Customer experience has become a top priority for most organisations. Yet brands struggle to execute on their CX vision. Changing customer expectations and the impact of digital disruption are constantly rewriting the ground rules companies need to work by. In 2020 new trends will emerge adding to the list of existing challenges that are thwarting CX initiatives.
The importance of CX is now universally recognised, but the efforts of most companies to successfully implement a CX vision that delivers on both customer expectations and measurable ROI has proven allusive. Research from Gartner highlights that while 48 percent of CX leaders say their CX efforts exceed management expectations, only 22 percent say their CX initiatives exceed customer expectations.
The challenge to achieving CX success is being made more difficult by the raft of new digital technologies such as AI, AR, IoT and Blockchain. As well as multiplying the already prolific range of customer channels that brands need to manage, these technologies are fundamentally reshaping the customer experience.
Knowing what to change and how
To execute successfully on CX involves all aspects of a company’s operations, including its people, processes and technology. Carl Gribble, Manager Member Experience Design at RACQ and speaker at Customer Contact Week 2020, comments, “CX is more than a rebranding of the sales, marketing and customer service functions. It’s a reimagining of the role all departments have in the production of customer experiences, including product teams, operations, analytics, back-of-office, IT and more”.
In driving CX forward most organisations face a series of very difficult questions:
- Do they invest in new technology?
- Which technology do they invest in?
- What changes do they need to make with their people and processes?
- How do they invest and make these changes without negatively impacting their current day-day-day operations?
Because CX can mean so much, be very expensive and incredibly complex to implement, the ability to prioritise budget spend and identify which aspects to change and when becomes critical. There’s plenty of research out there from Forrester, Gartner, McKinsey and others that highlights how companies that get CX right are more profitable. But for those within the organisation it can be very difficult to measure and understand the business impact of a particular CX exercise or activity.
Scott Treller, Executive General Manager – Customer Experience (ANZ) at SAP, advises, “The key to knowing where to start is to gather customer feedback, then identify where the major points of pain or delight align with what customers say they value most, and how your operations are performing at each point”.
As highlighted in research conducted by Confirmit in 2018, being able to demonstrate ROI on CX programmes has been a major challenge. This strongly correlates with the finding that the “buy-in” from senior stakeholders and executives can be low, according to 30% of survey respondents. This has led to CX projects being stalled or delayed and hesitation in making further investments. The ROI can appear to be ambiguous, making it difficult to attribute precise effects to particular changes.
Don’t buy into the hype around new technology
There’s a host of new and emerging digital technologies impacting CX. AI and machine learning, immersive technologies such as AR, Iot, Blockchain, chatbots, etc, offer significant opportunities to automate and enable better customer experience. But technology alone, is not the answer to your CX challenges. Gribble advises, “Don’t believe the hype out there about these new technologies. Vendors will claim that there AI and machine learning tool can do everything. Ensure you do your due diligence and prototyping to ensure the technology solution being proposed is viable and will address your requirements.”
Don’t implement technology for its own sake. The decision to implement any innovative technology should be based on whether it solves a problem. Will it save time, improve productivity, increase customer or employee engagement, etc. It needs to bring value to the organisation and its customers.
Create seamless frictionless experiences
According to Scott Treller, “We now live in an experience economy. Great products and services are no longer enough to keep customers loyal. Customer experience is about reducing the amount of friction in relationships and to make each interaction as positive as possible for the customer”.
For years the industry has been talking about the omni-channel experience, where customers are offered seamless experiences across multiple touchpoints. Success in terms of delivering on this promise has been somewhat mixed. McKinsey highlights how companies frequently fail across digital channels because they are insufficiently aware of the real needs and preferences of their customers across omnichannel journeys.
Gribble adds, “We’ve been talking some time about the omnichannel experience. If someone fills out a form online, but they run into difficulties, they expect to be able to have their issues resolved by talking to someone in the contact centre. The question is can we truly deliver on the omni-channel?”
“The first issue is around data. We may have all the data we need in a data lake, providing a single source of truth, but it’s being able to make use of that data to create the experiences customers want that can be the struggle.”
Customers now have an unprecedented number of ways to engage with companies, from traditional channels to an ever-growing array of digital modes. Companies have responded by investing in digital channels. But much of this investment has been fragmented and has failed to live up to customer expectations. Treller advises, “To fulfil customer expectations, you first need to know what they expect and what they feel when they interact with you. There are many ways to improve experiences but knowing where to start—what will have the most impact—is often the first challenge a business leader faces”.
He adds, “To understand who your customers are and what they prioritise most, you need to bring together your operational data (O-data) and experience data (X-data). O-data is what happened, such as sales reports, marketing campaign data, and customer service logs, while X-data is feedback about what customers were thinking and feeling before, during and after interactions with your brand”.
All teams need to come together
“Collectively all teams across the organisation need to come together to produce CX”, says Gribble. “The challenge lies in how teams coordinate and communicate to design CX. Without communication and coordination, customer facing experiences can become fractured and confusing”.
This essentially means breaking down the cultural, procedural and system silos that exist within an organisation. A Forrester report, Drive Marketing And CX Convergence With Modern Technology Solutions, highlights how siloed departmental structures are largely to blame for organisations failing to deliver on their CX initiatives.
It’s a problem organisations have been tackling for quite some time and it’s unlikely to disappear anytime soon. According to the Forrester report, organisational and technology silos are undermining CX efforts, and the problem could get worse as “customer experience responsibilities spill over to several functional teams across the organisation”. Many organisations still cannot consolidate data into a single view of the customer, limiting initiatives to coordinate customer engagements across teams.
Personalisation has been on the marketing and CX agenda for quite a number of years. But recent advances in data analytics and machine language learning promises to push the boundaries of what is possible.
The more personalised you can make the customer journey the more successful the experiences a customer has with a brand. According to McKinsey over a third of what consumers purchase on Amazon come from product recommendations based on data insights.
In pursing hyper-personalisation, Scott Treller points out that there’s a trade-off between customers wanting greater convenience and personalised experiences versus their concerns of how their data is handled. On one hand it has the potential to enhance engagement, garner loyalty and improve revenue. On the other, it may come across as an invasion of privacy.
Brands need to balance these competing concerns by building trust with customers, so they know their data will be secure and handled with the utmost respect.
To address this issue and the other CX challenges that organisations face, Carl Gribble recommends adopting the principles of design thinking. “Design thinking is a process, built around learning and testing, that helps people develop things that other people use. This process can be applied to software, new consumer products, and organisational structures. CX design is about applying design thinking’s problem-solving abilities to align a business with the needs and expectations of its customers”.
In the years to come CX will continue to evolve as new technologies enter the market and customer expectations continue to rise. There is plenty of room for optimism, but most organisations will face some significant challenges.