What makes a good customer experience?

Trends revealed for 2013 and beyond

Creating a unique and memorable customer experience can be difficult for some businesses, particularly when a customer's wants and needs change so frequently. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos equates customers to invited guests at a party where businesses are the host. "It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better," Mr Bezos says.

So what are the key trends this year, and how can you as a business owner or customer service representative create the desired customer experience?

1. The rise of the global online shopper

It's no longer a secret that consumers love to shop online with global retailers for the best bargains, and with good reason. A survey conducted by customer experience agency  Nunwood reveals that the high Australian dollar is making international markets cheaper to access, exposing customers to more global brands. Global brands typically have different and better customer experience standards where domestic experiences pale in comparison. The bottom line: Australian customers are becoming more tech-savvy and are getting frustrated with high prices and limited range locally, and as a result are turning to international e-retailers.

2. Buying local

Despite a growing preference for cheaper online shopping, many consumers still would like to buy Australian  where possible. The Nunwood survey indicates that consumers view locally-sourced goods are extremely important, but would like more information on why these products/services are significantly more expensive than their overseas counterparts. It's not enough for businesses to just say "increase in transport costs" or "high Aussie dollar" - they will have to provide further justification for the cost imbalance in a way that makes sense to the consumer.

3. Self-service channels increasingly preferred

Consumers want instantaneous service, whether it's buying goods online, researching a new product or troubleshooting. To cope with these customer demands, businesses are increasingly looking towards self-service channels where users can browse and buy in seconds without physical interaction. According to a Forrester Consulting report, web self-service usage has jumped 12 per cent over the year. Customer chats and community forums have also seen rapid increases in usage, as consumers increasingly research all their options and read reviews before committing to a purchase.

4. The popularity of mobile solutions

With a surge in smartphone usage in the past few years, businesses are now turning their attention to mobile apps for customer service. IT research firm Gartner  sees the key features customers are looking for in mobile apps as: mobile commerce, mobile search that enables price comparisons, GPS tracking to "check-in" to stores, an ability to check usage or purchase history, and payment features. Having a mobile-friendly version of your website  is also a must-have. Making it easy for customers to transact with your business via their smartphone creates a pleasant customer experience that will increase your revenue, give you a competitive edge and improve brand reputation.

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