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No matter how well any brand attempts to optimize customer experience, there will always be room for improvement. Consumers now interact with brands across a wide range of channels and new technological advancements are constantly making new modes of customer engagement possible. This means that new processes and strategies are also evolving, and there will always be those who exist on the front lines of these customer experience initiatives.
Marketers seeking these new frontiers attended CXNYC 2015, Forrester’s conference for customer experience professionals, which brought together a panel of experts to discuss this topic. During a Q&A session titled, “Innovators Uncensored,” Shan-Lyn Ma, CEO and Founder of Zola, Michael Kim, Director of CX for Casper, and Ted Power, Co-Founder of Abacus, spoke about how their respective start-ups are working to bring CX to the next level.
Each speaker detailed the philosophy and practice behind their company’s mission to blur the lines between customer experience and innovation.
For Zola, an online wedding registry, this meant transforming how couples and guests share gifts. Zola began by carefully interviewing couples involved in the wedding process. It wanted to deeply understand what was delightful and what was terrible about their experiences. This feedback formed the basis of Zola’s mission to redefine the entire process.
“One of the biggest complaints we heard, as many people got close to their wedding, friends and family would start to buy gifts and tend to be very last minute,” Ma explained. “So all of a sudden, people would get inundated with boxes with no idea of what is in them, or who sent them. The boxes would take over, and users would show us photos of living rooms consumed with boxes during what was a very stressful time. So we let people control when items were shipped to them. And that one innovation has set us apart from the competition. It made the customer experience so much better. Once we told people how were going to solve their problem, some even got teary-eyed.”
This is just one example of the various innovations that Zola brings to the customer experience of wedding registries. But it stands as prime example of how truly listening to customers can lead directly to a relatively simple, yet brand-defining innovation.
Similarly, Casper, which is a high-tech online mattress company, also set out to reimagine the process of how consumers purchase a bed.
“We found that no one had a great experience shopping for a mattress,” said Kim. “No one gets excited to go into a store, and lie on a bunch of mattresses with a sales person, who works on commission, breathing down their neck. We wanted to change that process, to make it very easy and simple. So we only sell online. The mattress goes directly to your door. There is no need to leave the house to try and decide between a thousand different models.”
Casper defines customer experience as a journey that encompasses every single customer touch point. This includes pre-sale promotions, website visits, all sales and transactions, delivery services, and even, if necessary, the return of the item for dissatisfied customers.
What’s more, this process endures considerable testing to ensure that CX is optimized and that engagement is maximized.
“We launched an initiative called ‘Casper Labs,’ which seeks to understand how to keep our already engaged customer-base engaged over the long-term,” said Kim. “Because you only purchase a mattress every few years, so how do you keep the conversation going? This program helps us design new products and test new initiatives, and it keeps people excited about what’s coming next.”
Abacus, on the other hand, takes a more universal and immediate approach to CX. An engagement company that helps businesses manage employee-related expenses and quickly reimburse worker funds, Abacus simply wants to solve any and every problem it can. With regards to customer experience, Abacus’s goal is to leverage technology to address very specific client concerns in real-time.
“We push changes to our website multiple times a day, and we have the ability to whitelist changes to specific companies,” said Power. “So if a particular company has feedback or an issue, or there is something that we want feedback on, we can push a change to one client and solve the problem. The old software model was to have a packaged CD product release maybe twice a year. But the beauty of our mobile app, and with the web, is that we can literally offer solutions multiple times a day. And we can target specific companies, instead of across the entire platform.”
The customer experience commonalities among the innovative processes and platforms of each of these companies were their willingness to understand and adapt to the changing needs of customers. While each company existed in a completely distinct competitive space, each excelled by truly listening to the problems of their customers and then by taking the appropriate steps to find solutions.
And, regardless of the particular industry in question, those are lessons any brand can learn from.
About the Author: Mark Johnson
Mark is CEO & CMO of Loyalty360. He has significant experience in selling, designing and administering prepaid, loyalty/CRM programs, as well as data-driven marketing communication programs.
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