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How to get ahead in customer experience

22nd Nov 2016
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A major consequence of the digital era for consumer-facing companies is that brand loyalty is no longer a certainty.

The ease with which customers can now sign up to services and then stop using them means it’s much easier for customers to switch brands when they feel they aren’t getting the level of service they desire. With the number of retail and service brands far greater than in the days of high street dominance, there is no shortage of businesses competing for attention. 

To differentiate themselves in this competitive market, successful consumer-facing businesses need to invest in providing a superlative customer experience.

What consumers want

When interacting with brands, consumers want a flawless, fast and smooth experience that meets their constantly and rapidly-changing expectations.

A fiddly registration process or an extra screen to complete a transaction can be enough to prompt consumers to opt for another brand. Likewise, a moment that delights customers as they interact with a service – a spot-on recommendation, an appealing graphical interface or a useful tool – can be enough for them come back to the same brand when they need that particular service again.

It’s therefore concerning that just 14% of customer experience decision makers quizzed by research commissioned by Avanade and customer experience platform provider Sitecore feel they are keeping a step ahead of changing customer expectations.

Those brands that have fallen behind customer expectations, or are merely meeting them, can no longer assume they will have guaranteed lifetime customers, or even continue to have a successful business.

What’s holding companies back?

The research revealed a strong appetite from brands to invest in customer experience and develop a formal strategy to make the necessary changes.

But there are clearly issues to be tackled: 88% of customer experience decision makers said they face obstacles in their efforts to provide a good customer experience. These obstacles include systems that need updating, a lack of internal skills and inability to provide a seamless experience or analyse disparate customer data.

It’s therefore unsurprising that such a low proportion of customer experience decision makers feel they are keeping pace with customer expectations. Indeed, it seems that many brands are some way off delivering the right customer experience – a problematic situation given the increasing role it plays in helping brands stand out from the crowd.

There is a lot of work to do. To use customer experience as a true differentiator, brands requires a fundamental shake-up in their approach to customers which includes designing customer journeys, creating internal alignment of processes, and modernizing the systems needed to support the experience.

This approach requires new skills and techniques, and many companies, particularly those lacking in-house expertise, find that it makes sense to bring in a third party to assist with the transition and make their investment in customer experience count. Showing the value of this approach, half (50%) of respondents said they are benefiting by tapping into third party expertise and investing in skills.

Keeping the eyes on the prize

The research also revealed how a focus on customer experience can pay off.

Of the companies that have invested in customer experience over the past 12 months, more than half (58%) saw increased customer satisfaction, while 45% experienced increased customer loyalty and a similar proportion enjoyed increased customer retention and acquisition.

There were financial benefits too, with respondents saying that revenue and profitability were boosted by customer experience investment.

This all adds up to a healthy return on investment, with the research finding that the average return for every $1 spent on customer experience was $3, a figure that rose to $5 in the financial services sector.

An obvious choice

When it comes to customer experience, organisations that follow a business as usual approach will leave themselves vulnerable to competitors that are being more proactive. Failing to address the changing expectations of consumers will result in a loss of competitive edge and a steadily shrinking customer base.

As the research shows, failing to invest in customer experience also means losing out on a huge opportunity to boost the financial bottom line.

On the other hand, those companies that invest the necessary time, effort and resources into creating the right digital customer experience will achieve positive results for their business, both in the long and short term. 

The choice about whether or not to invest in customer experience therefore seems obvious.

No time like the present

Many brands are already making significant progress in transforming their customer experience to cater for the rapidly evolving demands of consumers. It’s therefore crucial that the brands that have yet to take any action get the ball rolling with their own initiatives.

By putting resources into customer experience that is suitable for the digital era and can adapt to the ever-changing demands of customers, brands will give themselves the opportunity to not only tick a box but to delight customers in a way that will take their business to a new level.

Annette Giardina, Digital Customer Lead, Avanade UK 

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