Customer Loyalty is Dead

It’s a bold statement, I know, but I’ve been struggling with the idea that true loyalty can’t really exist in today’s digital world. Hang in with me for a moment.

My colleague was taking her 16-year-old son to open his first bank account (exciting!). Naturally, she chose to go where she and her husband have banked for over 19 years and enjoyed exceptional service. So what happened? When they arrived, the teller said the bank’s systems were down and suggested they come back the following day. So what did they do? They went to the bank across town whose systems were working and allowed the account to be opened that same day. That instant gratification that’s so expected and needed today trumped the more than 19 years of positive experiences and service she had enjoyed with her bank. So much for loyalty!

My children aren’t any different. They’ve been huge advocates of the Uber car service. They even got me hooked on it. Every experience has been seamless for all of us. So, imagine my surprise on a recent trip when my daughter pulled up Lyft to get us a “lift.” What did Uber do wrong? Absolutely nothing. They did everything right; it’s just that Lyft is the driving service du jour and it’s apparently way cooler … for the moment.

In both examples, the brand hop wasn’t about a series of shoddy customer interactions. A few decades ago, my colleague likely wouldn’t have switched banks so easily. What’s different today? Short of actually opening an account, banking can be done in your hand. Before tech, she likely would have waited until the next day simply to avoid having to drive across town to bank at different locations (those were the days when we had to walk into a building to make withdrawals and deposits). Convenience most certainly would have come into play and kept her loyal to her bank. In my daughter’s example, it was about easy access to another well-known choice. Technology, which is accelerating at rapid speed every day, has changed the game and has leveled the playing field for new companies to emerge and easily compete with well-established companies.

It’s About Customer Experiences

If we acknowledge that customer loyalty is a thing of the past, then what are we left with? Providing exciting, sought after and irresistible experiences—plural, not singular—to our customers. The types of experiences that make us salivate for more.

Let’s look at recent headlines. I think we all heard a collective groan during Apple’s latest launch event when the “wow” factor we wanted just wasn’t there. There isn’t any doubt that Apple has revolutionized technology in nearly every way; but it’s not enough. We expect Apple to continue to innovate and blow us away, especially given the hype attached to their launch events.

Last year when Apple introduced the first Apple Watch, the world took notice. It was new, sexy, innovative and a wearable that people actually wanted to wear (I’m looking at you, Google Glass). But just because Apple has the world’s best brand recognition and loyal user base doesn’t mean that the Watch wasn’t introduced with mixed reception. It’s a very polarizing product that’s still in its infancy. After all, breaking into a new product segment and expecting overnight success is something that every company dreams of, but very rarely ever achieves.

I recently viewed Samsung’s launch event where the company previewed the soon-to-be released Samsung S3. It’s a smartwatch and let me tell you, it’s beautiful. It looks like a watch, and its capabilities blow Apple out of the water. And get this … most any watch band will fit on the Samsung S3. That’s right. Samsung is catering to customers. The company knows that customers may want to personalize their watches so they give them that feature.

Conversely, Apple recently announced that we need wireless headphones or headphones with a lightning cable for the iPhone 7. How many companies can you name that make audio devices with a lightning connector? That’s a very niche market. Apple used to be about simplicity. The company’s motto was “it just works.” What’s simple about having to carry two sets of headphones or adapters? How will my new lightning headphones “just work” on my MacBook? Apple has begun to fail their customers and create negative experiences.

Admittedly, I don’t think Samsung will outperform Apple in sales of their watch or phones, but I do think they’re making a dent in Apple’s customer base. Little by little, other companies are taking away market share from Apple. This will continue until Apple steps up its innovation game and starts redelivering on customer experiences.

Creating Limitless Customer Experiences

What can we learn from Apple? We need to keep “experience” top of mind. Consider these stats:

  • The most important driver of brand loyalty for millennials is a great product at 77%, followed closely by brand recognition and trust at 69% (NewsCred). What I glean from this is that great products can be replaced by other great products pretty easily (case in point: Uber versus Lyft and Apple versus Samsung). Surprising to me is how important strong name recognition matters to millennials (cool rules!). So what’s hot today definitely drives purchasing decisions.

  • 46% of customers are more likely to switch service providers (across industries) than they were 10 years ago (Accenture).

  • 78% of consumers are not loyal to any one particular brand (Nielson).

My advice? Constantly innovate. Take chances. Don’t be afraid to fail. You don’t have to be first to market, but you must steadily outpace your competitors once you get there. Perhaps most importantly, take a good look at your own customer experiences in your daily life. What makes them great? Why are you likely to go back to a particular company to do business? Did they personalize your experiences? Did they consistently go above and beyond? Did they make you feel special? Was your interaction with them seamless and easy?

Sometimes small details are just as impactful when it comes to experiences. Take these golden nuggets and apply them accordingly. As we lay customer loyalty to rest, let’s bring to life experiences our customers have come to expect and so richly deserve.

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Digital Transformation—Powering New Experiences for Employees and Customers

There’s no let-up in the pace of change. New apps, new services and new ways of getting it done seem to spring up daily, and can seem at times, overwhelming. Thankfully, many of these new capabilities are actually making our lives easier, more fulfilling, and more productive. We’re on the cusp of a change that will go well beyond Googling an answer or picking up a voice call when you’re out and about. The analyst firm IDC calls the change Digital Transformation (DX) and defines it as “an approach that enables organizations to drive changes in their business models and ecosystems by leveraging digital competencies.”

Digital Transformation is Underway and Moving Fast

Digital Transformation promises to change the very fabric of our lives, as the Internet of Things, mobility, and big data make us more aware, more reachable, and more satisfied with our interactions, both personal and professional. The road to DX will be paved with innovations large and small. They will change the way we interact with other people and with the machines that move us, house us, feed us, and keep us healthy and engaged. But what about today? How can DX allow me to do a better job today?

IDC has done some interesting research on the notion of unified communications—that promised land of intuitive, rapid, well-organized, and multimodal interaction that we’ve been talking of for so long. They’ve determined that the market for UC solutions is growing (by 9% per year to about $38B globally by 2020) and that increasing productivity and collaboration and reducing expenses remain the key motivators for UC investments.

The Day-Changing Avaya Equinox™ Experience

These motivators are at the heart of the Avaya Equinox Experience. Equinox is built around a mobile-first reality—the notion that our smartphones and tablets have become our lifeline to … everything. How often do you look at your phone? Someone told me the average is 84 times a day. If you’re a boomer like me, it might not be that many times, but I’d guess I still look at my phone at least 40 times during my work day. Now what if each time I looked at my phone I was presented with my meeting schedule, my latest IMs, and my recent call logs? And what if that information was mirrored across my devices so that I could move seamlessly from my desk to my smartphone to my tablet to my laptop and always get the same consistent information, presented in the same intuitive way?

Sounds good, doesn’t it? And what if I could take the next step and actually take action on that information with a single tap? Enter my conference calls, open video and collaboration, return a call, or respond to a message? This ability to both understand my day’s priorities and take action on what’s most important is what defines the Avaya Equinox Experience. It’s the ability to have a UC experience that is, in fact, unified! It makes a major difference in my day and you can likely imagine how it could make a major difference in yours.

More DX Solutions from Avaya

Along with the Equinox Experience, Avaya also recently released two other innovations that we think define and support your move to DX. The Avaya Breeze™ Client SDK was used to create Equinox and Avaya now offers it to our developer ecosystem and our customers to create their own unique experiences. Would you like to integrate communications into an existing enterprise application? Does Equinox sound intriguing but you’re wondering if you could make a few tweaks for your specific vertical or enterprise needs? Add collaboration to a unique mobile app you’ve created? Or develop a kiosk experience that includes seamless communications access to additional resources? The Avaya Breeze Client SDK will give you the tools you need to bring the world of DX into your own organization—in the way that you think is best.

But what about placing those unique experiences into your environment? Your hotel rooms? Your patient rooms? Your retail spaces? Or your branch offices? Avaya Vantage is an all-glass device that is secure and admin-able and lets you take the customized experiences you created with the Breeze Client SDK and place them cost effectively into the locations that make sense for your business. You can provide unique offers, tailored experiences, create awareness of your services, and take your customer’s experience to the next level.

Interested in learning more? Check out the video clip of IDC Analyst, Rich Costello, and Avaya Director of Product Management, Paul Relf, as they discuss how digital transformation powers the new UC work experience. Read the IDC paper on DX and Avaya solutions. As always, we’re here to help you on your own DX journey! Send us a note, ask us a question, pose a problem to solve—we’d love to hear from you.

Call it what you will: Multi-channel, Omnichannel—It isn’t about the Contact Center!

At this point, we know that most companies are competing exclusively on the customer experience (83%, according to Dimension Data). McKinsey Insights shows that effective customer journeys are impactful: increase revenue by up to 15%, boost customer satisfaction by up to 20%, and turn predictive insight into customers’ needs by up to 30%. The issue isn’t that companies fail to understand the importance of the customer experience (CX). The problem is that over half of companies today fail to grasp what is arguably the single most important driver of a successful CX strategy: organizational alignment.

This isn’t to say that companies aren’t taking the necessary steps to strengthen their CX strategies. Looking back five years ago, 92% of organizations were already working to integrate multiple interaction channels—call it multi-channel, omnichannel, digital transformation—to deliver more consistent, contextualized experiences. The needle is moving in the right direction. However, companies will find themselves in a stalemate if they limit the customer experience to the contact center.

Customer Experience is the Entire Brand Journey

That’s right, the customer experience is NOT about the contact center. In fact, it never was. The customer experience is instead about seamlessly supporting consumers across their entire brand journey regardless of where, when, how and with whom it happens. This means supporting not just one business area (i.e., the contact center), but the entire organization as one living, breathing entity. This means supporting not just one single interaction, but the entire experience a customer has with a company from start to—well, forever. After all, the customer journey never truly ends.

Are companies ready for this future of the customer experience? Perhaps not: 52% of companies currently don’t share customer intelligence outside of the contact center, according to Deloitte.

Executives are planning for not only contact channels to expand but most are expecting these interaction journeys to grow in complexity. It’s clear that a contact-center-only structure doesn’t cut it anymore. At today’s rate of growth and change, it’s easy to see how a CX strategy can miss the mark when the entire customer journey is being limited to the contact center. Imagine how much stronger a company would perform if it supported the customer experience as the natural enterprise-wide journey it is? A journey where interactions take place across multiple channels and devices, unfolding across multiple key areas of business (i.e., sales, HR, billing, marketing)?

Imagine, for instance, a hospital immediately routing an outpatient to the travel nurse who cared for him last week, although she is now on the road to her next location. Imagine a bank being able to automatically route a customer to a money management expert after seeing that the last five questions asked via live chat were about account spending. Imagine a salesperson knowing that a customer attended a webinar last week on a new product launch and had submitted three questions—all before picking up the phone. Imagine a retail store associate knowing you walked in and that you were searching online for formal attire.

Contextual Awareness is Critical

Today’s CX strategy is no longer about asking the right questions: it’s about having the right information at the right time to drive anticipatory engagement. It’s no longer about being able to resolve a customer issue quickly. It’s about building an authentic, organization-wide relationship based on contextual awareness. In short, this means companies being able to openly track, measure, and share customer data across all teams, processes, and customer touch points. This ability either makes or breaks the CX today.

So, are you near the breaking point? Consider that nearly 40% of executives say their agents’ top frustration is that they can’t access all of the information they need. Less than 25% of contact centers today enjoy full collaboration on process design with their entire enterprise. Connected customer journeys and the overall CX are now top areas of focus as most organizations support up to nine channel options. CX will encounter a dramatic shift of reimagined customer engagements that will be able to incorporate technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT, analytics, and augmented reality and virtual reality.

The bottom line is this: organizations must support an enterprise-wide customer journey to support the future of the CX now! They must share contextual data inside and outside of the contact center, and they need seamless and immediate access to that data anytime, anywhere, under any given circumstance. Above all, organizations need the right architectural foundation to support this anytime, anywhere ecosystem—otherwise, even their best moves will always result in a draw.

Get out of the Queue: Drive Your CX with Attribute Matching

At this point, nearly every company is working overtime to realign around two simple words: customer experience (CX). So much so that nearly 90% of companies now compete solely on CX—a drastic increase from 36 % in 2010—and 50 % of consumer product investments are expected to be redirected to CX innovations—like attribute matching—by the end of this year.

But what exactly does the CX consist of, especially in today’s new world of digital business innovation? This next-generation CX is supported by several advanced technologies—big data analytics, omnichannel, automation—however, these investments are all aimed at driving one thing: contextualization.

The rise of contextualized service—the ability for companies to not only gain insightful information about their customers but also deliver information in a way that is relevant and meaningful to customers based on individual circumstances to improve their experience—has evolved the CX to a point where it looks virtually nothing like it did as recently as 10 years ago. Whereas consumers once primarily focused on the act of purchasing, driven by such things as product quality and price, they now focus on the richness of brand relationships, driven by the personal value that companies deliver throughout the customer journey. Just consider that 70% of buying experiences are now based on how customers feel they are being treated. This is the key factor that sets apart market leaders like Amazon, Trader Joe’s, and Apple from the competition.

According to Accenture, there is an estimated $6 trillion in global revenue up for grabs due to dissatisfied customers constantly switching providers. The ability for companies to offer contextualized service is vital for operating at the speed of the consumer and capturing more of this market share. There’s just one thing preventing companies from seizing this limitless potential: the traditional call queue.

Every customer is familiar with the call queue. This is the place where statements like, “Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold,” and “Let me transfer you to a specialized team who can help you with that” perpetually live. It’s where exhaustive efforts to route customers to the correct service rep become lost, or where consumers must repeat the same information to multiple agents across different teams. It’s the greatest barrier preventing companies from being more dynamically connected to their consumers, and one of the greatest reasons why customers reduce their commitment to a brand.

Driving Contextualization with Attribute Matching

In a world where customers demand a profound level of connection and transparency, organizations can no longer support a contact center environment in which calls are distributed among agents who are organized by function (i.e., sales, service, support). In today’s smart, digital world, companies must transform the traditional call center into an integrated, digital communications hub. This means moving away from a siloed, metric-driven queue and instead working to put customers in touch with the best organizational resource depending on their exact need or circumstance as immediately as possible. The most effective way to achieve this is to migrate from archaic infrastructure towards an integrated, agile, next-generation platform built on open communications architecture.

Open communications architecture allows organizations to seamlessly collect, track and share contextual data across various teams, processes, and customer touch points. This integrated environment supports a real-time data repository from which businesses can pull from to route customers based on needs beyond traditional characteristics (like language preference). Rather, the technology allows companies to build customized learning algorithms that drive anticipatory engagement, enabling them to match customers based on next-level variables like personality, emotion and relatability.

Imagine, for example, a hotel routing a customer directly to an IT staffer after seeing that the person tweeted about a poor in-room Wi-Fi connection. Imagine a bank being able to route a customer to a money management expert after seeing that the last five questions asked via live chat were about account spending. Imagine an athletic apparel company matching a customer with an agent who is an avid runner after noticing that the individual recently signed up for a 5K.

The future of the CX means creating and continually building a contextualized view of customers throughout their entire brand journey. It means going beyond customer service to establish unparalleled, organization-wide relationships. It means transforming peoples’ lives, verses simply answering questions. This is what companies must work to align themselves with. The good news is that technology has evolved to a point where they can now easily, effectively and cost-efficiently do so.

Interested in learning more or getting beyond the queue to Redefine Your Customer and Employee Experiences? Contact us. We’d love to hear from you.