Digital is enabling brands to provide ever more seamless customer experiences. By reducing, or even eliminating, the barriers to products and services, brands are increasingly reaping the rewards of focusing on their customers’ needs.
Even so, some still remain sceptical of zoning in on customer experience (CX) – especially given that proving its success can be notoriously difficult. Even for some of the world’s biggest brands, attributing success solely to digital customer experience improvements isn’t always the easiest thing to do – but these examples should show you that keeping customer needs front of mind is a worthwhile endeavour.
IKEA enhances its customer experience with augmented reality
From the unwavering thoughtfulness of its furniture design, to the considerate layout of its stores, IKEA has long been synonymous with a great customer experience.
You’ll find pencils and paper as you walk in, a café halfway round the store, food and drink placed amongst the kitchen equipment. Even the catalogues speak to the real, lived experiences of IKEA’s audience; apartments that are that tiny bit too small, a lack of storage space, child-friendly designs.
But as with any large retailer, plenty of your customers don’t live close by – so how do you bring the experience to them and promote greater efficiency?
IKEA has never shied away from new technology. Smart lighting and wireless charging are stand-out elements of its product range. Even so, with the launch of its augmented reality (AR) app ‘Place’, IKEA opened up even greater opportunity for its customers to get a feel for its products.
Browsing through thousands of products, users can place an item of furniture into their chosen room using AR, getting a sense of its size, colour and whether it’s truly right for their home. In doing so, IKEA is not only reducing the likelihood of returns but also offerings its customers a new way to interact with the products that offers them maximum convenience – they don’t even need to leave their homes.
With over two million app downloads combined with the convenience of online shopping, it’s no wonder that IKEA remains a firm favourite among consumers and a leading example of what it means to put your customers first.
Monzo’s customer centricity makes it UK’s most recommended brand
According to Ipsos MORI research, only 37% of British people trust bankers to tell the truth. Between high bonuses and tax evasion, it’s not hard to see why that might be.
Enter challenger brand Monzo. Since 2015, the digital-only bank has been making waves with its accessible, transparent approach to banking. Starting out life with an invite-only referral scheme, the brand built in advocacy from the very beginning, using word of mouth to build a following amongst audiences who were ready for a different style of banking after the financial crash.
Monzo quickly achieved cut-through with its jargon-free, simplistic approach to banking. Its publicly available tone of voice guide invites readers to hold the brand to account, while its forum network enables customers to request features and offer feedback directly to the Monzo team.
We’ve opened this up to the world as well (hello world! 🌍), because we want to be held up to the lofty standards we set ourselves here. We believe in everything we’ve said, so if you see us falling short then please let us know. (Monzo Tone of Voice guide)
Monzo built its brand on customer-centric principles at a time where people felt banks didn’t have their best interests at heart.
Monzo has 3 million customers, with 55,000 new signups every week. Perhaps most impressively, Monzo became the UK’s Most Recommended Brand of 2019, with a comfortable lead over its nearest competitors (See figure 1).
Giffgaff harnesses digital to provide super fast customer service
You may be starting to notice a pattern – typically, the leaders of CX tend to be brands that aren’t afraid to do things a little differently. They challenge the norm, devising better ways to surprise and delight their customers. Giffgaff is another great example of this.
Over the course of ten years, Giffgaff has subverted the traditional business model which locks customers into year-long contracts and has, in turn, gone on to become a telecoms giant. Customers can sign up, change the allowances of their rolling contract on a monthly basis, and leave as and when it suits them.
Like Monzo, Giffgaff is also digital-only. Rather than investing in call centres or bricks and mortar, Giffgaff has up to 6,000 people active on its online communities who are ready to help.
Between ‘5,000-6,000 people active on Giffgaff’s communities, sharing advice, content and new ideas. Any member who asks the community a question will usually receive a response within 90 seconds. (Marketing Week)
It’s a far cry from waiting in a frustrating call centre queue, or making the trip especially to a store to resolve an issue – and a strategy that some might find risky.
But it’s paying off. According to Marketing Week, Giffgaff has the second highest index score (6.5) on YouGov’s BrandIndex, which considers consumer brand perceptions around quality, value, satisfaction and reputation. On buzz alone, it’s the highest ranking mobile operator with a score of 5.2.
Elsewhere, the brand was awarded uSwitch’s Network of the Year in 2019. It just goes to show that every sector has the potential to find success in meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
Next focuses on giving customers shopping options to suit them
It’s a difficult time to be in fashion. Attitudes are shifting away from fast fashion as sustainability becomes front of mind, while digital is driving intense competition. Now, fashion brands are having to work harder than ever to remain attractive to consumers.
After a tough trading period in 2017, Next has invested heavily in digital marketing and innovation in the last few years. The retail giant has set its sights on achieving a more seamless relationship between its online and offline shopping experience, while giving shoppers plenty of options when it comes to how they like to shop.
From intelligent search results that learn from customer inputs, to ‘Click and Collect’, Amazon Pick Up points and in-store credit, Next is pulling no punches when it comes to investing in its customer experience. In fact, Next’s online sales jumped from £1.6m to almost £2m between 2018 and 2019 – its highest online sales figure in 10 years.
Slack makes workplace communication a cinch
Slack answered a need that many businesses didn’t even know they had. Slack enabled many-to-many communication, where employees can ask questions and share information within a multitude of ‘channels’ relevant to them, preventing the often chaotic, fragmented result of email.
A ‘Searchable Log of All Communication and Knowledge’, Slack was still a small team of people at its inception – so they opted for the referral scheme to kick off their business and generate buzz. In the first day alone, 8,000 people signed up. According to Ali Rayl, Vice President of Customer Experience at Slack, they had 24,000 signups by the end of their invite-only period.
From there, Slack grew quickly. The team developed a help centre that allowed customers to get in touch, request features and search for answers to their questions.
In doing so, the Slack team were able to get on with building the features people wanted, like implementing emoji, GIFs and threaded conversations.
We’re extraordinarily proud of our help center. It has done so much quiet, heavy lifting for us in terms of helping our customers. It has a distinct Slack voice. It sounds like us, but it’s a very tactical, but kind voice. (Ali Rayl VP of Customer Experience)
Some companies even have ongoing relationships with particular Slack Customer Service reps, who know their business and challenges – and the best way to solve their problem.
When your key competitor is Microsoft Teams, you need an edge. According to Business Insider, of Slack’s top 50 customers, 70% are Office 365 subscribers – so while those customers get Teams by default, plenty are still willing to pay extra to use Slack.
What can you do?
Few organisations can say they have a perfect customer experience – there’s always room for improvement. The brands we’ve focused on here currently provide great experiences that are working well for their customers, but in the digital age, resting on your laurels is a fast-track way to get you left behind. Monitoring sentiment, feedback and reviews is crucial to ensure you are well positioned to meet your customer needs even as they change.