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Learning from ‘defining moments’ to enhance the customer experience

26th Sep 2016
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Back in May I attended the Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit, and have been pondering an idea from keynote speaker, Gartner analyst Ed Thompson, ever since. In his keynote speech, Ed focused on the “defining moments” that shape our personal lives as well as the world around us.

In personal terms, this could of course mean buying your first home or getting married. In the business world, this refers to a major breakthrough within an industry, or, to use the much-quoted industry term, the moment of “disruption” which brings with it irrevocable change.

These days, it’s impossible to think about taxis without the Uber logo popping into your head, or considering holiday destinations without wondering if AirBnB has some great places in the local area. Brands such as these have not only disrupted their industries but become synonyms for them. But the crucial point is this: how can these lightbulb ‘moments’ be used to enhance and improve the customer experience?

The evolution of CRM

There have been monumental shifts in the CRM industry over the past few years as businesses strive to keep up with both the digital revolution and customers increasing expectations. (A point that has been reinforced by Gartner research, which found 89% of companies think they now compete solely on customer experience).

A few examples of defining moments that have shaped CRM: the introduction of email into the customer relationship, the emergence of SaaS delivery of apps (and the eventual evolution into cloud software), the iPhone making mobile CRM apps a must-have, and the evolution of social media into a customer conversation channel.

Looking at these examples, a few observations become clear. One, the pace and breadth of defining moments in our world is increasing, due mainly to the rapid pace of technology innovation. Second, those that fail to invest in the customer experience do so at their own peril. With the introduction of legislation such as the Consumer Rights Act of October 2015 increasingly empowering customers, organisations need to be able to meet these expectations.

What does the future hold for CRM?

For me, the ultimate ‘defining moment’ in the CRM industry has been the shift from a “system of transaction” into a “system of engagement”. Businesses no longer (or certainly shouldn’t) manage their customer data in static, siloed databases disconnected from one another. Remember this: all a customer knows is the front-end experience offered by a business, so this is how they will form their overall judgement.

The front-office customer experience is intrinsically linked to the capabilities of the back-office operations of a business. Sales, marketing, customer service and other customer-facing departments need to have the right tools and data access at their fingertips in order to provide a complete experience to the customer.

Businesses know that in order to succeed, they need to provide a seamless, hassle-free experience for the customer which makes them want to return. This commitment to, and investment in, customer-facing systems and employees can help businesses pave the way to a positive future.

Who is leading the way for customer experience?

I consider CitySprint as a great example of generating a ‘defining moment’ in its industry.  A leader in its space as a last mile delivery and logistics provider in the UK, they saw the disruption curve coming from new digital technologies such as Amazon Prime.

Rather than risk getting left behind, CitySprint is incubating its own start-up to shift its business from simple delivery into providing technology, solutions and tools for businesses across the UK to create more effective customer experiences.

This is a lesson to all businesses: investing in and reinventing the customer experience isn’t just an option for start-ups, it can be done at any time in the business lifecycle.

Be open to change

So, no matter what your industry, one thing is clear: disruption is coming in some form or another. The pace of innovation and the onslaught of more customer channels, data points, and expectations means that businesses must be in a constant state of development, with total openness to change.

Those who embrace the pace of change and respond accordingly will win. Those who do not will face steeper and steeper uphill climbs in an increasingly competitive marketplace. On which side of this equation would you rather be?

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