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The right tools can help business win the CX battle


Johannesburg, 25 May 2022
Freshworks Press Office
Read time 5min 40sec

Customer experience (CX) is the new battlefield for business, but the right tools, backed by AI, can help organisations adapt and compete. This is according to Vivek Ethiraj, head of solutions engineering at Freshworks, who was addressing a CX webinar hosted by Freshworks, in partnership with ITWeb.

Ethiraj said: “According to McKinsey, 73% of customers want anywhere, anytime support, using multiple channels to engage with their favourite brands. Forrester notes that 69% do business with brands that offer consistent experiences across channels, and according to the 2022 State of CX in South Africa Survey, carried out by Freshworks in partnership with ITWeb, 55% of African respondents choose brands that offer a personalised experience with speedy customer service.”

However, CX teams continue to struggle, he said. “One reason for this is overwhelming support volumes because live walk-ins don’t happen anymore. In addition, working in a hybrid environment continues to be a challenge for many organisations. Omnichannel remains a pain point across many African organisations, with 56% of African leaders feeling their omnichannel strategies are below par.”

Omnichannel remains a pain point across many African organisations, with 56% of African leaders feeling their omnichannel strategies are below par.

Vivek Ethiraj, Freshworks.

Ethiraj said businesses have focused their attention on expanding their support channels in recent years, but that this often results in more windows and tools for agents to work on that support the multiple channels used to communicate with the brand, which causes a fragmented experience for both customers and employees.

“Internal teams have to toggle across multiple windows, tools and apps, and they may not have the full customer history at hand. Further, management tend to invest in BI tools and analytics to unify the data across tools and bring about insights that benefit the organization, and the cycle goes on and on. An integrated approach is necessary,” he said.

Providing effortless customer service

A poll of webinar participants found that the number one problem they faced when it comes to effortless CX was providing a seamless experience with the current tech stack (45%), building loyalty and standing out from competition (22%), siloed infrastructure for marketing and customer service (22%) and customers choosing multi-channel buying experiences, which are expensive (9%). 

On the question of how they were creating loyalty with effortless customer service, 36% said they were engineering a better experience across all touchpoints, 24% said they were giving the frontlines – agents and in-store associates – more control, 20% said they were using self-service like FAQs, Knowledge Base and chatbots to deflect cases, and a further 20% said knowing their customer and being where they are at.

Ethiraj said African customers want brands to meet them wherever they are: “They want to choose channels that are convenient to them, they want personalised service, it should be easy for them to find support, and they want help fast. They also want contextual data offering insights which drive customer delight, and human centric processes to drive lifetime value.”

SA organisations look to evolve omnichannel

Liz Jansen van Vuuren, customer service manager at GSK, said: “In the past two years we have become more sensitised to how customers want to deal with us. However, reacting and adapting quickly can be a challenge. There is a lot of development to be done in this area. Importantly, customers want to know that you have heard them, and that you answer their question or give them the assistance they need.”

She said: “Initially during the pandemic, change was thrust on companies and we all had to adapt as best we could. We quickly learned that we needed to be closer to the customer, hence the explosion of omnichannel solutions organisations now in use. The trick is now to develop that further and move forward, understanding where the customer wants us to be and then putting ourselves there. You have to be accessible and honest with customers at all times.”

In the pharma sector, [...] we will eventually see online pharmacists available, with someone available all the time to answer customer queries on the channel of their choice.

Liz Jansen van Vuuren, GSK.

Jansen van Vuuren said banking, telecoms and several other industries had been quick to move to online channels, but other sectors such as pharma were still exploring the value that multiple channels could deliver in B2B and B2C engagement. “In the pharma sector, where technology is going is we will eventually see online pharmacists available, with someone available all the time to answer customer queries on the channel of their choice,” she said. 

“South African customers tend to have a base brand loyalty to certain products, and we are now engaging our customers more in the digital space. A good example is our well-known brand of headache powders produced in a paper wrapper. This product has been in the same format for many years, but it doesn’t travel well. So last year, a stick pack version of the powders was produced. We found that while the older generation still prefers the wrapped version, the younger consumers like the new wrap which they carry in their pockets, so we are engaging with those customers across channels to find out if they liked that, and how else could we innovate to meet their needs better.”

AI and tools to enable better CX

Having the right tools is important in the new omnichannel environment, Ethiraj said. “For example, having guided tools to support employees with a path built into the workflow to enable them to solve customer problems, or bots to understand queries and give a resolution to it. 80% of enquiries are repetitive or simple and can be resolved digitally, without engaging agents who are needed for more complex queries. When you reorient your teams to focus on the remaining 20% of queries, they excel. Automating the team building experience to bring in more collaboration so agents don’t work in silos also supports employee experience.”

He said: “The top areas of interest for CX leaders in South Africa are centralised interfaces for a unified view across multiple channels, to be there for customers 24x7 and to have always-on social media.”

He noted that AI played a key role in enabling advanced service, supporting chatbots, intelligent ticket automation and as an easy assistant for agents. “If implemented correctly, AI can support your team throughout your ticket lifecycle,” he said. “Your customers need to feel wanted, cherished and special all the time. Freshworks takes a fresh approach to enabling businesses to delight their customers, with advanced AI-enabled solutions.”

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