Despite apocalyptic talk that artificial intelligence will replace people at some time in the not-too-distant future, InMoment’s annual US CX Trends report revealed that the human factor continues to be the primary force in making or breaking the customer experience. Consumers value genuine connections with staff who are well-trained to care, educate and inform, whether in-store, online, or on the phone.
More than six out of ten (65%) of US consumers report that “staff interaction” highly influenced their decision to buy more products from a brand, while another 65% reported that access to educators and experts is highly influential.
In researching factors that contributed to positive, memorable experiences, we found good alignment between what consumers prioritize and what brands felt was most important to their customers. Consumers’ top 5 contributors to positive experiences were staff interaction, access to experts/educators, loyalty treated differently, trial / testing options, and exclusive products/services. Similarly, brands ranked their top five as staff interaction, loyalty treated differently, customization options, exclusive products/services, and access to experts/educators.
While human interaction is key to positive experiences, it’s also the top factor in poor experiences. And while brands recognize this fact, they significantly underestimate the real damage employees can do to the relationship with customers—and to the bottom line.
Almost three-fourths (74%) of consumers report that poor staff interactions (due to negative attitudes, lack of knowledge, or other reasons) were the key contributor to the type of bad experiences that they remember. By comparison, only 29% of brands reported the same. This shopping 45% gap in understanding was the biggest disconnect in the study.
With human interactions so clearly influential in customer relationships, brands must ensure that employees who work directly with customers can make the kind of emotional connection that reinforces positive, memorable experiences. While this can be challenging, especially in industries with high, front-line turnover rates, the stakes are too high to ignore.
So what else should brands so to ensure positive experience? In addition to their own staff, brands can leverage outside experts to boost the experience. We’ve seen this work well for brands that partner with both professional “experts” and respected peer voices—particularly on social platforms. With more customers than ever crowdsourcing their buying decisions, it makes sense to invest in authentic relationships with others who can speak on your brand’s behalf.
Outside of human interaction, nothing makes an experience more memorable than ensuring your customers feel special. Loyalty perks were mentioned in the top five positive experience influencers for both brands and consumers, so leveraging a loyalty program can be a major differentiator. However, our research also indicated that not all perks are equal. It’s important to do the proper work of understanding what benefits truly deliver value that enhances the relationship. Finally, consumers also value the ability to try new products and services before they purchase. This makes an impact because it both allows them to feel special, and demonstrates a measure of trust.
In a world so focused on technology, it can be easy to underestimate the impact of human interaction. Given these findings, however, it’s clear that if brands should invest in hiring, training, and technology that supports their human talent delivering the most positive, memorable experiences possible.
To learn more about the latest findings in customer experience, download our 2018 CX Trends Report!