January 3, 2016
by Carla Johnson
We live in a world of constant connections – access to anything, anytime, anywhere. Consumers and customers are empowered with more information than ever before. This makes the quality of every connection that much more critical.
It’s no longer enough to be simple and fast. We have to think beyond new tactics and strategies and look at entirely new business models for how we meet customer expectations. It’s not enough to be responsive. We have to be smart and deliver what customers want before they realize it’s what they want.
This is the premise of the latest report from Sales Force – State of the Connected Customer. Drawing on insights from over 7,000 consumers and business buyers on expectations for a smarter customer experience, the authors looked at the following:
- What defines the connected customer?
- What are their unique preferences and expectations of companies?
- How is technology changing the way customers consume information, communicate with companies, and buy and look for service from brands?
- What can today’s businesses do to stay ahead of changing customer expectations and avoid disruption?
Understanding the Connected Customer
Connected customers mean smarter customers. Saleforce reports that 58% of consumers agree that technology has significantly changed their expectations of how companies should interact with them. What does this mean for brands? A lot. Because not only do customers have expectations about interactions, 57% also point out that it’s absolutely critical or very important that the companies from which they buy be innovative. This means plenty for brands, including:
- Information-savvy customers now control the marketplace
Recent advances in technology have created an age in which customers are empowered to communicate, research, browse and buy wherever they are and whenever they want. Today’s customers expect companies to quickly innovate according to their changing preferences. Otherwise, they’ll simply switch brands. 76% of consumers agree technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.
- The culture of immediacy drives mobile-first expectations
Smartphones have become ubiquitous for the modern-day customer, especially from millennials, who came of age in a mobile-first world. This constantly connected lifestyle has created a culture of immediacy in which customers’ definition of timely interactions means instant. 64% of consumers expect companies to respond and interact with them in real time.
- Customers still value human connections in a tech-driven world
Despite their affinity for faster and smarter technologies, connected customers still want to be treated as human beings with unique preferences – not addresses on an email list. In exchange for their loyalty, customers expect to be heard, understood, and appreciated by companies, like they are when they visit a local shopkeeper. 66% of consumers say they’re likely to switch brands if they’re treated like a number instead of an individual.
- New data-sharing attitudes spark next era of marketing personalization
Customers want more intelligent communications from brands. The batch-and-blast method doesn’t work on these customers. They’ve grown to expect tailored recommendations and offers, and they’re willing to provide trusted brands with the data that enables such personalized interactions. 63% of millennial consumers agree they’re willing to share data with companies that send personalized offers and discounts.
- Smarter use of customer information expands opportunities for sales
Connected customers’ desire to not be treated like a number also means they don’t want to be treated like a cog in the sales machine. Sales organizations must rethink the traditional product-driven sales pitch and focus on leveraging smart tech and data to become trusted advisors to customers. More than 75% of consumers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to work with a salesperson who is focused on achieving customer needs instead of making a quick sale.
- Fast, personal service is directly linked to customer loyalty
The connected customer wants a smarter customer service experience – one that is both fast and personal. Gone are the days when customers would settle for extended phone conversations or multiple-day resolutions. 71% of consumers say that customer service provided on any day at any time has an influence on loyalty, and almost as many (69%) say the same about personalized customer care.
Salesforce sees that from mobile platforms to artificial intelligence, customer-focused tech advances will continue to have a profound impact on the way companies approach sales, service and marketing. Always-on millennials, whose influence and purchase power have yet to peak, are leading the charge with future expectations that tap into new waves of smart technologies.
By 2020, consumers see technology innovations as increasingly integrated with the customer journey. For example, 58% predict that products will automatically self-diagnose and correct problems.
More than half of customers expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before customer contact. Yet Salesforce’s previous research, State of Service, found that only 54% of companies have such predictive intelligence capabilities in place.
In the end, it’s clear that customer anticipate that their relationships with companies and brands – especially online retailers, banks, insurance providers, and other financial service companies – will be positively influenced by advancements in technology.
What’s your plan to deliver smarter, more intuitive experiences?
Download the report here
Photo credit: Flickr user Blondlnrikard Froberg
About Carla Johnson
Consistently recognized as one of the top influencers in content marketing,as well as one of the top 25 in B2B marketing and one of the Top 50 Women in Marketing, Carla’s latest book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, teaches marketers how to develop, manage and lead the creation of valuable experiences in their organizations. Carla serves on the Executive Board and as the Vice Chair for the Business Marketing Association (a division of the ANA) and is an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute and the Digital Analytics Association. Carla also contributes to industry wide news outlets, forums and conferences on the future of marketing, leading through innovation, and the power of storytelling.