By Cameron Beveridge, Regional Director: Southern Africa at SAP Africa
Unless you are one of the rare companies that don’t need customers (do those even exist?), you should be concerned over the customer experience you offer. We are after all in the “experience economy”, where customer experience has overtaken price and product as the most important brand differentiator.
How do companies fare in offering a superior customer experience? It depends on who you ask. Eighty percent of companies in one study believed they offer a superior customer experience; only 8% of their customers agreed.
Why the disconnect? In our work with African organisations of all sizes and across all industries, we have seen similarities among companies that consistently deliver a great customer experience. These could offer valuable lessons to organisations wishing to win in the modern experience economy.
Five things companies with excellent customer experiences have in common
- Culture: Even though technology plays an ever-greater role in our everyday lives, not all problems can be solved with technology alone. Companies that instil a ‘customer-first’ culture among all employees are better able to deliver a consistent customer experience. A customer first culture offers a more focused, unified and personalised experience to customers, one that exceeds expectations and secures you as their partner of choice for the long term.
- Longevity: Customer experience success is a long game. It takes sales and sustainability to win in the experience economy. Successful customer experience (CX) strategies take a long-term approach to customer success and attempt to offer value and consistency across the customer journey. It’s no longer enough to have only moments of once-off value to customers.
- Measurement: Data-driven decision-making has been one of the great advances in modern business, with technology enabling the collection, storage and analysis of vast amounts of organisational data to inform more accurate decisions at every level of the organisation. For CX success, organisations should be able to measure and analyse operational data (O-data) and experiential data (X-data). Tools such as Qualtrics give organisations a clear view to measurable CX and help establish benchmarks that allow constant improvement across end-to-end CX activities.
- Intelligence: Every great building has a strong foundation. For great CX, the foundation is an intelligent core that can process and analyse vast amounts of O and X data, produce actionable insights and provide the agility needed to act on the insights. We call this part of the intelligent enterprise strategy, a new approach to business that allows organisations to rapidly transform data into insight and feed process automation, innovation and optimal experiences.
- Automation: The pace and sheer complexity of the modern business environment has made it impossible to rely solely on manual processes to ensure CX – or business – success. With an intelligent core in place, many back-office operations can be automated to provide greater consistency in the customer experience and freeing up valuable internal resources to focus on more high-value, customer-facing activities.
Despite organisations’ best intentions, some CX projects simply don’t deliver on their promise and fail to drive business success. One of the common pitfalls is a lack of top-level buy-in for CX strategies: if an organisation’s top executives are not driving the CX strategy by example, there may be a lack of engagement across the organisation and the strategy will inevitably fail.
What can organisations do to increase the chances of success for their CX efforts?
Six steps to building a more CX-friendly business
Step 1: Data
The first step is to ensure the organisation can collect and analyse customer data and then start building more accurate behavioural models. Knowing what individual customers need and want enables organisations to adapt their offering in ways that enhance the customer experience across multiple steps in the customer journey.
Step 2: Benchmarking
There’s no way to measure improvements in CX without first establishing benchmarks. How do different customers experience your products and services? What are their most important considerations when choosing to work with you? What are customers saying about you and the experience you offer? Having quantifiable data to determine benchmarks eases the process of developing specific strategies and interventions to address shortcomings or further enhance CX.
Step 3: Partnership
The sheer size of large enterprises’ X and O data sets and the mix of technologies needed to make sense of it all can add complexity to an already difficult business environment. Having a partner that is experienced in applying technology in the service of greater customer experiences can reduce time-to-value and help you understand how new technologies such as AI could support and enhance CX activities.
Step 4: Strategy
With the correct data and partners in place, organisations need to develop a clear CX strategy that looks at key milestones, objectives, and desired outcomes. By linking CX measurement to business value, organisations also create a more clear CX value proposition to executives and other shareholders, which according to PwC increases accountability for CX success from the top down.
Step 5: Test, Refine
Once the CX strategy is implemented, organisations need to utilise their technology investment to constantly measure, test and refine various aspects of the CX strategy. If you’ve introduced a new payment process, for example, data should indicate how customers are experiencing it, what they enjoy and what they don’t, and where to make changes to ensure a consistently positive customer experience.
Step 6: Act
All the data and insight in the world are for nought if organisational leaders are unable to act on them. Ensure you have an open line of communication with customers to gain a clear view over the impact of your CX strategy, and act quickly to fix issues or enhance low-performing elements.