The future of customer experience – it’s not binary, it’s a blend

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According to a recent Gartner report, 81% of executives believe they’ll compete on customer experience alone in the not-too-distant future.

This not only gives organisations a huge commercial impetus to truly understand their customer, but a need to anticipate what they want at a time of unprecedented uncertainty.

This may seem daunting, but it’s also a golden opportunity to innovate to create new ways of delivering. So what does the future of customer experience look like?

If anyone doubted we were living in a digital era before Covid-19, the global pandemic has now put paid to those question marks. Despite much talk of AI robots sweeping aside humans, the key to exemplary customer experience is blending the best of technology with the best that humans have to offer. Take a call centre agent. Marry the best-skilled advisor with the best training and the best onboarding and give them access to real-time data that shows how customers are feeling. This intelligent analysis gives agents crucial insight into how to successfully resolve a customer’s query by understanding their sentiments and needs, enabling the agent to deliver outstanding service.

It’s also about understanding how technology has blended with the lives of customers. Traditionally, organisations built a customer service process and expected customers to fit in. However, customer experience is driven much more through technology now – googling a product or query has become a natural reflex for starting a customer journey. With the choice and flexibility that now exists in the marketplace, the customer expects to interact with an organisation in the way that best suits them.

Therefore it’s no longer about delivering one solution but a myriad to create a truly frictionless customer experience. A customer contacting an organisation might use a digital platform as a first port of call, perhaps a chatbot on a website, and is then transferred to talking to a physical agent in India. Here, personal data is captured and the customer consequently proactively contacted via an app about a product or service matching their needs. This frictionless approach allows organisations to ensure the customer is engaged as quickly and efficiently as possible, leading to a quick resolution. This is the type of customer experience that will keep people returning again and again to a brand.

There are of course trends that have been around before Covid-19 that will continue to be important. Customers still want hyper-personalised experiences. A report by Internet Retailing found that 69% of consumers want to have a personalised experience, yet less than 50% of brands are actually delivering this. Access to personal data via the Internet of Things, for example, means organisations have never been better placed to predict customers’ buying habits and pain points. But it means customers now expect organisations to know what they want and deliver accordingly.

Finally, consumers value transparency and ethical behaviour more than ever before. The pandemic has created a collective conscience around doing the right thing and treating people fairly, and customers want to see organisations clearly demonstrating this.

The pandemic has provided a once in a lifetime opportunity to innovate – customers are not only ready for this, they have high expectations for how organisations will respond.

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