Customer expectations are heightened in today’s Experience Economy, and to win, brands and businesses must understand what their customers think and how they feel—and anything less than an exceptional, positively-charged, and memorable experience is unacceptable.
Customers control the market, and with competition abound, looking for an alternative just takes a quick web search. For companies to retain customers and keep them returning as brand loyalists, new research from CX insights firm UserTesting, developing an emotional connection between company and employees, and employees and customers is key.
Some companies serve as the epitome of customer experience (CX) excellence and in the firm’s new CX leaders study, 5 Key Differentiators That Set Elite Companies Apart, customers of several leading companies were surveyed to uncover the key differentiators that set them apart and make them customer experience leaders. The study included consumers and loyal customers of Apple, Coca-Cola, Costco, Edward Jones, Google, Lexus, Nike, Starbucks, Target, USAA, and Zappos.
There are studies conducted every year that try to identify CX leaders in a number of different industries. Many of these reports look at how these companies perform against their peers. The UserTesting CX leaders study set out to learn what types of experiences these companies provide, what best-in-class customer experience looks like today and what these CX leaders all have in common.
Feedback was received from 22 participants, with questions about the experience broken down into three categories:
The study identified five key differentiators that set these companies apart, labeling them as top customer-centric global brands:
1. Stellar employee experience
The employee experience is the foundation of building a great company culture. Companies that take the time to make genuine and emotional connections with their employees go hand-in-hand with companies that provide world-class customer experiences. USAA, a financial services company that serves veterans and their families, sends employees to a daylong military-style boot camp. Employees interact with a drill sergeant and put through a variety of drills. The drills have a dual purpose of giving employees a rare look into the lives of the people who are there to help, while cementing powerful connections between colleagues for future support, guidance, and encouragement.
2. Excellent in-person experiences
There has been a lot written about the “death of brick and mortar” and the rise of the digital shopping experience. However, recent research has shown that may not be the case. According to research by Google/Ipsos, 60 percent of consumers surveyed stated that they preferred to shop with brands that had physical locations over those with only an online presence. The desire by consumers to have in-person interactions with brands demonstrates the importance of high-quality, in-person customer experiences.
3. Seamless omnichannel experience
Today’s consumer connects with a company across multiple channels and includes both online and offline channels. Providing a high-quality omnichannel experience is challenging, but a seamless customer experience across devices from website to in-store can allow a brand to win over the loyalty of a customer while failing to provide that omnichannel experience can result in the loss of a lifelong customer. The companies in this study demonstrate how investing in an omnichannel retail experience can build customer loyalty.
4. Personalized high-touch experiences
Inspiring brand loyalty often begins with making customers feel understood and valued. This can be particularly important with higher-end goods and services, where consumer expectations are well above normal. From starting a retirement account to purchasing a new luxury vehicle, intimate and personalized customer experiences can create long-term customer loyalty.
5. Connecting through emotional design
The ability to measure and create metrics around human emotions can be difficult. An emotional response can vary widely from person to person, yet emotional connections and reactions are something that connects everyone. Leading companies, like those in this study, understand the importance and value of an emotional connection influenced by design. According to a recent survey by Deloitte Digital, 60 percent of loyal customers use emotional language to describe their connection to their favorite brands, and 62 percent of consumers felt they had a relationship with their favorite brands.
“Brands can and do set themselves apart by offering best-in-class customer experiences, as exemplified by the companies profiled in this report,” said Janelle Este, chief insights officer at UserTesting, in a news release. “It is no longer good enough to try to meet your customers’ expectations, you must far exceed them. If you want your customer experience to be a brand differentiator, it must be part of your company’s DNA and long-term vision.”
To better understand the role emotions play in experiences and identify additional differentiators of elite brands, UserTesting conducted a three-part study of 11 of the world’s top brands. We chose brands that appeared on two or more industry top CX indexes, including the Forrester CX Index and the NPS B2C Leaders report.