We live in an increasingly digital world these days–many of us shop online for almost everything we need, meet life partners on apps, make lifelong friendships via social media, and can travel the world from the comfort of our own couch on a laptop or even our mobile phones.
That’s great in many ways, since it makes life more convenient and richer. But it also poses new challenges for businesses–they often struggle to adapt to building strong connections with customers when more and more of the relationship is moving online.
This is exactly where digital customer experience (DX) comes in. By building a strong framework for understanding and managing how people interact with your business online, you will increase customers, loyalty, and sales.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about the digital customer experience, including what a good DX program looks like and how to improve your own.
What is digital customer experience?
Digital experience, or DX, is the way a customer interacts with the entirety of the brand’s digital channels, including but not limited to things like mobile devices, online experiences, chatbots, and more.
Looking up local business reviews before making a purchase, finding a store location via an app, or doing a quick search on troubleshooting tech issues on a phone are all examples of digital customer experiences.
The digital customer experience can take place on a mobile app or website your business manages or owns. But it can also happen on a third-party app or website, like the Google map app that can help you find local business locations and phone numbers. The digital environment today is vast and only getting more vaste, as you’ll find when you go to map out your digital customer journeys below.
Whether your business owns that digital platform or not, it all falls under digital customer experience. It’s not just about how customers find your digital presence–it’s how customers use any kind of technology to interact with your business in ways small and large.
Why is digital customer experience important?
As the world increasingly shifts to a world of digital business experiences and interactions, the digital customer experience becomes even more important. While half a century back most customer interactions took place in a store or even over the phone, customers were used to interacting directly with another human being through most or all of their buyer journey.
But today, a customer may never have a direct interaction with a person at your company during their customer journey. They might go through the process of researching, browsing products, making a decision, and completing their purchase entirely online. That means their impression of your business is based entirely on their digital experience.
And online customers are impatient–47% of users expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less. If your digital customer experience isn’t up to snuff, your potential buyers will point their browsers or smartphones to a competitor with a less frustrating digital experience. Lower retention rates are bad for business and costly for your marketing department.
Adding to the pressure is the fact that customers aren’t just grading your online customer experience against your local or industry competitors. Now they’re accustomed to using sleek, super user-friendly apps and websites like Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb. That’s the new standard for digital channels. Neglect your digital customer journey, and your prospects will look elsewhere.
Digital customer experience (DX) versus customer experience (CX)
Digital customer experience is a critical part of your overall customer experience. Customer experience as a whole is the sum of the interactions every customer has with your business, from a casual one-time browser to loyal repeat customers of many years. How do they feel when they interact with your company? What are they perceiving, and what behaviors are they performing as a result? That all falls under the umbrella of CX.
Digital CX focuses specifically on the digital part of the customer journey and touchpoints. While CX might include interactions in a store, on a billboard, or over the phone as well as online, digital CX is focused entirely on the digital world.
The difference between digital CX and CX is in scale and scope. It’s also critical to note that both go far beyond just customer service–it’s about the complete customer journey and experience along the way.
What does a good digital customer experience program look like?
Although a great digital customer experience is increasingly vital to success, many businesses neglect or entirely ignore the digital customer journey. Think of the many slow, confusing, or bug-filled websites you’ve encountered in the past year while trying to research a product or make a purchase–it’s all too common.
Examples of bad digital customer experience management are everywhere. But what does a great DX strategy look like? There are a few key elements that make it all work.
Consistency. Customers don’t experience interaction with you as a discrete series of digital interactions coming from different departments–they see it all as one company. That’s why it’s important to have systems so that your digital customer journey is smooth, coordinated, and unbroken even when a customer moves between steps.
This can mean implementing systems so that your CRM tracks all interactions, including emails, social media, live chat, and more, together. It also means ensuring visual continuity, matching the look, feel, and voice of your digital collateral to your overall brand so customers feel the same experience every time.
Cohesiveness. Your digital customer journey roadmaps should blend seamlessly into your existing CX journeys. Many companies just toss digital components into real-life parts of the journey, but that only adds confusion and doesn’t create a smooth, friction-free experience for your customers.
How is your digital customer experience strategy actually adding value to your customer journey? If you don’t know right now, then you have some thinking to do. Additions should be thoughtful and targeted, improving the overall customer journey. Every piece of the customer journey should be integrated smoothly, in line with how customers intuitively behave.
Constantly Evolving. If you assume you know what’s going on with the experience of customers during your digital touchpoints, think again. You need to be asking them directly what they think–what they like, what they don’t like, and what they’d like to see next time.
Getting this targeted Voice of the Customer (VoC) feedback regularly is key to ensuring your DX remains up to snuff. Digital standards change rapidly these days, so don’t get left behind on the latest CX trends. Use a survey tool like GetFeedback to check in easily and frequently with your customers to see if you’re meeting and exceeding expectations for customer satisfaction.
Examples of digital customer experience
With those principles of excellent DX in mind, what does that look like in real life for companies in different industries? Let’s take a look.
Starbucks. The Starbucks mobile app is truly an innovator in the DX realm. With the app, Starbucks lets customers get notified if they’re near a store, place a completely custom order for their drink, pay, and know when to pick it up at the counter. Every part of this journey happens on a smartphone, and none of it involves direct contact with a person (except when you say thanks to the barista who made your drink). It’s reinventing ecommerce for the coffee shop. And it increases customer engagement with rewards for frequent purchases.
Amazon. The ruler of frictionless customer journeys, Amazon lets its users buy anything they need with just the swipe of one finger, any time and anywhere. It takes convenience to the extreme, which engenders serious customer loyalty in busy customers like new moms and time-scarce professionals. Everything happens online, from browsing and researching products to making a purchase to getting help when something goes wrong.
Target. With an omnichannel approach, there’s little to no distinction between brick and mortar and online channels. Target takes this approach in letting shoppers browse and select items online from their vast inventory and then allowing them to pick up their new items from a nearby store. Both parts of the retail journey are working seamlessly together to make things easy for customers.
Mapping your digital customer experience journey
Customer journey mapping is a vital technique to optimize your customer experience and your business as a whole. A journey map gives you insight into what your customers want, need, and think, and the pain points they encounter and expectations they have during their journey with you.
Creating a specific digital customer experience journey map is useful for finding any flaws or room for improvement in your current journey. It’s not just a series of digital interactions–each touchpoint adds up to something much larger.
Start by honing in on your customers–what do they need and want from your product or service? Then, find any major pain points you need to fix. And don’t forget to look at what’s working well at key moments in the customer journey.
Remember to keep your journey map centered on the digital experience of the customer, not your business. This exercise is all about how a customer will see your company through their eyes. If you’re unsure what your customers really think, this is a great time to implement a survey tool like GetFeedback. Getting direct, honest feedback from your customers will help you create the journey map that truly reflects their experience, not just your assumptions.
How to improve your digital customer experience
If you feel there’s room for improvement in your digital customer journey, you’re certainly not alone. Effecting your own digital transformation is a matter of looking closely at where you stand today, and where you need to be to succeed in the future.
1. Dig into your key customer journeys. We talked above about the importance of mapping those critical customer journeys, but it’s about more than just drawing a map. Do all the maps make sense individually and together? Are there any gaps, large or small, that you think could have an effect on your digital customer service? What is the user experience like in each digital channel? Look for persistent pain points in specific touchpoints to see what might be going wrong.
2. Ask customers what they think. Wondering what’s wrong with your digital experience? You could guess or you could just ask the people who deal with your digital environment what they think. Running regular surveys of current customers and those who visit your website or app without making a purchase can yield valuable insights.
3. Look at what the data is telling you. Is there one page or touchpoint where you notice customers are falling off and not returning? Or is there one specific message that’s really resonating with users while the rest aren’t hitting the mark? The answers might lie in data you’re already collecting about website usage, conversion rates, and more.
4. Create a customer-centric culture. Your employees are a vital touchpoint in the customer journey, so be sure they understand what role they play in the customer experience. This goes beyond front-facing employees like salespeople and retail workers, because the truth is that your finance department and marketing team have just as much of an impact on the customer experience. You’re all in the CX together.
Best practices for DX
The field of digital customer experience is growing in knowledge and sophistication every day. There are many well-established best practices to follow to ensure your DX is on point. Here are a few of the most critical ones.
Make it mobile-friendly
While the digital journey might have happened mostly on laptops and desktops a decade ago, now that has changed. Smartphones have gotten so sophisticated and ubiquitous that now the majority of searches are actually performed on phones. Customers are also getting increasingly accustomed to making purchases directly on their phones.
That means you should ensure your DX strategy is mobile-friendly from the start of the customer journey until the end. Even if mobile isn’t a dominant factor in your industry quite yet, it’s likely not far in the future. So ensuring your digital customer experience is just as friendly on a phone as on a desktop will get you ready for what’s next.
Streamline and automate
Are there processes in your digital customer journey that are clunky and causing major pain points because of an internal issue? Often, internal IT systems are to blame. While customers may never interact with those systems (like your CRM), that doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact on the end experience.
If customers are frequently having to repeat information in a phone call they already gave someone at your business over email, that’s a pain point. And it should be fixed as soon as possible. Automation to streamline any parts of the digital journey where possible is also a great choice, like email follow-ups and thank yous.
Invest where needed
The cost of ignoring your poor digital customer experience can be great. If your business is hesitant to spend on technology that helps streamline the customer journey or advanced digital customer service tools, you could actually be costing yourself money in the long run to save a few dollars today. Investing in the digital component of your customer journey is a wise choice.
Sometimes companies make the mistake of thinking that online tools and experiences should be cheaper than brick-and-mortar efforts, and that’s just not true these days. That’s thanks to the central importance of the digital customer journey.
Digital customer experience management
Digital is just one part of the customer experience, but it’s growing to be a larger and larger share every year. Meanwhile, customer expectations for your digital experience are evolving as well. That means you need to carefully and regularly manage the digital customer experience.
What does that look like in practice? It means keeping on top of what’s working well, what was working but has changed, and what’s really become a pain point. Your customer journey maps aren’t static documents, so be sure to review them regularly to check in on what’s changed. As technology evolves, so too will your digital experience. Be sure your overall journey is evolving along with it.
How you offer digital customer service needs continual management as well. Helpers like chatbots and Facebook Messenger options have made digital customer service more accessible, so be sure you’re keeping up to date with the latest developments and trying new options if new pain points arise.
As commerce, searches, socializing, and more aspects of modern life shift to online platforms, making sure you have a thoughtful, solid plan for your digital customer experience through every step of the customer journey is vital. Understanding the ins and outs of DX, how to create customer journey maps offer you insight, and sticking to the best practices of DX will ensure your business thrives online and off.
Understanding how the digital customer experience is shifting the highly competitive business environment is the first step—and now that you’re up to date, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll approach your own DX strategy to stay ahead of your competition.
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