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Customer experience: It’s not just about the customer

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With customers increasingly expecting an intelligent environment across all touch points, businesses that have invested in a customer experience strategy are seeing a significant impact on their bottom line, writes Lourens Swanepoel, chief technology and innovation officer of Avanade South Africa.
A study by Avanade and Sitecore has found that for every dollar invested in customer experience, companies generate three dollars in return. The research validates that a customer experience strategy is essential for success, but also highlights that effective implementation is a challenge – an indication that organisations must first be digital on the “inside” in order to be digital on the “outside”.
As an emerging market, South Africa’s rapid adoption of technology has followed the trend seen on the continent – leap-frogging much of the development phase to bring end-users the latest solutions and offerings in many instances. With the country’s youthful population demonstrating its appetite for technology, customers of today increasingly expect their experience to be consistent across all channels and over multiple visits.
Context must also be appropriate to every customer interaction. This means that organisations should be adopting digital technology wherever possible to make single customer experiences more tailored and targeted.
This sentiment is echoed in a recent survey undertaken by Avanade and Sitecore of 880 decision makers across the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Australia and Singapore. The research analysed organisations’ customer experience strategies, looking at their adoption, benefits and challenges, as well as the importance of building a long-term relationship with customers.
As expected, an overwhelming 96% of respondents have or are developing a customer experience strategy, with competition and customer feedback the main drivers. However, the global research found there are still several obstacles preventing organisations from delivering effective customer experiences, which is also the case locally. An organisation’s capacity to engage with customers in a meaningful and timely way is affected by outdated services and systems, a lack of internal skills, and/or an inability to provide a seamless experience across different channels.
A delightful customer experience is built around knowing and tailoring interactions to the needs and wants of individuals. To this end, savvy organisations are using digital technologies to extract value from data to proactively provide their customers with better experiences and outcomes, rather than individual products and services. This is something we continue to see across various industries in South Africa, with retailers and the banking sector driving innovation aggressively. The challenge then becomes how to translate an online Amazon-type customer experience into one that spans all channels and touchpoints, including mobile.
Effectively implementing a customer experience strategy requires the needs of both employees and customers to be considered. If your employees don’t have the right information available at the right time, or the right tools to do their job effectively, it will be impossible for them to deliver the types of experiences today’s customers expect. Applying a human factor to technology implementation is important. This means understanding how employee-customer interactions take place, and which technologies and channels best enable an excellent experience.
Organisations additionally should have a single view of the customer, shared across the whole enterprise, which we call the “golden copy”. For example, a bank teller or call centre agent may need to know that the customer they’re speaking to has both a bond and a business account in order to respond most appropriately when a customer queries a transaction. Unfortunately, most South African organisations continue to store customer information in silos that mirror their internal business units, so data integration must be a priority.
Adopting a data-driven approach is fundamental to a digital workplace, which in turn drives customer experience. A digital workplace brings together applications, information and collaboration in an intelligent context, so that employees can deliver tailored experiences catering to the behaviours, wants, needs and intentions of individual customers.
Today’s digital customers have myriad options for the way they interact with organisations. The right customer experience strategy will help organisations provide a seamless and consistently excellent experience across all channels.
In an increasingly competitive digital world, brands need to challenge traditional business models, leverage technology and innovate to attract, win and retain their customers by meeting or exceeding expectations at every touch point. Our research reinforces that organisations that fail to embrace a digital workplace as part of their customer experience strategy will risk market irrelevance.