Providing an enjoyable experience for consumers is necessary for businesses of all type. Whether it's by having knowledgeable sales staff or an easy to navigate website, businesses that change their tactics to match customer expectations will outperform their competitors. As a leading brand behind home and business computers, IBM is a great place to look for advice on creating better customer experiences. IBM recently released a study with advice for online and in-store businesses for making their customers happy.

According to a new IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study, "IBM 2017 Customer Experience Index (CEI) Study" which surveyed 507 brands in 25 countries, brands need to work harder to meet customers' ever-evolving expectations. On a scale of 0 to 100, the overall Customer Experience Index average was only 33.

The results of the study show that modern retail involves integrating technology into the consumer's online and digital shopping experience. The researcher note that "consumers are demanding the excitement and personal engagement they get on-line when they shop in stores."

The fact that many in-store retailers aren't prepared to offer this engagement can account for the low customer experience scores. According to the report, nearly nine out of ten brands (88 percent) do not have the ability to acknowledge customers as they enter the physical store. Similarly, four out of five (79 percent) of brands either do not have mobile-enabled associates or do not provide their associates with mobile access to customer information.

Retailers that are online also have room for improvement. Customers are expecting (or at least respond better to) campaigns that are more personalized. There are also features that customers expect from online channels. However, just like their in-store counterparts, many brands lack the personalization and shopping tools that consumers want.

According to IBM, 71 percent of the brands in their survey only provide generic marketing messages to their customers. Even among brands that offer loyalty programs (which should encourage personalized rewards), 70 percent of brands with loyalty programs do not permit customers to choose their preferred form of reward.

And for shoppers who want to get online and compare products side-by-side, 88 percent of brands do not provide that kind functionality, forcing customers to toggle between screens. Similar challenges exist online in terms of customer service; customers expect issues to be resolved quickly and efficiently, however 61 percent of brands do not provide online chat options, which can both frustrate customers and increase operating costs, as inquiries must then be routed through telephone or e-mail instead.

"Each brand has a unique set of opportunities and actions to improve the shopping experience for its customers," said Laurence Haziot, IBM's Global Managing Director and General Manager, for Consumer Industry, according to a press statement. "The common thread, though, is that they must use new tools and technologies such as cognitive analytics and cloud to capture data regarding people, products, preferences and store facilities -- and then leverage that information at a hyperlocal level to provide a more expansive, personalized and effective experience wherever consumers want to shop."

The report also offers a few pieces of advice for specific actions that can help improve customer satisfaction. For example, "customers want more control over their shopping journey; provide easy-to-use tools and self-service customization capabilities so each can optimize his or her individual user experience.

For more information about creating better online shopping experiences, read this article on making branded content more memorable.

Published on: May 8, 2017
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