Digitalization and globalization increase customer expectations in nearly every industry. In this article, we will identify four major challenges and we will show how focusing on customer experience can tackle these challenges.

Today, business leaders are in search of new ways to create sustainable competitive advantage due to the increasing customer power and competition. Could customer experience initiatives pave their way through existing business models and serve as a source of competitive advantage? Let’s find out.

Something as simple as asking for a new bank card, took me three calls. My address in the mobile application of the bank was out of date so I had to call to change it, and wait one day for it to be processed. Clearly, the employee did not want to spend too much time answering my bullying questions. Probably because some target was set for the employee. The day after I called again and asked the bank to send the card to my new address. I had contact with offices in two different cities, and their customer system was not linked to each other. As a result, I had to provide all my information again and wait before my address to be updated. Resulting in another day of delay before I could request my new bank card. 

After this experience, I realized that differentiation by products or service is not enough anymore. As a customer, I expected more than just a product or service. I expect them to know me, to put me in the center of attention, and provide help and complete information whenever I ask for it.

The New Way of Doing Business is Disrupting Your Industry

Did you ever think about the way digitalization and increasing customer expectations impact your business? Accenture research1 shows that globally, 64% of customers switched company in at least one industry because of poor customer service. This represents a loss of $338.5bn solely by poor customer service, leaving missed opportunity costs through marketing and sales out. Losing customers due to poor customer experience is one thing, but 82% of the customers believe that the company could have prevented them from leaving by providing first contact resolutions.

Secrets to Unravel the New Sustainable Competitive Advantage of Customer Experience

Customers think that you could have prevented them from leaving, but how can you accomplish this? Below, I will expound the four major challenges with respect to customer experience.

1. Transforming Your Company From Product- to Customer Centric

One of the challenges faced by companies in various industries is to let go of the product centric approach. Traditionally, companies deliver products to meet market demand, whatever market that might be. As shown by the banking experience in the introduction, the service employee had the incentive to deal with customers in an efficient- rather than satisfying way. Instead, this company should have focused on increasing value for the customer. Customer centricity is an approach based on trust and honesty where knowledge is used to meet customer demands and create valuable long-term relationship. The whole company should be organized in a way that enables employees, and steers their processes towards a customer centric approach.

2. Striving for Personalization Instead of Customization

For quite some time, customization has been the benchmark for customers and their expectations. The ability to change an interface, menu or layout was satisfactory at that moment. However, this has changed due to the digital disruption and the new technologies which opened up a complete new understanding of customer experience. Personalization means that the product or service tailors itself around your preferences based on structured and unstructured personal data; personalization is done automatically and predictive. For customization, the customer can manually change the product or service to its own preference. Magnetic research2 indicates that 50% of the customers do not find personalization creepy, they find that personalization actually improves their shopping experience. Customers are willing to trade personal data to improve customer experience resulting in advice and suggestions based on their preferences.

3. Connecting all the Touchpoints  

Traditionally, departments do not feel responsible for the activities which happen on the other side of the wall. Every department, product or function lives in its own world instead of working together as unified platform. This silo thinking makes it extremely difficult for applications and employees to communicate with each other, resulting in poor coherence. Why does it matter if my different departments are not coherent? The customer interacts with one department at a time anyway! This is where many people misjudge the importance. Customers have changed over the years and care less about a single touchpoint in the customer journey. Instead, they care about the cumulative experience with you as a partner throughout the journey, and beyond. Not only the quality of each department has to be consistently good, cross department collaboration is necessary to share customer information to be able to serve the customer adequately.

4. Keeping up With the Speed and Impact of Social Media

In 2020, Statista3 expects that nearly 3 billion people are active on at least one social media channel which makes it a truly important line of communication. Oracle research4 showed that 67% of the customers already tap into social media for customer service. Expectations from customers regarding communication and online service delivered are increasing. The customer seeks contact whenever, where ever they want and you as company have to respond adequately within a restricted amount of time. This is challenging for companies since there are many touchpoints which makes communication complex. Communication through social media is hard to keep up with, let alone control. Research5 shows that 46% of the customers share their experience online, and this has implications for companies whereas negative- and positive communication travels fast from mouth to mouth and can have substantial impact.

Becoming a Company That Breathes Customer Experience

Previous paragraphs explain several challenges that are critical to retain and attract customers in the increasingly competitive environment. Based on Accenture’s Technology Vision and experience, here follows some advice on how to tackle these challenges.
To transform from product- to a customer centric approach, leaders should engage their staff to take a customer centric view by aligning technologies and processes in such a way that they provide optimal customer experience. A good example of such an alignment is a service cloud application which enables your employees to provide optimal customer service by combining feedback management, text mining, speech analytics and web analytics to provide a holistic view of the customer’s voice and build your companies service around it.

Secondly, how to move from customization to personalization? Customers are increasingly active on many on- and offline channels. Why not leverage this as an enabler for sales, commerce, service or marketing effectiveness based on their own data? Machine learning and in particular predictive analytics allow for personalization based on historical customer- and third party data. For example, your company can predict the next best marketing advertisement or sales offer based on personal data across channels. Using predictive analytics together with a sales- or marketing cloud application will lead to truly understanding the customer and providing meaningful personal engagement throughout the customer journey. Customers that feel understood, will remain loyal, and will generate the most valuable form of advertisement namely, mouth-to-mouth
An integrated software solution can overcome the third challenge by creating a coherent customer experience at all touchpoints in customer journey. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions like marketing, sales, service, social and commerce can easily integrate and connect with Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). PaaS can serve as a bridge between all applications and enables you to use social media data to enrich profiles of existing customers. This allows your company to respond adequately and fast in all channels, resulting in better customer experience.

If your company transforms into one which is coherent and customer centric, something as simple as ordering a new back card will be simple and customer friendly again. Business leaders who focus on the customer and their experience will be able to retain and attract customers resulting in a competitive advantage.

References

  1. Accenture Interactive 2016: Digital Customer Service
  2. Magnetic 2015: 7th Annual personalization survey results
  3. Statista 2016: Number of Social Media Users Worldwide
  4. Oracle 2016: Social’s shift to Service, why customer service engagement is the new marketing
  5. Accenture Interactive 2016: Digital Customer Service