We have entered the age of the rapid commoditization of everything. Competitive differentiators built on new products or features only last a short time before being copied by competitors, leading to a race to the bottom for prices. There is one thing that is difficult to copy: the customer experience. Companies like Zappos, Nordstrom, and Disney have created a nearly unassailable market advantage by providing an exceptional customer experience for their customers. Companies that succeed in competing on experience can often charge a premium for the same products as a competitor. But how can a company create a customer experience that is a competitive differentiator?

It is essential to understand that excellent customer experience goes beyond being friendly to customers. While that is a great place to start, but to separate your company from the crowd of competitors you have to deliver beyond your customer’s expectations. Delivering beyond expectations requires tools that enable you to understand and control your customer’s experience across every touchpoint in the customer’s end-to-end journey. Take Disney for example: While Disney staff are unwaveringly courteous and pleasant to guests, the company has also invested heavily in data, connected devices, and machine learning. Disney uses technology to anticipate their customer’s needsminimize friction, and flip the experience. And while you probably don’t have Disney’s massive technology budget, there are some tools you most likely already have that can help you provide that Disney-like experience.

Anticipate your customer’s needs
Understand who they are and the context of the interaction and deliver the unexpected. But with data spread between CRM, email, Slack, and many other systems, it makes getting a single view into all your customer’s activities and preferences nearly impossible. Microsoft’s Flow, a software integration and automation tool included in Office 365, enables you to move data between systems and automate tasks. This capability helps your teams across the organization understand what a customer needs and react faster.

Example: Notes from salespeople in Dynamics can be copied to SharePoint or a customer support slack channel. Emails from a customer can automatically create a SalesForce task, Slack message, or Team notification.

Minimize Friction
Barriers to a customer accomplishing their goals are a sure way to create a miserable experience.  Using flow to automate everyday tasks and notify teams across the organization when a customer has a need is a quick way to reduce the number of steps a customer has to take to get what they need.

Example: You can use the Salesforce connector in Flow to notify a team (in Microsoft Teams) when a new lead is created, kicking off a set of tasks within Microsoft Planner to ensure your prospective customer has a well-organized sales and onboarding experience.

Flip the Experience
Let’s face it: no company is infallible. Mistakes will happen. Flipping an experience from negative to positive is key to customer experience management. And that starts with knowing when customers have a poor experience. Using Microsoft’s Azure Cognitive Services, you can monitor social networks like Twitter for negative comments about your company, products, services, or industry and respond to unhappy customers and prospective customers. Another way to flip the customer experience is to monitor how your customers fell about your company, product, or service through surveys and quizzes. Microsoft’s new Forms tool, included in Office 365, enables you to quickly create and distribute surveys and easily analyze responses in Excel. You can even automate notifications to your customer support teams when survey responses need immediate responses. Go a little deeper in understanding your customers with sentiment analysis using Forms, SharePoint, and Microsoft’s Power BI.

It is possible to leverage the technology tools you already own to help you deliver great customer experience. With Office 365 as the core and using software integrations through Flow, you can anticipate customer needs and automate notifications and responses, creating a frictionless experience and enabling your team to flip bad experiences into good ones.

Don’t have Office 365 or not realizing the potential of your technology? We can help you turn your technology into a competitive differentiator!

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