that data.” Such an engagement is built upon “strong trust, a rich flow of information from the customers, and the ability to use it to flawlessly anticipate what they want.”