Fixing the Customer Expectations Gap


Lisa Woodley, VP of Digital Experience at NTT DATA
Lisa Woodley is VP of Digital Experience at NTT DATA

We’ve covered the gap between customer expectations and brands’ abilities to meet them extensively over the past several years. There is a lot of data to back up what customers already know instinctively – and huge potential for brands that can understand those customer expectations ahead of time! But senior executives seem to have different sense of the problem – and therefore how to resolve it, according to Lisa Woodley, VP of Digital Experience at NTT DATA.

According to NTT’s latest research:

  • Only 4 out of 10 executives believe they are delivering effective digital experiences that meet customer satisfaction.
  • 66% said increasing customer satisfaction is their number one priority, yet only 39% of executives consider digital experiences to be critical to satisfaction and loyalty. And
  • Nearly one-third say a growing unwillingness by customers to share their information is a challenge to effectively using data to improve experiences.

Lisa, lets unpack this data for a moment. If only 4 out of 10 executives think they’re doing well at delivering great digital experiences, what is it that’s holding them back? The technology clearly exists – so what factors are keeping companies from doing better?

A big issue illustrated in the findings is that while increasing customer satisfaction is a number one priority, only 39% consider digital experiences a part of making that happen. This tells us that executives are not prioritizing it appropriately. They’re thinking of their digital channels as a technology challenge and not a customer loyalty challenge. As a result, the digital experiences are often designed and measured on cost savings and not top line business goals, like increased conversion and wallet share. That results in a huge missed opportunity. Technology that saves money may not be the same technology that increases the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT).

Enterprises that focused on creating digital experiences are seeing revenue gains 1.4 times faster than companies who didn’t. By 2023, more than 60% of all customer service engagements will be delivered via digital and web self-service channels. Already, the pandemic has accelerated the digital customer experience, from curbside deliveries to telehealth, exposing the divide between which organizations were prepared for disruption and which weren’t. All customers, partners, and constituents have made it clear that they want one thing – superior service.

Companies that adopt the right technology with the right strategy and purpose in mind – to deliver enriching customer experiences – are the ones that can anticipate an increase in customer loyalty and ROI.

Your second data point: 66% said that improving customer satisfaction is their number 1 priority, yet only 39% agreed that digital experiences are critical to achieving that? Where does that remaining 27% believe the gains will be made? What is their plan, if it doesn’t include improving digital experiences in this post-pandemic world?

To be frank, I have no idea what they’re thinking. Customers have made it clear, and the pandemic has only amplified it – digital experiences are your customer experiences. To grow and create customer lifetime value, today’s business leaders must be able to attract customers and grow employee engagement through trusted digital experiences that are personalized and deliver on the brand promise. In other words, whatever aspect of the experience you’re focused on improving, some level of digital technology is going to be a part of it.

Customers have come to expect personalization and a frictionless experience. According to our research, less than 1/3 of the surveyed organizations feel that personalization is a primary component of customer satisfaction and loyalty, and only 32% claim to be highly effective at using it. The leaders that do identify and respond to their customers’ needs, behaviors, wants, and actions have enjoyed better gains and are more likely to report continued growth in the next few years. Customer satisfaction also relies on delivering a seamless experience – whatever the customer needs when they need it, promising speed and quality. Mobile apps are a good starting point. However, as digital experiences enhance, organizations must be prepared to deliver continuous experiences that straddle multiple touchpoints, devices, platforms, and in-person experiences, integrated across partner ecosystems to deliver a seamless experience.

So, whatever their plans may be, organizations that do not embrace a digital-first approach to CX stand to lose a good segment whose changing customer expectations and interests can be tracked, analyzed and used to inform, experience, deliver and modernize their application strategy.

Lastly, how much of a problem does it create if customers aren’t willing to share their personal information? Is it just a matter of methodology and the mechanics of how that data is obtained (first party vs third party vs zero party, etc.)? Or does this signal a bigger shift in how consumers choose to relate to brands? And if so, how are brands to respond?

Our research shows that 1/3 of organizations believe there is a growing unwillingness by customers to share their data, which makes it difficult to use data effectively to improve CX. But the idea that customers don’t want to share their data is incorrect. If customers trust you, they want you to know them and serve them personally. However, a majority won’t work with a company if they don’t trust the company with their data. The good news is, according to our research, 95% of organizations are somewhat or highly effective at maintaining trust in their privacy and prioritize customer data security. This tells me those organizations need to do a better job of being transparent with their customers on what they’re actually doing to prioritize privacy and data security.

Customers also don’t want to share all their data, all at once, if they get nothing in return. Transparency and mutual value are key. Enterprises should only ask for the data they need to serve the customer at each point in their journey, make it clear what data is needed, why it’s needed, and what the customer will get in return. By maintaining transparency and making it easy for them to understand how their data will be used and how they may consent or deny access, a company will naturally foster more meaningful, long-lasting relationships with its clients and create a more enriching customer journey.


Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash

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