Consumers are spending less time onsite and more time online. Online grocery orders have seen double digit growth. Even price is becoming less of a consideration as consumers decide where to shop locally.
With all of this change, consumers are ready for a more modern customer experience. Over 50% believe companies should fundamentally change the way they engage with prospects and customers. They’re looking for convenience and a seamless experience. In fact, 84% of customers say that their experience with a company is as important as the products and services offered.
It’s time to engage with customers in the ways they want to engage.
The modern customer experience no longer begins in person. It’s online. It’s digital. If you’re ready to elevate your customer experience and meet the needs of today’s consumer, you need to start with six critical customer interactions:
- First Impression
- Your Website
- First Inquiry
- First Visit
- Follow Up
Read on to see why each touchpoint is so important, actions you can take to uplevel your current interactions, and a real- life example of a business like yours—transforming to meet the new modern customer experience.
The first impression is a critical experience for a customer. And with most consumers researching purchases online before they make a decision, your online presence is paramount. For many consumers, it starts with a Google search, a mention on social media, a paid ad, or even a referral to your website. But the expectations are the same—the first impression should answer specific questions about your brand: who are you, what do you do, what can you offer to the consumer?
If the experience is poor—maybe the prospect can’t find what they’re looking for on your site, they don’t understand your offer, or they can’t see how you add value—they’re less likely to return and purchase from you. And the opposite holds true too. Over 70% of customers say one extraordinary experience will automatically raise their expectations of another company. Keep up with your competition by transitioning to a modern experience first.
Update Your Google My Business Listing
Your prospect’s search will start online. With an up-to-date Google My Business listing, you can ensure that the first impression of your business is exactly as you want it to be. Near me searches have increased by 500% and if your business is in the top three to five search results, you have a 75% chance that a consumer will click on your site. Update your listing to include a textable number, a clear description of your business, updated images, and plenty of reviews.
- Add a textable number
- Update images and descriptions
- Include relevant reviews (and plenty of them!)
Ensure More Reviews Are Online and Visible
Nearly 90% of all consumers will read a review to determine the quality of a local business before they work or buy from them. And positive reviews make a difference! Over 70% of consumers report that positive reviews increase their trust of a local business. Create a process that includes asking your customers for reviews so you can ensure they show up online when prospects are searching for a business like yours.
- Ask for reviews as part of your sales process
- Connect review intake to your Google My Business listing
- Request reviews on all of your social platforms
The data shows that when consumers view content about you online, they form an opinion of your website and your brand in as little as 50 milliseconds. That’s quick! Modernize your business by making sure that first impression represents who your brand actually is and what you can offer to prospects and customers. Meet them where they are—online and likely searching via Google—and give them third-party validation with customer reviews that confirm your business is the right choice for them.
In January 2020, Van Horn Auto Group moved all of their messaging and lead flow management to an interaction management platform. In the first month, they saw a 147% increase in Facebook sales and a 100% increase in combined online sales (including their website). They’re working to collect 10,000 reviews across 16 dealerships in 2020. In order to meet this goal, they’ve made collecting reviews part of the sales team’s compensation plan, requiring reviews on 40% of their sales. They’ve seen a 51.2% increase in reviews year-over-year!
The modern customer experience includes a modern website experience. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire bottom line online. With a 40% chance that a consumer won’t return to your site if their first visit to your site is negative—maybe they can’t find what they’re looking for or answers to their specific questions— you can make a key interaction in the customer journey on any budget. Your website is your digital storefront, but to effectively create the right environment, it’s imperative that you think through how a consumer will experience your site and how they will want to communicate with you.
Create an Easy-to-Navigate Experience
Over 90% of consumers that use a mobile device to research a product or service will go on to actually make that purchase. But nearly 60% of the time, they can’t find what they’re looking for on a website in their search. It’s important that you create a seamless, intuitive experience online to capture interested prospects as they come to you.
- Update your site navigation to be more intuitive, make it easy for a customer to find what they want
- Use clear wording to direct visitors to the right pages, including FAQ and contact pages
- Link to pages with the highest traffic in the global navigation
Offer a Web Chat Option for Questions
When consumers have a question, 82% want an immediate response. As they search online, make it easier to connect with a web chat option. Both prospects and customers can take advantage of an easy- to-use and expected form of communication with your business.
- Offer web chat on your site
- Direct all chat messages to one inbox for easy management
- Connect post-chat with prospects via text
If a prospect visits your website and has a bad experience, 88% of the time they won’t return. Meet the modern customer expectation by making it easy to navigate and easy to connect with you. You’ll capture prospects’ attention faster and hold it longer as you answer their questions via web chat.
In April 2020, Lovesac closed all 99 showroom locations and set store managers up at home with tablets, waiting to sell to customers remotely. They added web chat to their website and adopted a 24/7 selling model, staggering shifts to cover all hours of the day based on the time zones of each store manager. Within six days they captured over 400 inbound leads.
The first inquiry touchpoint should be clear and easy for the prospect. Removing all barriers, your job is to make it convenient and intuitive for the lead to start a conversation with your business. Think through how many steps it takes for a prospect to reach you. How much research is required? Is your contact information easily found online? And how quickly can you respond to an inquiry? The expectation can vary by platform—80% of consumers expect a response to their social media inquiries to businesses within 24 hours while only 67% of consumers are satisfied with business response times when communicating via telephone.
Reduce Barriers to Communication
Offer multiple communication options to remove possible platform barriers. But be wary of outdated options that can prevent prospects or customers from communicating with you. Businesses today still believe email and phone calls are sufficient, but 84% recognize that customers want to communicate with brands outside of normal business hours. Be strategic about the options you offer your customers.
- Provide a live web chat for customers on your website
- Offer a textable number for customers who want the convenience of text
- Allow direct messages for customers who prefer social media
Boost Your Response Time
Even if you offer multiple communication options, if you can’t keep up with the incoming messages and respond to customer questions and feedback in a timely manner, it won’t create the right experience. Improve your response time by connecting all conversations in a single inbox. Managing conversations from one platform will increase your chances of seeing every message, responding quickly, and providing real value.
- Route all messages (web chat, email, text) to one inbox
- Prepare typical responses for easy copy/paste
- Automate responses when possible
Make it easier to communicate with your business and you’ll find
that more prospects will reach out. Remove the barriers that deter customers with modern expectations—contacting you should be easy, intuitive, and quick. And when you get a question or feedback, a fast response time will only improve trust between you and the prospect. It’ll help you nurture more leads, convert more prospects, and keep more customers.
Implementing a web chat option that seamlessly converts to a texting conversation makes it easy for Fix Auto USA to quickly interact with prospects online. A new visitor lands on the Fix Auto USA website, clicks into the chat (that has alerted the prospect that they are open for business), selects their preferred location, and the messages easily transition to a text conversation. The lead doesn’t need to stay on the website and the entire transaction can be conducted via text!
The global pandemic has made the first visit an especially unique experience for consumers. Depending on their level of comfort, you may see the consumer early on in their search for a business like yours or later in their buying journey. Pre-COVID-19, consumers made nearly 60% of their buying decisions before they even spoke with a sales representative. In today’s world, that percentage is likely higher as more and more consumers avoid in- person conversations and experiences.
Create a Seamless Online to In-person Experience
There are many ways to make the transition from online to in-person more seamless, but with restrictions and consumer comfort levels varying by location and person, it’s important to think through what will work for your business and your customers.
Offering appointments can reduce the number of consumers in your physical storefront at once. Contactless pickup and delivery are more convenient and work with most restrictions. But beyond pandemic-friendly services, consider your experience moving forward. Could your website use an upgrade by creating a virtual shopping experience? Is it time to offer shipping? Whatever you do, think through what will work best for your customer.
- Offer contactless pickup and delivery
- Implement appointment scheduling
- Move communications to text
By modernizing the first visit with pandemic-friendly services, a virtual shopping experience, or even communicating via text about updates to product offerings or other services, you will meet the needs, and often requirements, of today’s consumer. A seamless online to in-person experience builds consistency for your brand, helping you keep customers engaged and ready to buy.
Bray & Scarff have found that using video chat is “the next best thing to having a customer in the store.” With video chat as their new digital storefront, Bray & Scarff can demonstrate content that’s difficult to portray in website copy or imagery. Anything that requires more than three questions in a chat is automatically converted to a video chat. And with this new digital experience, combining the in-store demo and a site survey in one quick chat, it’s shortened the purchase cycle dramatically. Video chat has saved them hours upon hours, reducing the need to dispatch technicians to complete a survey or the need for a customer to drive to the store. In less than 10 minutes they can complete the entire sales pitch over video.
The modern customer experience impacts payments just as it does first inquiries and first visits. We already know that customers are looking for convenience and what’s more convenient than an effortless payment experience? Contactless, mobile-based payment options are the modern customer experience today’s consumer expects. Nearly one-third of all consumers prefer a mobile payment option, like text messaging. Yet only 26% of businesses use text messages to collect payments.
Make Checkout Seamless and Easy
Nearly 80% of consumers hope to see businesses continue to offer contactless payment as they move to post-pandemic phases. Implementing a seamless checkout is part of creating a modern customer experience. Just as you remove barriers to communication, remove barriers to payment by sending purchase links in text conversations, offering touchless payment options, and allowing purchases curbside. If your payment platform allows, consider enabling remote purchases in a webchat with a sales or service representative.
- Send purchase link via text
- Offer touchless payment options
- Allow curbside purchases
In a world that values convenience, if you don’t create a simple checkout process, 87% of consumers will abandon their carts during checkout and 55% will never return to your website. Close more sales by making the checkout process easy and seamless. Without barriers to purchase, more customers are likely to purchase from you and return again.
Forced to close their doors as a “non-essential” business, The Bridal Collection used COVID-19 as the opportunity they needed to pivot from in-store try-ons to at-home gown celebrations. Coordinating via text, The Bridal Collection offers contactless, curbside pick up with a complimentary bottle of champagne or free shipping directly to the bride’s house. Once the bride has selected her dress, she texts the shop “yes” with a picture of the gown. The Bridal Collection sends a discount offer and a payment link directly through the text thread. In 3 – 4 weeks, instead of shutting down, The Bridal Collection closed $160,000.
Even after the customer leaves the storefront, the customer experience isn’t over. The follow-up communication and messages between visits are critical for continued customer loyalty and future purchases. Maintaining contact is key, now more than ever—85% of consumers expect local businesses to offer more convenient communication and services now than they did prior to COVID. And the best way to communicate? Consumers say texting makes working with or buying from a local business more convenient.
Maintain Contact with Personalized Messages
Build a relationship with your prospects and customers through a continued conversation. Stay in contact with personalized messages, sent via text, that offer value to the customer. Ask for feedback on the purchase experience, offer a personalized discount, and check in periodically with a customized message, like a birthday or anniversary note.
- Send a post-purchase text and ask for feedback or a review
- Offer personalized discounts
- Check in periodically with customized messages (anniversary, birthday)
Automate Follow-up Contact
Move traditional follow-up phone calls to automated and pre- programmed texts. Follow-up messages could include a summary of additional care needs after a visit to the doctor or detailed instructions on a product purchase. Whatever it looks like for your business, you’ll likely reduce staff time, improve efficiency, and get more of the right information in front of your customer in the way they want to see it.
- Send a purchase summary via text message
- Deliver receipts electronically
- Automate appointment follow-up information via text
Selling to an existing customer is 14x easier than converting a new lead and existing customers are 50% more likely to purchase a new product or offer and will likely spend 31% more than a new customer. It pays to keep in touch with your current customers! By modernizing your follow-up efforts you’ll keep your brand on their mind, create opportunities to pitch new products or services, and continue to build on the positive customer experience that consumers expect today.
Utah-based carpet cleaning company, Zerorez, moved to automated text messages to keep customers and other leads warm. They’ve implemented a modern experience at several key touchpoints:
- A lead loses interest after filling out an online form—a customized message is sent directly to their phone asking for feedback and offering to answer any additional questions
- A lead comes in via web chat or phone call and a technician speaks with them but doesn’t close the deal—a feedback survey is sent asking how well the representative was able to answer questions
- A lead completes a sales call—a text message is sent one hour later providing contact information for any additional questions
Every touchpoint is critical. And with the onset of COVID-19 and the changes to consumer buying habits and patterns, it’s more important than ever to listen to consumer expectations and meet them with a modern customer experience. Implement these steps and your business can deliver incredible value to your customers, even in these uncertain times.