As consumers, we often have many “customer experiences” in one day. Purchasing your morning coffee, attending a doctor’s appointment, and picking up groceries each offer a unique experience. Your interactions with people at the drive-thru, check-in or checkout, how pleasant the environment is, how quickly you’re served, and whether the product you want is available are all parts of these experiences.
The digital customer experience (DCX) is a component of a customer experience. It’s the very same concept except that instead of in-person experiences, it’s specific to digital interactions. Things like ordering coffee ahead on an app, attending a telehealth conference with your doctor, and purchasing groceries online would be the digital components of the experiences referenced above. How well each of those touchpoints goes influences purchasing decisions, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty.
The digital customer experience is fairly easy to understand for business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions. But how does DCX function for business-to-business (B2B) interactions? And what does that look like in the transportation and logistics industry?
DCX matters for freight shippers (even if they’re ordering a rail car instead of a latte). Here’s how it works and seven examples of improving railroad customers' digital experiences.
What Is Digital Customer Experience?
A customer’s digital experience encompasses all the ways a customer engages with a brand online. Those channels can include website visits from a mobile phone or desktop, doing business on an app, and even social media.
According to research conducted by experience management software company Qualtrics, three elements make for a successful digital customer experience:
- Success: Did the customer get what they needed from the interaction?
- Effort: How easy was the process?
- Emotion: How did the interaction make them feel?
Of these three, Qualtrics found emotion to be the largest factor in delivering a good digital customer experience.
Companies that deliver a great DCX have an advantage over those that don’t. A positive DCX isn’t just a “nice to have” anymore — now it’s expected from most consumers. Research indicates the shift to digital is growing. According to research by Salesforce, a top customer relationship management (CRM) software provider, 58% of consumers agree that technology has dramatically changed their expectations of how businesses interact with them. Salesforce also found that millennials are nearly three times as likely as baby boomers to agree that they “run their life from their mobile devices.”
Why Does DCX Matter?
DCX falls under the larger umbrella of “customer experience,” but the stakes of getting it wrong could be higher than in-person interactions.
In a Qualtrics study, 65% of respondents said their experience on the website or app would be at least a very important factor in their willingness to recommend a brand.
Focusing on just one factor of the digital experience — speed — shows how a seemingly miniscule difference can have a large impact on sales, conversion rates, and bounce rates (when a user abandons a webpage). According to Forbes, here’s what major players in the digital space found:
- Amazon found a 100-millisecond latency increase (the rate at which data travel) cost them 1% in sales.
- Web and Internet security services provider Akamai learned a 100-millisecond delay in website load time can lower conversion rates by 7%.
- Google found that adding two seconds (2,000 milliseconds) to page load time increased the bounce probability by more than 30%.
Conversely, brands that improve the digital experience stand to acquire new customers, increase customer loyalty and engagement, and increase growth.
B2C vs B2B Digital Customer Experience
Although both B2C and B2B companies interact with their customers online, those interactions can be quite different. For instance, shopping online for a new pair of shoes is likely to be more transactional in nature. Once you’ve made the purchase, you may not need to interact with that brand for a long time, if at all.
B2B interactions tend to run deeper. Unlike individual consumers, businesses typically make high-value purchases, which means the process takes longer and involves more players. Where the B2C digital experience is often more about brand building and attracting new customers, the most critical part of the B2B digital experience happens after a company signs on as a customer. Today’s businesses are making a push for more automation and API connectivity. B2B digital experiences like these make it easier to do business with a company, and when they’re delivered, it nurtures the B2B relationship.
Contrast that with a single consumer making a purchase (and especially an impulse purchase) online, and the difference becomes clear. However, consumer expectations have begun shaping business expectations, blurring the lines between B2B and B2C and creating a new category, business to person (B2P).
What Does DCX Look Like for the Transportation Industry?
Transportation is a B2B relationship, so much of the digital experience improvements transportation companies make will focus on making it easier for existing customers to do business. Online interactions likely include getting a rate, finding available capacity in certain lanes, or managing shipments, to name just a few.
Union Pacific has placed a significant focus on the digital customer experience for the last several years, The following are just a few of the improvements that have emerged based on customer feedback.
- Shipment Management Inventory Metrics Dashboard
Enhancements to the Shipment Management dashboard provided more information about the inventory at customer facilities. Increasing visibility to release rates, available capacity, and inventory on hand helps railroad customers manage their transportation pipeline more effectively.
- Invoice Management
After spending one-on-one time with users, it became clear viewing and disputing invoices needed to be a simpler process. The result is the release of a new Invoice Management tool.
- Track Maintenance Notifications
Track maintenance is critical to operating safely, but at times it can impact shipments. To help customers plan for these events, they now receive Track Maintenance Notifications about upcoming work at locations where they are served.
- Track Out of Service Notification
Customers receive notifications if their track is taken out of or put back in service, which is another way to help them plan shipments better.
- Subscription Center
Subscription Center is a portal where customers can sign up for and receive notifications, define which ones they’d like to receive, and manage their subscriptions as needed. This makes it easier to customize alerts to their specific needs.
- Agent Chat
Adding a chat feature gives customers who need real-time support but would prefer not to call in get assistance faster and in a way that is most convenient for them. This has also driven down call volumes and wait times for customers who prefer to speak on the phone.
- Application Program Interfaces (APIs)
APIs enable Union Pacific to share information between our technology platforms and those of our customers. In doing so, customers get easier access to more data they can use to make decisions about their supply chain. APIs also allow customers to see data in real time, like shipment location details or service issue updates. Customers can also take actions related to their shipments without having to leave their platform and log in to Union Pacific’s, like ordering or releasing a car.
These are just the most recent DCX rollouts. The digital experience is always evolving, so more enhancements will be coming soon.
If you’re interested in learning more about DCX at the railroad or shipping by rail, answer a few questions and we’ll connect you with an expert.
- 5 Ways to Listen to Customers to Improve Their Experience
- How to Improve the B2B Customer Experience
- APIs Are Changing the Logistics Landscape — Are You Ready?
- Can B2C Supply Chains Teach B2B a Thing or Two?
- The Impact of America’s Failing Infrastructure on Supply Chains
- How Much Freight Ships by Rail In the US?
- Five Transportation Myths — Busted
- Quiz: Is Rail the Right Fit for Your Shipments?