Can we still talk about customer experience in the digital age?

While I was preparing to write this article, my colleagues and I got into a useful, devil’s advocate kind of debate about whether things like customer service and experience, company culture, and the history of your organization matter to potential customers. Aren’t people today most interested in whether you solve their problem, quickly, effectively, and at the right price, in a way that makes them and their businesses more successful and sustainable? The rest is just, well, gravy. And is also something you suspect is a pre-sales performance, which very quickly disappears as soon as you sign on the dotted line. Because that is what happens too often in our industry.

Unsurprisingly in a company where the very first words of our company culture are “we are here to serve”, we do think that customer experience (CX) is as important as ever, if not more so, in the digital age. (And, by the way, our people crafted our values – these were not brainstormed by a marketing agency for us!)

For us, customer experience encompasses everything from how you experience our software – your user experience (UX) – to how we interact with you as human beings – more traditional customer service. These collectively add up to your overall customer experience (CX) with our product, services, and company. And, the interesting thing today is how, ideally, CX is embedded so deeply within the DNA of your product, that you can’t talk about it without also talking about customer experience.

What do I mean? Let’s look at each aspect of CX in turn.

User Experience

These days, B2B software needs to be as easy to use as consumer apps. Why would users tolerate non-intuitive, archaic-looking and feeling, painful-to-use software at work, when the apps they download for free (mostly) in their leisure time are super-user friendly and easy to learn?

The last time you downloaded an app to your phone, did you also read an instruction manual? Probably not. You expected that the app would be so frictionless that you would be able to figure out the next steps from the context, and it would deliver you just-in-time information about new or advanced features and capabilities so seamlessly that you wouldn’t realize it was teaching you as you used it.

As you progressed, if you wanted to use more advanced features and become a real pro user, you could turn to a plethora of educational content and tips and tricks from the software developer itself, or from third-party industry experts or fellow users. But what you didn’t do was pay thousands of dollars to the app developer to train you on how to use the software.

Why should commercial real estate (CRE) technology be any different? And often this starts with getting some really basic, yet surprisingly often overlooked by developers, things right. For instance, does every field need to be a required field? Or can you proceed by using the information that is important to you? Are the input fields arranged logically, or do you need to scroll through multiple screens to find related data? Are error messages clear, contextual, and helpful in moving you along, or do you waste time figuring out where that one misplaced comma is? And, this is so important, does the software speak your, and the rest of the industry’s language, or do you feel like you need a translation service to figure out what the terminology is referring to?

If the software user interface (UI) and the overall UX eliminate noise, are not over-engineered, and work with you and not against you, you won’t need two weeks of off-site training to more or less get to grips with how the software works. Instead, the software will be as simple as you want it to be and as complex as you need it to be.

Customer Service

So far so good. But what happens when you need to speak to a human being now that you are a paying customer?

  1. Can you find a phone number, or do you keep landing up with a chatbot that only ever sends you to an FAQ?
  2. Does someone actually answer your call or are you on hold for an hour?
  3. Does that person speak “CRE”, and can they answer your question or solve your problem, whether it’s straightforward or more complex?
  4. Are they empowered and incentivized to help you get the best result, or are they clearly motivated to make the call as short as possible?
  5. And crucially, does the organization have the willingness - and ability -  to make changes to their service to improve it for you, and other customers? Or is the software so frozen in time and 'spaghetti code' it doesn't involve. "You get what you get."

And with the last point, we come full circle back to UI and UX. Customer service and user experience don’t exist on parallel planes. They should feed into each other, driving overall customer experience and making the application stronger and more impactful at each turn.

So, in answer to my colleagues’ hypothetical debate: today, in a digital age, you cannot separate customer experience from solving customer problems, quickly, effectively, and at the right price. They are intrinsically linked. If you want to treat your customers as true, long-term partners, that is, and not merely as transactions. At Rockport VAL, that's our core principle. Don't you deserve both UX and CX?

About Rockport VAL

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Posted by Brian Mascis

COO at Rockport VAL

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