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SA lags on customer experience maturity

Read time 3min 10sec

Customer experience (CX) is now a competitive weapon, and delivering sterling CX requires collaboration and maturity across all levels of the organisation. The contact centre is just a part of the overall customer experience.

This was according to customer experience and contact centre experts addressing the second annual Interactive Intelligence Executive Forum, in Bryanston, this month.

But while local companies may believe in the value of customer experience, they are lagging the world on CX maturity, said Nathalie Schooling, founder and MD of N'Lighten, and Prof Adr'e Schreuder, head of Consulta Research.

Both experts said South African business on the whole was just above the first tier on a six-level maturity scale.

Schooling elaborated on the scale, saying it ranged from the initial stage - 'ignore', to explore, mobilise, operationalise, align, and finally - embed, where CX is a culture throughout the organisation. "South Africa is behind the rest of the world and in general, in the earlier stages," she said.

Prof Schreuder agreed, saying that in SA, around 33% of companies were on level 1, which he described as 'unconvinced but interested', with only around 3% having achieved level 6, described as 'engaged and sustained'.

"Achieving CX maturity does not happen overnight," he said. "It could take three to six years for a company to get to level 6."

Schooling noted that customers generally call the contact centre when there is a problem, but that CX encompasses the entire engagement with the company. "Customer experience is not solely the responsibility of the frontline staff, it is not based on CRM or technology, and it is not a project with an end," she said. "CX is about engaging with the customer on a personal level. It's about their experience of the whole process. The experience must meet their needs, be easy, and be enjoyable," she said.

Schooling outlined the top six global trends in CX today:

* People engagement - motivating and equipping staff to deliver CX excellence
* Innovation - the act of doing even small things in new ways to improve CX
* Mobile apps - to connect with customers on a more personal level
* Omni-channel - unified and integrated CX delivering consistency across channels
* Metrics - focusing on what is necessary and relevant to improving CX
* Journey mapping - a powerful tool to understand CX from the outside in

Deon Scheepers, strategic consultant at Interactive Intelligence, outlined the findings of recent research carried out by Interactive Intelligence, both internationally and locally.

He said the findings indicate that customer experience has a clear impact on a company's bottom line.

Among other things, the research found that customers still predominantly prefer voice conversations when interacting with companies, and that their biggest contact centre frustrations included agents not having relevant information available to assist them, being transferred multiple times and having to repeat information at different points of the interaction.

"Very few SA contact centres have a full view of all customer information," Scheepers said. He said improved contact centre workforce management and equipping contact centre agents with all the relevant information about the customer and this interaction with the company would significantly improve the customer experience when dealing with the contact centre. This could contribute to overall CX and the company's bottom line, he said.

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