While there is no question that customer experience (CX) is vitally important to the ability of organisations to navigate the turbulent economic times in which we find ourselves, the nature of CX itself is continuously evolving in line with changed and changing customer expectations.
Many of these changes have been influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic. The events of the past two years have resulted in a growing realisation that although technology-driven CX has played a key role in helping businesses survive the disruptions of lockdowns and social distancing through the rapid adoption of digital platforms, it has also underscored the fact that people crave personal interaction.
That’s the view of Andre Wissler, Head of Clients (Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement) at Mint Group UK who believes that changes in customer expectations, CX technologies, and CX itself, which has been defined as “a functional activity encompassing business processes, strategies, technologies, and services that companies use … to provide a better experience for their customers and to differentiate themselves from their competitors” will continue unabated.
Gartner described this as the “new marketing battlefront”.
Although much of the CX focus over the past decade has been directed at consumer-facing B2C industries, Wissler believes that it is equally important for those operating in the B2B space.
“IT channel businesses, for example, aren’t immune from the larger economy as a whole. The urgency of CX is real and partner businesses need to understand how CX matters in today’s market and, more specifically, to them,” he adds.
In its 2017 Customer Experience in Marketing Survey, Garner found that more than two-thirds of marketers responsible for CX stated that their companies competed mostly or completely on the basis of CX. This was expected to rise to 81 percent by 2019, making it increasingly difficult for organizations to differentiate themselves in this intensely CX-focused environment.
Not surprisingly, therefore, spend on CX is growing. IDC anticipated that worldwide spending on CX technologies including CX management and related tools, would reach $641 billion in 2022, up from $508 billion in 2019.
Yet in its 2021 Future of Work Trends: Top 3 Customer Experience Trends report, Gartner noted that “80 percent of B2B organisations and 65 percent of B2C organisations are (only) at the beginning states of CX maturity”.
Part of the challenge is that what constitutes CX maturity in a post-Covid world is changing too.
Wissler points out that with the option of face-to-face interactions back in play, what many in the early days of the pandemic believed had become the ‘new normal’ of remote-everything, is evolving again. On the one hand, customers were quick to embrace the ease and convenience of engaging online; but on the other, they missed the empathy inherent in personal interactions.
Now, he says, as the world opens up again, businesses are going to have to adapt their CX strategies to accommodate this revised ‘new normal’.
Businesses will be able to create win-win scenarios for themselves and their customers by centering their customers’ experiences, making technology feel more human, and ensuring a seamless integration of human and technological touchpoints across the entire customer journey.
“The ability to achieve this will become a critical differentiator for every business in today’s competitive, hyperconnected global marketplace. The end result for a business will be reflected in lead generation, conversions, or long-term brand loyalty, while customers benefit from rich, personalised experiences, increased satisfaction, and a rewarding relationship with the brand,” Wissler explains.
He emphasises that effective CX involves more than warm and fuzzy feel-good optics or PR. Underpinned by integrated CX management and supporting tools, it can deliver four essential benefits by helping organisations to:
Achieve a Deeper Understanding of Customers
- Give an enhanced view of customer behaviours and preferences across all touchpoints.
- Allow more detailed segmentation to provide the highly relevant personalised experiences that customers demand and that drive increased conversions.
Drive Loyalty and Retention
- Deliver personalised experiences and create seamless customer journeys with advanced marketing automation software.
- Cultivate deeper, lasting relationships with customers through intelligent service, product recommendations, and loyalty incentives.
Maintain a Competitive Edge
- Improve operational performance to increase customer satisfaction and lower customer churn.
- Increase the win rate of offers and lowers service costs.
Measure the success of initiatives
- Gather and interpret much larger volumes of data – allowing for more accurate visibility into the success of your engagement efforts.
- Help to make more informed, customer-centric business decisions.
“A remarkable customer experience is critical to the sustained growth of any business. But achieving this will always remain a challenge. In the future, CX will continue to evolve, becoming increasingly AI-driven on the one hand, yet potentially facing growing push-back from consumers against their current customer journeys being automatically defined by past digital behavior. The bottom line is that business survival will depend on their ability to remain constantly aware of changes in what customers expect and want, and how they interpret and act on these,” Wissler concludes.