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Customer Experience: The competitive advantage for business today

By Estiaan van der Merwe, Principal Engagement Consultant at Decision Inc.

Customer experience is critical for companies to differentiate themselves now more than ever. The rise of varying technologies has caused many companies in the Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) sectors to transform many of their key processes. Not to mention the fact that the way in which consumers interact with brands has fundamentally changed. The way we all shop, work and play has progressed mainly due to digital disruptions and transformations.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic there has been a sharp rise in the use of online shopping, chatbots, virtual reality and so much more. Consumers are increasing their use of online channels to buy, as we see the e-retail sales soaring to over 4.9 trillion U.S dollars worldwide in 2021.

It’s no secret that the B2B buyer experience has also shifted tremendously. In the pre-pandemic days, it was common to schedule a client meeting up to two weeks in advance. But with the move to hybrid work and the acceptance of digital technologies, it is now possible to make appointments within just a few hours and conduct them online. This significantly increases the customer experience as the engagement can happen far quicker than in the past.

This transition has been easier for ICT companies and early adopters of new technologies, than laggards and businesses in other sectors. Digital transformation has become a priority for many, with decision-makers realising that they must adapt to this new environment to remain relevant. The key factor in this is identifying the ways to further simplify and revolutionise existing business processes. Take sales as an example. It is no longer acceptable for a customer to wait several weeks for the delivery of a product – or in the B2B space – for a proposal to be sent. There is an expectation that things must happen faster if the experience is to be improved.

Customers expect personalisation

Along with this, local companies need to better understand their customers. Euromonitor’s Voice of the Consumer: Digital Survey highlights that customers want a personalised experience, which in turn will boost loyalty. By creating a store or website that appears to be tailored for each individual you win their praises. It is clear that your approach needs to be fitted to the target segment. For instance, the technical support provided to a 60-year-old customer will be significantly different from how the service provider deals with a 25-year-old customer.

Throughout the changing customer demands, companies must be flexible in how they adapt to meet specific customer needs. This flexibility requires them to accept continuous customer feedback and have an awareness of how customers feel about their experience. By doing so, the organisation can easily make the necessary adjustments in its processes.

Technologies enabling greater customer experiences

Critically, companies need to unlock the value of the customer data they have on hand to build a 360-degree view of the customer and determine how best to meet their changing requirements. Although, there might still be some gaps in the customer data available. There are countless advanced technologies that organisations can leverage to fill these gaps and improve service quality. From advanced analytics and CRM platforms to chatbots, voice capabilities, and virtual and augmented reality. Not to mention the opportunity to leverage advanced technology like cognitive robotic process automation that can help automate manual processes leaving employees available to deal with more complex customer queries.

It is important to note that these technologies are only an enabler of greater customer experiences. If companies are to deliver holistic and truly satisfying customer service, they should not neglect to invest in human interactions. As we all know – some problems just can’t be solved by technology.

Nevertheless, the pandemic has made organisations realise that digital transformation and staying up to date with the latest customer trends, will be fundamental to future success. It will be the cornerstone to improving customer experience and staying competitive. By servicing customers in more personalised and innovative ways, the business will remain relevant and position itself for growth.

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