As consumers worldwide have been forced into rapid adoption of digital technologies due to the pandemic, brands are giving more thought to how they engage with audiences online. This shift has highlighted failures to provide digital experiences that meet consumers’ needs. There’s one thing brands can lean on to set them on the path to customer experience (CX) excellence: transparency. Rachael Brandon-Lai of 160over90 explains how.
With the rapid shift toward digital technologies hastened by the pandemic, we’ve seen plenty of excellent work – but also plenty of cases where brands have failed to meet users’ needs.
The key to falling on the right side of that divide is transparency.
Transparency is not an optional add-on to CX; it’s an expectation. Regardless of industry or product, embracing transparency as a business practice is paramount to gaining trust, building lasting customer relationships and designing your business to succeed with today’s digital consumer.
There are three key ways that brands can meet user demand more effectively, fostering authentic transparency at every stage of the consumer decision-making process: transparent data collection, paths to purchase and opportunities to engage.
For most companies, collection and management of data has become as routine as your morning coffee. So we can bypass the importance of data protection and privacy laws and focus on how data collection during user journeys impacts trust.
There’s a growing expectation that people should only have to provide information that is necessary to achieve their goals, and have a clear understanding of what that information is used for. This is quite a departure from the centrality of big data within organizations, but high-profile security breaches and information misuses have led to widespread public mistrust.
Brands need to be decisive about the data they need and explain anything that might not be obvious or is potentially sensitive. If there’s a good reason for asking for someone’s social security number, explain why, or don’t ask for it.
Nothing against big data here. The more we know about our customers, the better we can target and serve them. But finding the right balance is key to building a quality relationship.
If consumer profiling data is needed, brands should engage in consumer research, but don’t muddy your CX in the process. You risk losing consumers along the journey if your data collection makes them feel uncomfortable or suspicious, and there’s no coming back from that.
Path to purchase
There’s a lot we would like our users to see and do. Unfortunately, if we try to pack all these things into a single journey, we risk diverting them too far from why they came to us in the first place. It’s okay to offer plus-ups and add-ons, but they should always have an obvious connection to the intended action, and there should always be a clear path back to the central journey. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting lost in a maze of options when there should be a simple path from A to B.
Being transparent about where we are driving consumers throughout the journey helps avoid that frustration and will potentially increase their receptiveness to other products or services you have to offer, so there’s a business upside too. That said, the primary focus should be using the path to purchase to tell consumers that you are easy to do business with. That takeaway will serve you well in the long run.
Opportunity to engage
Engaging with brands online is something we’re all familiar with, but to make this truly impactful, we need to look beyond a witty Twitter admin and a 24-hour chat bot. True engagement must be underpinned by a genuine organizational commitment to owning and fixing mistakes, and doing so publicly.
One way to approach this is via reviews and comments on web and social platforms – wherever your consumers are. This lets people see issues that others are encountering, but also allows them to see how you respond, bringing transparency in real-time.
This is no easy fix, and requires investment in platform monitoring and highly-skilled specialists. Canned responses and token resolutions won’t cut it, so you need to be all-in on this approach. Brands that do this well reap the rewards.
Just think carefully about what you would want to see if you were on the other side – either as the customer or someone else watching the interaction. Acknowledging and correcting a misstep publicly can be more powerful in fostering trust than had that misstep not occurred.