The answers to the questions of where and when to engage with customers is everywhere and all the time. The focus on customer engagement has been on online experiences in recent years. I have written numerous posts on the strategies and tactics companies can employ to maximize online customer experience.
Businesses scrutinize their website design and workflows, test multiple landing page designs and call-to-action buttons, expend substantial cycles on crafting the perfectly worded email campaign, formulate social media posting strategies, target prospects with personalized ads, and integrate live web chat for sales and support functions. In the case of businesses with sufficient resources and time, account based marketing, where customers are targeted with email, content, and ads based on perceived needs and even individual personas is quickly becoming the norm.
While online customer experiences are critical and businesses must certainly ensure they are tapping those, offline experiences remain just as important and too often are neglected when companies focus their attention on the online component. Offline experiences include things such as in-store interactions with sales and support staff, printed marketing materials, phone support and sales, logistics, return policies, and interactions with service personnel, among others.
The importance of a holistic customer experience strategy cannot be underemphasized. PwC predicts that by 2020 brands must be able to execute seamless experiences across all channels to near perfection or face extinction. Genesys spells out three business outcomes that occur when organizations succeed in delivering a great customer experience: 1) customer retention improves, 2) customer satisfaction increases, and 3) cross-selling and up-selling opportunities grow.
So, recognizing that offline experiences are often the weak link for many organizations, what are a few things that you can do to ensure that your customers have great offline experiences?
1. Integrated online and offline experience.
Businesses should no longer judge online and offline experiences separately. Studies show that the two are quickly merging and customers—both B2B and B2C—expect a seamless experience when moving between the two. Walls that separate offline and online experiences need to be removed, and organizations must have a fully integrated strategy. The importance of doing so is backed up by the data: 39 percent of the best performing companies (according to Forrester) already have an integrated customer engagement strategy in place. Boundaries between offline and online do not exist.
2. Consistent experiences.
Customers expect consistent experiences across different engagement channels. This means several different things. First, you need to train your sales and support personnel to deliver the same level of experience regardless of channel. Second, you need to assess and track customer experience on each of those channels to ensure those experiences are consistent—and to remediate when that is not the case. Third, your underlying technology platforms should provide sales and services staff with an integrated view of the customer as they have moved between different engagement channels. As an example, when a customer moves from the online channel of live web chat to phone, their engagement history and any details on the support interaction should seamlessly follow them. Asking customers to repeat information already provided in the digital interaction in the offline phone conversation frustrates customers, wastes their time and the time of your call center staff, and incurs inefficiencies. This integrated engagement model is something Davinci Virtual takes very seriously and is built into its Live Receptionist and Live Web Chat services.
3. Demonstrate integrity and genuine customer focus.
Offline customer engagement must be done with integrity and demonstrate genuine interest in the customer. This means your product or service must do what it is supposed to do, and that you keep your commitments. For offline channels, this means that offers and pricing are correct and do not contain hard-to-understand eligibility requirements and that customer service is the same offline and online. Further, it also means that you are serious about the customer experience and have a genuine interest in unbiased customer feedback (contra companies that care more about your customer experience scores [e.g., Net Promoter Score] than customer experience—53 percent according to a study by MaritzCX).
4. Use online channels to gain insights into your offline experiences.
Companies can learn much about their offline customer experiences by analyzing what customers say—using natural language processing (NLP)—on various digital channels such as third-party review sites, sales and support emails, live web chat transcripts, call center transcripts, and more. This is one of the reasons we (TIRO Communications) created Cognition Insights. Looking at top topics and the polarity for each—positive to negative—businesses can gain valuable insights on what customers like and do not like about their products and services as well as what they think of their offline and online engagement experiences.