Improving the customer experience with technology innovation

We live in an age where experience means everything. The purchasing decisions of digitally-empowered customers, whether in the B2B or B2C sector, are strongly affected by their experiences. How customers feel is driving how they engage with businesses at every level. Data that measures and reflects those feelings and experiences is therefore of critical importance.

“Customers want to be known, and so context and relevance of data become really important,” believes Sudhir Rajagopal, Research Director, Future of Customer Experience with analyst firm IDC, speaking at the recent Business Innovation Leaders Forum roundtable event titled ‘Innovations in Technology to improve Customer Experience’. “We talk a lot about personalization, but it really comes down to the context within which customers are engaging with businesses. That dictates how businesses react back to customers. In a digital environment, enterprise leaders are prioritizing digital experiences. We found that this is the number one priority for C suite executives worldwide.”

Figure 1: Making CX a priority

The customer experience may be paramount as a transformational priority, but it’s not the only item on the C-suite agenda. Enterprise leaders want to be able to balance the CX priority with other factors such as operational efficiency. “This is not a surprise given the tough macroeconomic environment,” believes Rajagopal. “We see operational efficiency and CX competing with each other.”

So what is the future of the customer experience? Rajagopal sees it as an empathetic relationship between customers and brands, built on what the customer wants and how they want to be treated. Technology provides a lens to measure, learn and engage: “It’s not just about customer data, it’s also about data on the organization, and the processes through which they interact,” he says. “This all starts to drive and inform how we design experiences and how we execute on them. It’s about the ability to create frictionless experiences for customers, build intelligence and learn more about them. You need to understand customer sentiment.”

When it comes to building and driving customer empathy, organisations need to move on from just focussing on digital transformation, maturing to become true digital businesses: “This means driving initiatives on the security side, in augmented personalization, in the rise of IoT and devices, in the whole notion around edge data,” he argues. “Data really starts to become the fuel for becoming a digital enterprise, using data for customer engagement, and offering personalized experiences.”

Figure 2: Becoming a true digital business

The Business Innovation Leaders Forum invited a panel of CX thought leaders to engage in debate. Eduarda Camacho is Senior Vice President, Customer Success & Chief Customer Officer with BMC Software. She says BMC is focussed on solutions that help customers, stretching from IT operations, on prem and in the cloud, delivering actionable business insights, agility, and customer centricity: “This is a key topic for us, because a unified view of data helps deliver maximum benefits, as well as impact on purchasing decisions,” she notes. “We’ve recently published a survey about profitable outcomes and how they are linked to data-driven maturity, and it proves the relationship between profit and customer satisfaction, with 55% of respondents seeing a strong correlation between those two factors.”

Jason Purvor, Data Centre Transformation and Mass Migration Lead with Google Cloud shared a quote from former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who said that there are only two sources of competitive advantage: the ability to learn more about customers faster than the competition, and the ability to turn that learning into action faster than the competition: “That sums up what our customers are really looking for,” Purvor believes. “They’re seeking competitive advantage and the ability to survive and thrive in the new normal. Data has become the way in which they are able to reach that objective.”

People, he says, who have bad data often make bad decisions with great certainty: “It’s not their fault that they’re making those bad decisions,” he concludes. “It’s just that they’re not aware of what their environments look truly like. I think there are parallels with customer experiences here. If you don’t have the listening posts along the customer journey to understand what the sentiment is, you don’t know if you are doing things the right way. Are customers giving you information that you’re ignoring along that customer journey, information you could use to make real, rational, powerful changes which really affect the experience of those customers?”

Nick Parmar, Global VP of Collaboration Services & Business Unit Head with TATA Communications sees a key CX challenge as lying with siloed data and broken systems: “You need deep understanding of customer needs and preferences across all touchpoints,” he says. “Organizations need to focus on collecting and analysing all data from all sources on needs, preferences and behaviours. This includes data coming from social media, mobile apps, websites, customer interactions and other channels so you can create that valued customer profile.”

It’s a challenging task, as Parmar is happy to admit: “You might have many touch points and yet be missing out on context. Bringing everything together and providing that contextual response in a timely fashion is the kind of complicated task which most organizations are facing these days. That’s why TATA is talking about a hyper-connected ecosystem, where everything is linked. Every element needs to work cohesively, requiring a digital fabric to stitch it all together.”

Purvor of Google Cloud says that many organisations approaching the company for help are trying to exploit their data to create new services to inspire and excite customers: “We’re the poster child for that, because we have multiple different services in our stable,” he claims. “We have over a billion users, and we’re all about coalescing the world’s data and making it universally accessible. We have ads where we can personalize experiences. Customers are keen to understand how they can leverage that capability. We have seamless services that are almost invisible. For example, once you log in to a Google account, you can log automatically into multiple different websites without having to remember a password. Google Maps and Gmail are all seamless. The experience between different platforms is seamless.”

Camacho of BMC Software believes that the desired level of seamlessness starts with the need to scale the backend efficiently, so as to be able to handle growing complexity of data and IT infrastructure: “We also see a lot of customers leveraging AI and AI operations, to be able to have a more robust, scalable, non-human way of enabling the front end to work perfectly, without downtime,” she says. “We provide everything around intelligence, automation and remediation, and we work with our customers around AI ops.”

Parmar of TATA Communications concludes with the non-technical view that the customer journey needs to start internally, within an organization: “You need to first have a better way of measuring the employee experience,” he believes. “A happy and engaged employee results in an improved customer service, higher productivity, lower staff turnover and better financial outcomes for the organization. Happiness is contagious. If customer agents are happy, customers will always get a good experience.”

The next priority, he suggests, is being able to map the customer journey, identifying the pain points and areas of improvement, using this as the basis for automation and AI-driven tools and initiatives: “The final stage is involving customers in the process,” he says. “It’s easy to forget to use feedback from the customer. Soliciting feedback from customers should be behind automation and AI implementation decisions, helping to provide CX that really meets their expectations.”

By Guy Matthews, Editor-in-Chief


Analyst Chair: Sudhir Rajagopal, Research Director, Future of Customer Experience, IDC
Eduarda Camacho, Senior Vice President, Customer Success & Chief Customer Officer, BMC Software
Jason Purvor, Data Centre Transformation and Mass Migration Lead, Google Cloud
Nick Parmar, Global Vice President of Collaboration Services & Business Unit Head, TATA Communications

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