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This year marks Investor in Customers' 10 year anniversary, so what better time to look back on how the industry has developed since we started in 2006?
Customer experience is ever-changing. Expectations are constantly evolving, and with them so is the industry. Since our launch a decade ago, customer experience has moved forward dramatically. In 2006, social media didn't really exist - at least not from a marketing point of view - and companies differentiated themselves by their products and prices rather than the customer experience they offered. So we've taken a look at just how much things have changed.
1. No longer do customers expect just a good in-store and phone service, but they expect to be able to converse with brands 24/7 thanks to social media. Yes, even on Sunday nights. The customer experience doesn't end when their product has arrived, and social media has been a big part of securing brand loyalty.
2. It's not just social - mobile technology in general has helped this constant connectivity, from emails and live chats to texts. Customers can now review your business 24/7 and share it with millions, putting them in control.
3. There's no longer a 'one size fits all' attitude. Consumers want a service and experience that's personal to them, making them feel important to your business and thus increasing their loyalty to you.
4. Speaking of being more personal, customer experience in 2016 is a little more human. Gone are the days of automated systems and robotic, disconnected scripts to read from; customers want human responses.
5. While the products and services you offer are obviously still a key part of your business, customer experience has become arguably more important. Tony Alessandra, President of Assessment Business Centre, says: "Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you in the game. Service wins the game."
6. It's not all about manning the phones (and the emails, and the social channels...). Customers want to be able to help themselves, too. That's why FAQ sections on websites have become the norm, allowing the simple questions to be answered quickly and allowing you to focus on the more complex.
7. Proactivity is becoming increasingly expected, with businesses extending a helping hand before their customers ask for it. If someone has spent a while on the help section of your website, it's likely they need your support, so reach out to them first.
8. On that note, businesses are giving customers what they need, before they even need it. Amazon and Apple are both leaders in this from a consumer point of view - they tailor recommendations based on your history with the business, figuring out what they will need next.
9. According to Adobe, "customer expectations will double every 18 months" - and that timeframe is only getting shorter as businesses imagine increasingly more ways to fulfil their customers' wants and needs. While expectations and experience are not the same, they are deeply intertwined; a customer's expectations underpins their experience.
10. Quite simply, customers now expect more. And if your business can't deliver, you run the risk of being left behind. Remember, you may not like constantly evolving your customer service, but you'll like being irrelevant even less.