Delivering new level of customer experience

Analytics is key for organisations seeking to take customer service to new heights, by delivering an overarching 'experience' to the consumer.

Johannesburg, 08 Nov 2017
Read time 4min 30sec
David Cosgrave, Customer Intelligence Lead, SAS South Africa.
David Cosgrave, Customer Intelligence Lead, SAS South Africa.

In today's world, differentiating yourself from the competition is no longer as simple as finding the right product to sell, or even the right service to offer around a particular product. The world is instead shifting towards an 'experience economy', where organisations differentiate themselves based on the experience they are able to deliver to the end-customer.

Prior to the advent of an economy based on customer experience (CX), most consumers simply accepted what they received in terms of service, since there was little other choice, and what other options there were seldom differentiated themselves in this respect in any meaningful way.

However, today the majority of companies find themselves playing catch-up with modern CX leaders, like Amazon and Uber. This, says David Cosgrave, Customer Intelligence Lead: EMEA South at SAS, is because, regardless of your industry, customers will compare you to these pace-setters.

"In a CX-focused world, it is no longer enough to keep up with the innovators in your own market; you need to be able to compare favourably to businesses in completely unrelated market sectors," he says. "Everyone now expects an on-demand, Uber-like experience from their airline, bank or insurer - regardless of whether or not the industry has kept up."

Cosgrave points out the way leaders like Amazon and Uber have turned the concept of CX on its head is by following three critical steps. The first is they focus on removing customer friction points.

"If you are able to eliminate the majority of those points that irritate or frustrate consumers, the overall experience will significantly improve. A good example is how Amazon is using technology to create its new generation of Go stores that harness artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision and machine learning to remove standard shopping frustrations. In a Go store, the customer simply walks in, picks up a product and walks out - the technology recognises the customer and automatically credits their account for whatever was taken. This completely eliminates the queues, cards and scanning procedures common to retail.

"From a SAS perspective, we can assist other retailers to reach for this level of CX by using AI and analytics to understand the customer better, thereby allowing us to create a more personalised and effortless experience for them. For example, perhaps they searched for a particular item online yesterday - analytics will be able to use this information to inform the sales person of this, so that when the AI identifies the customer entering the store, they can bring the relevant product out to the client as they walk in. This personalisation can remove many of the friction points inherent in a poor retail experience."

The second area where CX leaders shine is in making use of customer feedback to continuously improve the experience. This requires making use of the rich data available not only in the contact centre and via customer surveys, but also in unstructured channels like the social media platforms.

"Using advanced analytics, it becomes possible to elicit more clearly what the individual customer is thinking and feeling. You can then use this information to significantly improve the customer experience. You could even potentially use information to provide personalised service to individual customers - something which is the height of good CX."

Finally, explains Cosgrave, good CX always needs to include humanity, emotion and authenticity, even in an automated environment. Much of the automation of recent times has resulted in a more artificial experience, which is often missing the human touch that most consumers desire. AI and cognitive computing promise to bring back much of this humanity through technology such as natural language understanding. Chatbots are a perfect example of the potential of such technology to achieve automation but offer a human-like experience.

"A well-designed chatbot - one that uses AI and understands natural language, one that can automate processes and can learn from other sources - can really help to improve the overall CX. However, it is imperative that chatbots are not one-trick ponies or gimmicks - they must meet customer expectations and be integrated into the rest of the CX processes, otherwise they will do more harm than good. SAS analytics can assist such chatbots and smart messaging apps to have access to the largest possible pool of relevant data, and to provide predictions on the most likely outcome the customer requires, which should ensure the chatbot delivers the relevant and seamless experience that customers expect.

"In today's CX economy, it has become necessary for businesses to reorganise themselves around the customer. They are searching for the sweet spot where AI, analytics and big data converge. It is here that SAS technologies can deliver, assisting enterprises to deliver the kind of customer experience that is able to keep pace with the consumers' own constantly increasing service expectations," he concludes.

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