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Marketers are continuing to prioritize the customer experience this year, focusing on making it more valuable, relevant, and easy to understand. What they should keep in mind is that the most – and least – important aspects of the customer experience don’t seem to be changing for consumers, according to our review of the CMO Council’s latest report [download page].

Produced in association with SAP Hybris, the survey asked 2,000 adults in North America and Europe to identify their top attributes of an exceptional experience.

Two results stood out.

Make It Fast

People clearly want their issues to be dealt with rapidly: the most important attribute of a great experience identified in the CMO Council’s survey was a fast response time to the customer’s needs and issues (52% identifying it as being one of their top 5).

That’s more important than even a knowledgeable staff that’s always at the ready (47%) and rewards for loyalty (42%).

What’s striking is that in a similar survey conducted a couple of years ago by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), respondents likewise cited a fast response to inquiries or complaints as their most important element of an ideal customer experience. (It shared that spot with a simple purchasing process.)

In other words, companies should be there to respond to customers’ concerns. In terms of the primary channels of engagement, respondents pointed first to company websites, followed by email, and phone.

No Need to Recognize the Customer Across All Channels

Interestingly, only 15% of respondents to the CMO Council survey said that they expect companies to be everywhere. So while they want fast responses and knowledgeable staff at the ready, only 1 in 10 selected multiple touch points that add value to their experience as being a top-5 attribute.

Also, few respondents said that a top attribute is recognizing their history with the brand at every touchpoint. While consistency across channels seems like a logical goal for brands, perhaps customers don’t have as high of an expectation on that front. Alternatively, it may be that they simply don’t feel the need to be recognized all the time.

Intriguingly, a similar response also ranked low on the totem pole in the EIU survey. Of 13 elements identified, “company representatives recognize me as a regular customer across all channels” was second from the bottom.

As the CMO Council’s authors put it, “We want great service in critical channels, and we want value – but we don’t need it all the time and everywhere we turn.”

Some Puzzling Discrepancies?

Oddly enough, while respondents don’t want their history with the brand recognized across all touch points, many also said that they’re angry about not being treated like the loyal customers they are… This presents somewhat of a puzzling conflict.

Still, with many also saying that a “top peeve” of the customer experience is the feeling that they are being followed online, brands will need to walk a fine line. It seems that they’ll do well to recognize the length of time that someone has been a customer, but not slow down the experience by focusing too much on the nature of that history.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 2,000 customers in the US (50%), Canada (25%) and Europe (25%). Respondents were evenly split by gender.

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