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Fully 80% of customers churn as a result of dissatisfaction with service quality, TechSee reports. So, to prevent avoidable churn, businesses must improve their service at every point, on every channel.

Sounds easy, right?

We all know the challenge is more complex, mostly because service occurs in various channels at different points along any customer's journey. The challenge for business leaders is to connect those moments of service into a continuous feedback loop so customers are as engaged with the brand as they'd like to be.

Mind the Gap

So, how are CX leaders doing now?

In short, the news is not great. There is a well-documented gap between how brands perceive their ability to deliver on CX promises and what customers think of the experience delivered.

n fact, 80% of companies believe they deliver "super experiences," but only 8% of customers agree. The CX delivery gap is a chasm.

More recently, Forrester reported that the average CX index score is still above pre-COVID years, but the increases from 2020 and 2021 have almost been erased. CX quality fell for 19% of brands in the CX Index in 2022—about twice as many as the 10% of brands that gained points in 2022, and the "highest proportion of brands to drop in a single year" in the history of the Forrester report.

How do you cross the delivery gap? How do you improve your CX in the face of strong headwinds?

The answer is easier than you may think. Closing the loop—defined by Forrester as "communicating with customers about their feedback"—is the best way to show your customers that they've been heard. Doing so leads to deeper relationships, which in turn leads to greater retention, advocacy, adoption, and growth.

It should come as no surprise to learn that 61% of companies have no formal process for closing the loop with customers, Forrester reports. But if you fall into that unfortunate majority, don't worry. It is never too late to implement good CX practices.

At least part of the difficulty of closing the loop is the omnichannel world we live in. CX leaders are responsible for customer interactions across multiple channels, sometimes with little visibility into or data from the actual interaction. And that is no small challenge.

How Was Your Flight?

Consider the touchpoints in your typical cross-country airline flight. Customers use many different service channels:

  • Web: Initial research and reservation; post-flight follow-up survey
  • Mobile app: Check-in the night before the flight; boarding pass during boarding process
  • In-person: Gate agent check-in process; in-flight service
  • Retail: Airline lounges; gate area

Each channel, each interaction with the brand, occurs in a vacuum. The brand logo tells me that the in-app experience is the same experience I should get when I check my luggage, but there is often no link between the two interactions. If I have a bad experience while checking in, there's no way for the bartender in the lounge to offer me a free drink, no way for the flight attendant to deliver a discount for my next flight. All of the service channels work in silos, without communication or coordination among them.

Closing the loop with customers requires a more holistic approach.

A Central Nervous System for the Business

How can CX leaders bridge the CX gap? Software may be part of the answer.

Leaders often lack a system to connect data silos and boost accessibility to data. They lack a customer central nervous system.

As a consequence, customer experiences are fragmented and inconsistent. If there is no single, enterprisewide source of customer data, CX leaders are hindered in their ability to respond.

Merkle has outlined three basic steps to solve the CX disconnect:

  1. Build a unified customer data strategy for the long term.
  2. Evolve your data practices and platforms to deliver personalized CX.
  3. Ensure that your data foundation is sound—that data is unlocked, aligned, and optimized to empower your employees.

Your C-suite is responsible for strategy, and your development ops team is responsible for unlocking your data. But as a marketing leader, you can play a major role in evolving your data practices and platforms with the goal of delivering personalized CX.

Personalization Through Automation

Remember that cross-country flight? Imagine how that scenario could look if the airline were to automate some of the tasks involved with great CX, while focusing resources on fixing problem areas.

Say I paid for a premium seat with miles but was then downgraded to an economy seat. The airline sends me a survey. During the flight, I file a complaint and quickly receive a personalized email in return with an apology. Before I land, the airline sends me a voucher for my next flight.

When I land, the gate agent makes a personal apology and assures me that the service team has already put in a ticket to return my miles. When I chat with the airline the following week, the agent is able to pull up my ticket and see a full record of what happened. And when I use the voucher for my next flight, the airline representative thanks me for coming back.

In that scenario, different channels work in concert. Survey communication is sent from a central location to the people who can influence my experience (airline rep, flight attendant). Employees have the ability to make changes that will improve that experience. And data is routed in real time to the various employees who can personalize my experience with the brand.

Such a scenario and personalized CX has been anticipated for some time; McKinsey wrote about shifts in personalization in 2019. Its three predictions have come true: physical spaces will become "digitized" (with the ability to send/receive feedback anywhere), empathy will scale (front-line workers empowered to resolve problems), and brands will use an ecosystem to deliver end-to-end personalization (moving data seamlessly between disparate parts of the buying experience).

It's already happening in the HR realm, and in some employee listening programs, too. And personalized "EX" drives real business results. Mature programs are six times more likely to exceed financial targets and seven times more likely to retain talent, even during times of high attrition, Dash Network reports: "Feedback technologies have evolved from annual surveys to more sophisticated and ongoing omnichannel listening programs that can churn out insights and analysis that, in more EX-mature organizations, can be put into workflows for action to be taken."

In the airline example, the data practices and platforms enable the airline staff to deliver personalized CX—at scale, no less. The automation required is relatively simple, consisting of surveys to collect feedback, workflows to connect feedback with the business, and possibly in-app experiences to supplement the experience. Staff can be notified by email or text of data from another channel, enabling them to take proper action. In the end, I feel like the same customer across my entire experience.

The goal of personalized CX is a seamless brand experience. Brands should quickly lean into the shifts McKinsey describes, because their competitors already are. Investment in personalization continues to grow: In the past year, the number of brands saying that personalization is a priority area of investment has risen from 20% to 24%, the 2023 CMSWire State of Digital Customer Experience Report found.

Closing the Loop With Customers

Customers and employees who feel heard are going to be more loyal to an organization. Loyal people tend to engage more, stay longer, and become advocates. Businesses need loyal customers and employees to grow.

But you will gain that loyalty and advocacy only by closing the loop with customers. And you can close that loop via personalized CX, facilitated by automation. Automation moves customer interaction data to the people who can act on it.

Automation doesn't replace the human interaction; it enables the human interaction.

Let automation create your customer central nervous system. Then, empower your people to use that data and solve customer problems at their pain point. Your team's ability to improve service in every channel simultaneously—to deliver truly personalized CX—could be your differentiating factor in the market.

More Resources on Personalized CX

Beyond Buzzwords: How to Build a Personalization Strategy for Optimal CX and Growth

The Customer Data Conundrum: How CX Leaders Can Optimize Both Privacy and Personalization

A Five-Step Framework for ROI From Personalized Customer Experiences

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Closing the Loop: How to Deliver Personalized CX at Scale, Even Across Channels

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image of Chris Benham

Chris Benham is the CMO at Alchemer, an enterprise online survey software company.

LinkedIn: Chris Benham