Decision Time for Marketers and Digital Delivery of Customer Experience

Contained in Dimension Data’s 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking report are some uncomfortable truths related to customer experience.

Loyalty360 spoke with Matthew Saskin, managing principal consultant–customer experience at Dimension Data (and one of the authors of the report) to learn more about the state of customer experience among marketers.

What is your biggest takeaway from this report and why?
Saskin: The biggest takeaway from this year’s report is that organizations are at a decision point; there is a growing gap between those that have decided to focus on digitizing their delivery of customer experience to meet the expectations of modern customers and those that have not. For several years running, organizations have told us that delivering a high-quality customer experience is a top strategic performance initiative as well as a top competitive differentiator–yet relatively few call their ability to deliver on this “very good” or “excellent.” That brings us to a point where high-performing disruptors are fast becoming industry leaders by committing to the opportunities presented by this gap.

Why do you think so many companies don’t think more highly of their respective CX deliveries?
Saskin: We see this, in part, as a direct result of the “consumerization” of higher-end delivery of customer experiences. Put simply, as key brands such as Amazon, Apple, and others continue to deliver extremely engaging and high-quality experiences to their customers, more and more consumers expect similar experiences from the organizations they do business with. This, in turn, also colors the perspectives of people when they put their “employee hats” back on and view how their own organizations treat customers. The fact that we’ve seen organizations recognize the importance of delivering high-quality customer experiences for several years running–coupled with this dose of reality– bodes well for more organizations beginning to turn things around and put comprehensive plans in place to improve delivery of customer experience.

Why are so many business strategies not optimized?
Saskin: Anecdotally, many of the organizations that we speak with don’t have a clearly defined set of goals or an overarching strategy in place for customer experience management. As a result, it can be hard to get buy-in for change, in particular, when so many facets of a digital strategy live in different silos. It’s not at all unusual to see components like a social media presence living within marketing, a mobile application living as a “pet project” somewhere within IT with no strategic business owner, and traditional phone-based interactions living in a customer service or support organization.

These different areas within the organization might have their own roadmaps in place for the specific components they own–yet no single strategy and roadmap exists to align the transformation of the customer experience across the disparate channels. This is borne out by the fact that 36 percent of organizations don’t have a single manager responsible for customer experience, and of those that do, only 36 percent of them sit at a board level.

Why are so many companies strategically challenged to keep pace with customer behavior?
Saskin: This is often a combination of growing and changing customer demands, disparate systems and applications within an organization, and a siloed approach to service delivery. 

It almost goes without saying that customers are placing higher and higher demands on the organizations they choose to do business with regarding their experience expectations. It’s not enough that an organization can simply address a customer need across a variety of channels; it’s fast becoming mandatory to proactively identify who that customer is, allow customers to move seamlessly between channels on their journey, and provide a tailored and personalized experience not just to a broader demographic group but also to that single customer.

The delivery of this type of personalized experience is hindered by the fact that only 38 percent of organizations report being able to track a customer journey across disparate channels, and only 36 percent of organizations have some form of big data/analytics platform in place with cross-channel data–despite the fact that customer analytics has been identified as the top factor that will reshape the customer experience industry for the third year running. Finally, from an operational perspective, 58 percent of organizations tell us that they operate channels in silos–given that, and regardless of whether the back-end systems in place can support it, it’s still impossible to deliver on a personalized, cross-channel customer journey operationally.

For the brands that are behind the curve, what things should they execute on in the future to keep up with the pace?
Saskin: There are really four key steps that organizations should be taking to achieve a state of digital redemption and either position themselves as the high-performing disruptor or protect themselves from a competing organization that matches that profile:

First, commit. Customer expectations are changing rapidly, and they demand that organizations take a leap of faith toward the delivery of digital experiences.

Second, pay attention to the overall customer journey. These journeys should be intuitive, channels should be connected together, customer data should be easily moved throughout the journey, and customers should be steered toward the channel that best suits their preferences and immediate needs.

Third, organizations need to focus on the types of data they have available and use that data in a meaningful way. Organizations have a wealth of information available about their customers, and those customers’ histories and preferences. Those organizations that develop meaningful ways to draw intelligence from this data are the ones that will be most successful in the long run.

Finally, there is a balance to be struck between traditional person-to-person interaction and automation in digital channels. Through the use of data, understanding of customer preferences, and flexibility in the systems themselves, it is important to make sure that service delivery is tailored to maximize both customer experience as well as positive impact to the business.

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