The internet is many things. It can connect us with someone on the other side of the world instantly. It can provide information that, once upon a time, could take hours to find. It has its issues, sure. Increased communication brings the trolls out from their dungeon. It gives anyone with an opinion a voice. Fact-fabrication is easier than it has ever been, like some new-age version of Broken Telephone.
Where the internet excels, though, is making it easier than ever for customers to interact with brands. There was a time where this would have been unfathomable. You don’t talk to a brand; you speak to a person; a representative; a salesman. But that was the past, and the internet has managed to improve the customer experience like nothing else.
Customer Decision Journey
The customer funnel is something that once dictated how people used and purchased services, but over ten years ago, McKinsey & Co. posited a better way: the customer decision journey. According to an article posted to the University of Southern California website, this improved way focused less on the linear nature of the funnel. It instead replaced it with a path for customers to explore.
This decision journey has been made easier through the accessibility of the internet. While previous consumer models delivered a straightforward process, a Decision Journey allows for alterations. It considers that a customer could go back to previous products, made easier by checking online listings rather than heading to the store. It allows them to compare and contrast with similar products. It helps them find the best price and the best value.
What makes this Journey stand out over the funnel is that it accounts for diverse online shopping habits. While many customers follow the same path, the funnel could not account for outliers. With the Journey, it takes all possibilities into account and helps create a more personalized experience for the consumer.
A Wide Marketing Net
You might still receive the occasional promotional flyer or coupon leaflet through your door, but the real customer retention method is done through email and social media marketing. Signing up to company mailing lists puts the customer in a position where they are the first to hear about new deals, exclusives, and discounts.
There is the risk of these emails bordering on spam. Too many a day is a surefire way to put someone off service for good. However, through segmentation, these marketing articles can approach customers in a more personal way; and who doesn’t like being made to feel special?
Without email marketing, the chances of the customer missing out on fantastic deals rise significantly. Customers do not need to be in the town center to find out what’s going on. Instead, they can enjoy and take advantage of these offers from the comfort of their home.
We all know how stressful shopping can be, so the internet has made it possible for brands to improve the customer experience without needing them to step foot in the store.
Customer service can have a bad reputation. If you’ve ever worked in such a role, you know how easily some customers can lose their heads. You also know not to take it personally.
However, with the increased range of internet connectivity, calling to complain is something that rarely happens nowadays. Instead, customer service bots, those little chat windows you occasionally find on company websites, make communication instant.
They are not perfect yet, but with AI software in place, these services are learning continuously and will improve. Rather than waiting for a call-back or email response (which was once hailed as more convenient), instant message customer service connects customers to the source.
You could also argue for the rise of brand-based social media. Sliding into the DMs of worldwide brands, or going a step further and tagging them directly on your timeline will get the company’s attention. Often, this is praise, but it’s no surprise that disgruntled customers are the ones who most often air their grievances on social media. It’s up to the company to decide whether to respond or leave on reading.
More Than Just a Hub for Memes
It would be a challenge to find someone who has never used the internet in a customer role. There is the straightforward and often overwhelming experience of Amazon, but there are also smaller boutique stores that can stay in business because of the broad reach of the online world. While the internet has proven integral to customers and their experience, it has improved the fortunes of companies, also.