May 15th, 2014 by Sarah Sluis

The focus at IBM’s Smarter Commerce Global Summit was clear: it’s all about the customer experience. IBM has a strong portfolio of products and acquisitions that focus on bettering the customer experience, like Tealeaf, which helps companies optimize the digital customer experience, to leading edge technologies like the Watson Experience Manager, which will help bring self-service customer service to a new level. Marketing automation enabled marketers to make personalized, relevant offers, and now companies want to extend those principles to the rest of their organization. Based on the talks, sessions, and interviews conducted at IBM’s Smarter Commerce, here are five ways to create a better customer experience.

  1. Connect channels to provide the best customer experience possible. That’s the goal of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, according to MoMA’s Technology Director Diana Pan. Their mission is to make modern art accessible to everyone in the world. As a nonprofit, they also have budget restrictions, which makes things like investing in a mobile-optimized site (which they have) tough decisions that take into account the kind of ROI they will receive compared to other investments. MoMA has many channels where it reaches its audience: the museum, its extension PS 1, a web portal to buy tickets, the gift shop, the online gift shop, educational sessions, the mobile app, and more. “Regardless of entry point and the technology used, we want to give them the best experience possible and continue a dialogue with them,” Pan summed up. That means things like making sure the same offers, like discounts for members, appear across brands, and members and other high-value guests receive the best possible experience. That in turn helps MoMA find and retain more members, which gives the museum the funding it needs to survive.
  2. Delight your customers and collect data in the process. Many people tour MoMA using audio guides. The new audio guide experience shows visitors how long they spent in the museum, what pieces of artwork they visited, and their route through the museum. Visitors can access it later and quantify how they’ve used the museum. That’s great news for the visitors, but MoMA has bigger plans for the data. It means very different things if someone visited the permanent collection or came just for the Gauguin exhibit, Pan told the audience. Data about a visitor’s artwork preferences can inform how MoMA tries to market to them later. A person that only comes for new exhibits can receive notifications every time MoMA has a new exhibit, or might receive a membership appeal with a painting of Gauguin the marketing materials.
  3. Create an experience for every channel. When David’s Bridal first started selling wedding dresses online seven years ago, Jerry Baklycki, director of interactive technology, was a bit skeptical that many customers would buy online. Ecommerce these days is strong as ever, and the digital experience is more pervasive than ever. The majority of emails are opened on mobile devices, half their web traffic is mobile, and m-commerce is a reality. Yes, people buy wedding dresses on their mobile devices,and the company is making sure that experience is seamless for the customer.She’ll buy in the channel she wants from when she’s ready,” Baklycki said of their customers. “The device isn’t going to stop her from buying, it’s the experience.”
  4. Have everything under control before you expand globally. In a talk about the opportunities and challenges of expanding e-commerce into European Union countries, Spencer Izard, head of European retail insights of the market research firm IDC warned that the experience can suffer if it’s not undertaken correctly. Things like shipping and returns can quickly turn catastrophic. Inventory assortment needs may be different, and there’s a risk of being tone deaf to the local audience. Izard also strongly advised being satisfied with the state of your home e-commerce site before expanding into new markets, because any weaknesses will be amplified as you deal with the regulations, complexity, and challenges of new markets.
  5. Create a customer experience ecosystem. Often, when there is something wrong in the customer experience, most people in an organization will think things are going well. Moira Dorsey, vice president and group director of Forrester, outlined an example where a B2B voice software company mapped the customer journey and discovered that standards the legal team had written were preventing installation technicians from fixing a common installation problem. In the case she presented, the sales team and legal team thought everything was going fine, while the technicians and the contact center were the recipients of the frustrated customers. By creating a customer experience ecosystem, which involves creating stakeholders across the organization who care about the whole customer experience, the company was able to revise the legal standards and fix their customer experience problem.

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