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The Dos and Don'ts of Dealing With Consumers in the Digital Space Customers now expect to be in control of their experiences.

By Mark Flaharty

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As consumers today, we know what we want and we are willing to pay for this control. In the past decade, digital transformation has greatly accelerated the pace and scope of our empowerment by increasing individual access to information and widening the range of goods and services directly available.

For example, the entertainment industry used to be dictated by the production companies: If you wanted to see a movie or watch a TV show, you would need to be sitting in front of the screen when it aired. Digitization has put consumers in direct control of their entertainment experience, allowing them to choose what to watch, when they can watch it and how to watch it. The hundreds of millions of customers currently subscribing to streaming platforms demonstrate just how much people are willing to pay a premium for convenience and control.

To satisfy empowered consumers, companies must be agile, responsive, personal and proactive. The ability to capture, analyze and improve your customers' digital experiences exists today like never before. There is no longer any excuse for not adapting your practices to accommodate their needs.

6 best practices you can utilize to delight these empowered customers

Do: Put yourself in your customers' shoes.

Business leaders need to put themselves in their customers' positions regularly. You need to be a consumer of your experience so that you know you are providing the best customer experience (CX) possible. How many times have you struggled with a brand's digital channel and said to yourself, "Has their CEO even used this app?"

Do: Invest in the right tech.

According to a Harvard Business Review survey, customer experience is the top priority for 40% of business leaders and a key part of digital transformation. To maximize CX success, businesses must invest in technology and partnerships that allow them to capture, visualize and analyze all digital interactions.

AI-enabled Experience Intelligence (EI) platforms, for example, will help optimize the customer experience across channels and digital platforms, from identifying and eliminating technical issues in real time to better understanding each point of the digital customer journey.

Do: Consider new touchpoints.

72% of business leaders shared that they are excited about digitizing their operations and services because it creates new opportunities to build better relationships with customers. Businesses need to be reaching empowered consumers through multiple touchpoints regularly: social media, your mobile app, your websites, through email, text messages and even by phone.

Communication must be proactive as well as reactive — companies should be developing onboarding tools and educational resources to help consumers self-service.

Do: Encourage feedback.

Ask for feedback about your products and services frequently. Embrace both the positive and negative — that is how you learn about the true customer experience. Tackle negative feedback head-on. Right the wrongs and turn a negative experience into a positive one.

Nine out of ten consumers consult reviews before making a purchase. Understanding this, business leaders should be creating simple pathways to share positive experiences publicly.

Related: How to Train Your Customer Support Agents To Provide Better Service

Do: Time your interventions carefully.

Customers want your support when they need it, but not before. Don't pop up a chatbot when the visitor arrives on your site. Instead, recognize when someone is struggling and offer support at this point in their journey, providing timely intervention and welcome support — or even an idea of how to get even more from their experience.

Do: Prioritize transparency and clarity.

Empowered consumers are often frustrated by hidden fees or missing information. Inform visitors of delivery costs and when they can expect their items. When they do make a mistake, provide the information they require to rectify the issue. If visitors need to escalate an issue, provide easy access to live chat or customer support.

Related: Customer Experience Will Determine the Success of Your Company

5 don'ts to avoid in the age of consumer empowerment

Don't: Keep the customer from their objective.

Every customer who interacts with your company has an objective and will want to complete this as quickly and as easily as possible. It is vital, especially within digital channels, to enable them to do this as efficiently as possible. Ensure elements like filters and onsite search work effectively and that you provide all the information they require to make informed decisions.

Don't: Work in silos.

Too often, departments operate in silos and don't recognize the power of jointly learning from — and adapting to — customer behaviors. Every key stakeholder in the company needs to see and understand actual digital engagement activity with consumers, working from a single source of truth. EI solutions that capture all digital interactions can serve as a basis for key business decisions and support project prioritization.

Don't: Take a "one-size-fits-all" approach.

Every customer is different, and empowered consumers expect tailored experiences. Understanding your customers' behavior, their browsing, buying habits and preferred methods of communication enables you to provide targeted messages, relevant content and ultimately a less noisy, more personal experience of interacting with your brand.

Don't: Forget about the "silent" customers.

Direct feedback from customers is important, few actually take the time to share their thoughts with brands. Companies now can "listen" to 100% of their customers through digital EI platforms. This is critical because you can now give a voice to the silent — those that are not speaking to you with their words, but who are speaking loudly with their behavior to reveal points of frustration and new business opportunities.

Don't: Stop iterating.

You have mountains of data about your customers and their digital journeys. Use it to constantly make your CX better. Listen to your customers and be prepared to change direction if your customers are asking for it.

When boiled down, meeting the needs of empowered consumers is simple: You must listen, learn and change. Put customers in the driver's seat, gain a deeper understanding of their preferences and let their behaviors inform your business decisions.

Related: How to Really Hear and Use Customer Feedback

Mark Flaharty

Chief Growth Officer of Glassbox

As chief growth officer at Glassbox, Mark Flaharty explores growth opportunities and spearheads new initiatives. He spent his early career with industry pioneers Yahoo, YouTube and Google. He brought tech businesses Criteo and SundaySky to maturity. He holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame.

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