As business leaders, technology-driven changes in customer behaviour are among the biggest challenges we face, and this is amplified by the diversity of the customer base in Asia Pacific. APAC isn’t a single market, but a market of markets, and that should shape the way we respond to changing customer behaviour.
In the past we’ve managed our customer interactions with proven methods, including in person, over the phone and via printed catalogues and documentation. We’ve also used television adverts, radio commercials, faxes and emails. These channels are well-documented and well-understood, having been built up over years or even decades. It wasn’t necessarily easy to provide a great customer experience using these channels, but they had the benefit of being well-understood, and we had time to study them before taking action.
The rise of digital technologies, such as mobility and cloud computing, as well as social media and apps, has changed these channels forever. Add to that the fact that markets are fragmenting – fewer people are watching broadcast TV, for example, having switched over to streaming media, and the old ways that we approached customers simply aren’t going to be as effective as they once were.
Customer expectations in terms of the way they deal with business organisations and governments have also changed. In other words, the customer journey has changed, and the way we communicate with those customers must also adapt. It’s a key message that’s worth reinforcing – the adoption of broadband internet, social media, cloud computing, apps and data analytics has fundamentally altered expectations.
As business leaders, you need to stay ahead of customer expectations as these waves hit your shores. The customer journey will change as a result of much of this emerging technology, and so being able to communicate across platforms and channels seamlessly and without raising costs, all the while integrating them into existing systems and processes, is absolutely critical.
So what are some of the ways that the customer experience is changing in real terms? To adapt to customer journey changes, there are several universal themes that must be addressed when we set strategies – at GMC Software we call them the ‘Commandments of Customer Experience’.
The Twelve Customer Experience Commands to 2020
Chief among these is that your approach has to be customer first, always. While the customer’s journeys are changing, they will decide how they will deal with organisations, and how they will integrate new services and experiences based on their needs.
It’s also critical that you don’t throw out old channels of communication as new ones come along. Therefore you should embrace old and new channels of communication; this omni-channel communication is key to the new era of customer experience. It could be anything from print and PDF through to web content, mobile, social and the Internet of Things. Whatever channel the customer chooses, you need to be able to cater for those demands all at once, and with an integrated view and control.
This omni-channel approach also means striking a balance between old channels and new. While message delivery might be cheaper using newer technologies and channels, some customers will cling to old “high touch” channels and you threaten these relationships at your peril. This means that it’s critical to leverage data and personalisation. It’s also worth bearing in mind it’s easier to make incremental profits out of existing customers than it is to acquire new customers, and so keeping old channels around, and older customers happy, can ultimately pay off in terms of profitability.
With the rise of big data and analytics, we are on the cusp of almost limitless amounts of data about our customers and their behaviour. This will lead to increased personalisation, and the ability to deliver products and services to customers that they have only ever dreamed of.
However, the rise of big data and analytics, and the ever-present threat of bad actors, means that security and privacy are more important than ever before. So make sure you treat privacy as paramount with security by design and integrate and optimise systems and processes. Customers may willingly hand over personal information and behavioural data if it means getting better products and services, but they also have high expectations about the lengths you will go to in order to make sure that data is safe and secure.
It’s also vital that you make sure all your systems are connected. Customers expect to have the same experience regardless of the channel they choose to approach you in. They don’t want to have to repeat information, especially information they feel you should already have, just because they are dealing with you using, say, a chatbot rather than a phone call or a visit to an in-person location. After all, it is the era of customer choice, and you need to bend over backwards to ensure that those choices are met equally and with the same response, regardless of the channel being chosen.
Another commandment is to be fast and mobile. Customers don’t want to wait for information or content, and so delivering it quickly, and on the platform of choice – which will probably be mobile – is critical. And when customers come back, make sure that you reward their loyalty. It’s easy for customers to change platforms, so rewarding loyalty is one crucial way of making sure they are repeat customers.
When it comes to service delivery, organisations should also automate, but not in a robotic way. They should also localise content, and customise content as well. Finally, make sure that you allow for self service, which will be the key way that customers will want to interact with you and your organisation from now through to 2020 and beyond.
Finally, make sure that you scale appropriately. Being able to scale up and down in offering digital experiences and communications and at the lowest cost per transaction can determine profitability. Gaining efficiencies in how you deliver experiences is possible with digital approaches such as using existing platforms or services, instead of building it yourself or relying on your own people or assets.
With these customer service guidelines in mind, an organisation can thrive in this age of technological disruption. But if we forget that it’s all about the customer, and that customers are all different, then we face the prospect of losing those customers to a competitor who is nimbler, and more-able to meet their expectations.