The nature of today’s business environment means that nearly every customer experience is fuelled by technology. More than ever before it’s become imperative for business to leverage a combination of people, processes and technology to create meaningful customer engagement.
According to the Customers 2020 Report, within the next five years customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, a significant trend which will see the direction of a business being determined largely by its customers, says Quinton Pienaar, CEO of Agilitude.
He says people will remember the complete customer experience more than the purchase itself, placing customer experience as a key differentiator even in highly competitive markets.
Pienaar explains: “In the beginning business was personal; the person creating the goods was often the same person who sold them. These personal relationships meant buyers knew sellers on a one to one basis. Then growth saw the emergence of more complex companies faced with the conundrum of how to be more effective and efficient.”
The prevailing trend of the time was for business to outsource processes and introduce call centres with the intention of increasing customer service and customer satisfaction levels. “Complex companies thought they were doing the right thing by creating alternative channels to address customer service, when in fact they were not,” says Pienaar. “Customers became savvier and had access to better information and greater choice. In essence, many organisations weren’t listening to their customer anymore.”
The clear shift in customer habits, behaviour and expectations is now largely out of sync with many companies’ inflexible reliance on processes and procedures, leading to a decline in customer satisfaction. A common perception among modern customers is that employees chase KPI’s and provide scripted service to thousands of customers but stopped caring about the service they offered and or the real experience individual customers were having.
Agilitude partners with several customer-centric brands including Salesforce.com, Zuora and Informatica. Pienaar says that his team help customers design meaningful customer experiences. He adds that a pivotal question for business has become how to put the customer relationship back to the centre of operations.
“Customers’ expectations have changed. They want a personalised message and they want you to know who they are. They want communication and support based on who they are, not on what you determine their demographic or need to be.”
Today’s most effective and successful companies are putting the customer and their experience at the front and centre of the organisation, says Pienaar. Companies can propel their customer experience programs by employing appropriate technology solution.
“By doing this we are able to listen and learn from our customer base. We can do this over multiple channels and touch points in real-time and use that information to adapt and inform experiences throughout the customer journey.”
He adds that the real relationship starts once the customer begins to realise value from their goods and services with a business, and this shift in approach is fundamental to succeeding in the digital age.