With more and more of our world becoming digitally dominated, always-on and always connected, consumers literally have a world of choice when it comes to obtaining the products and services they need.
By Andrew Hoseck, chief operating officer at In2IT Technologies
Pricing is no longer a real point of differentiation, and the ability to deliver an excellent customer experience (CX) is more important than ever. This in turn relies on a real and in-depth understanding of the customer and that disparate siloes of data are the enemy.
If a business cannot access, analyse and understand all aspects of their customers, they will never be able to deliver the experience that today’s consumers demand.
Even in South Africa, there is little doubt that consumer access to technology has had a huge impact on business.
Consumers expect to have access to information, products and support at any time and they demand seamless engagements across multiple channels. Much of the country’s online access has been enabled by mobility, and the ability to engage effectively through both mobile and web-based channels, as well as traditional bricks and mortar stores, is critical.
Businesses now need to be able to deliver the personal touch of human interaction and the convenience of digital across any of their touch points.
Essentially the lines are blurring between different channels. However, siloed data makes this impossible to achieve with any useful effect. For example, a financial institution may have multiple different views of the same customer resulting from uptake of different products from different business units.
The same customer may have a savings account, an investment, a credit card and a home loan. They may have gotten married at some point and changed their name; they may have had children and their needs may have altered.
They may even have opened accounts for their children, and their spouse may be utilising the same financial institution. If the bank cannot bring this data together to create a single view of the customer, they will never be able to deliver the seamless, integrated experience needed.
In order to address this challenge, it is essential for product, pricing and customer information to either be centrally housed and distributed or carefully managed and integrated across platforms.
Moreover, master data management (MDM) has become a critical technology in ensuring organisations can deliver a consistent customer experience.
Organisations need to ensure that all of their information is correct and consistent and that all channels work all the time, which requires quality assurance and automated testing.
Staple tools such as data analytics remain essential, but they need to be applied consistently across integrated and clean data to deliver the insight required for demand forecasting, focused marketing, personalised promotions and so on.
Fortunately, technology developments are making strides in achieving this. artificial intelligence (AI) is being utilised to bridge the gap in the customer experience between human and machine.
The traditional digital engagement has tended to become “one size fits all”, with standard product information and FAQ’s that customers are expected to navigate.
It is lacking the human element needed and often frustrates customers, so AI can be used to provide guidance and advice based on their understanding of the customer.
Other technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) are increasingly being used by organisations to execute basic process, thus freeing up employees and allowing them to focus on customer engagements where a human touch is required.
The customer is king and always will be, and even in the age of technology the same principles of marketing apply. Businesses need to make it easy for customers to engage with them no matter which channel they choose and enhancing the customer relationship and providing additional value is key to retaining existing customers.
It remains crucial to understand your customer and provide them with the services, products and solutions they require in the manner they wish to obtain them.
Delivering the experiences today’s customer demands requires intelligent application of technology to align customer engagement and provide a seamless experience across all channels and points of contact.