Customers are all riding out the same storm in different boats
Exceptional customer experience (CX) is the key to long-term success, especially in today’s unprecedented times. Achieving this requires data, intelligent technologies and a willingness to meet the unmet and unarticulated needs of customers.
Customer behaviour has shifted in recent times, with a greater portion of the customer purchasing decisions now often made well before contacting sales. At the same time, an increasing number of customers prefer to make their final purchase online. In a world where customer service can be a differentiator, it is more vital than ever to keep the customer at the centre of your efforts. However, the digital nature of much of today’s transactions makes this more difficult.
In fact, says Rudeon Snell, Global Senior Director: Industries & Customer Advisory at SAP, one of the biggest customer experience (CX) challenges posed by the lockdowns across the globe is how brands now need to reinvent their customer engagement models in the age of COVID-19.
“Essentially, businesses have had to reimagine their CX in order to serve consumers, even while they have been locked down. The ability of businesses to rapidly adapt to this new reality and still allow for an optimal CX is undoubtedly the key to surviving and thriving in this new reality,” he says.
“Remember that many of the older processes governing customer service are not designed for a digital first world. Today, you need to focus on the entire CX, and processes that are not adapted to the digital world can easily create what can be termed ‘experience gaps’.”
He explains that a brand’s relationship with its customers is built over time and is nourished by experiences along many touch-points, both digital and physical. ‘Experience gaps’ occur when a brand fails to meet customer expectations at any point along the customer journey. These are the points where relationships between a provider and a customer can easily – and frequently do – break down.
“By bringing together customer data, experiential data and operational data, and augmenting all of this with the power of intelligent technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics and machine learning, these businesses can instead harness the power of driving outcomes that matter to customers in this new reality.”
“It is important that companies recognise that their ability to deliver value to the customer should be united around a common customer vision, where experience is embedded in the value delivery of the brand, along every single customer touch-point. This will allow supporting processes and systems to maximise their value delivery and ensure that the customer remains the focus of the organisation’s efforts in the long term.”
According to Snell, organisations must realise that success can no longer be determined merely by selling products or services. Today, it is about instigating the rapid pace of innovation needed to differentiate their brand and to drive value in the experience economy in a holistic manner.
Furthermore, he adds, as the enterprise undertakes its digital transformation, it is important that during this process, it continuously obtains feedback from its end-customers, as they are, obviously, the ones best positioned to know exactly what they want.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused virtually everyone to reconsider their needs and wants, in addition to how they interact with brands. Companies today need to respond by focusing on listening to their consumers from a place of empathy, and with a bias toward how they can be most helpful to their customers during this time.”
“Ultimately, listening with empathy will let organisations provide products, services and – most importantly – experiences that genuinely serve customers' needs and generate goodwill, without coming across as tone-deaf or uncaring. This is what will create long-term brand loyalty and ensure that enterprises are able to deliver the best possible CX in today’s reality,” he concludes.