In this opinion piece, Stuart O’Neill (pictured below), head of SAP Hybris Australia and New Zealand, explains why digital customer experience (CX) must be a company-wide mandate in order for brands to continuously improve interaction across every touchpoint.
We live in the age of the customer, so why are so many businesses falling short when providing digital experiences?
By digital, we mean the ability to consistently interact, where customers want, when customers want, across any device and any touchpoint. Digital exists in your physical stores, on your mobile devices and within your call centres, enabling store assistants, extending stock availability and driving CX.
Every brand knows the importance of putting the customer at the centre of what they do, but in a digital world, where products are shipped across the planet with little more than a few clicks, it’s no longer enough to rely on price or features to remain competitive. How you make a customer feel and how you respond to them is becoming just as, if not more, important.
The recently released 2017 SAP Australian Digital Experience Report found that only 31 per cent of consumers are delighted with their interactions with brands. With one third of the population expecting more, there’s a clear gap between expectation and reality. In many businesses, responsibility for driving a digital CX agenda is unclear with either no specific owner, or ownership split between different departments.
In some organisations, the responsibility lies with marketing, while others manage it within customer service or the sales department. It’s not difficult to understand why some see digital customer experience as marketing’s responsibility, because this department has traditionally had a key role in digital channels and customer communications.
However, this ignores the role of customer service teams and the increasing role of channels such as social media. Digital experience needs to be owned by the entire business, and it is critical that there is consistent strategy and execution. SAP’s report outlines 14 key attributes central to providing a delightful digital experience, and it is clear that a customer’s primary need is to see the basics done well.
One of the attributes which contributes to strong digital experiences is the creation of customised journeys and the recognition that these are rarely linear, as customers consider their options and re-prioritise both online and offline throughout the buying process.
Any great experience makes the customer feel like it’s been created especially for them. Ensuring that experience is consistent, reliable and recognises their relationship with the brand helps create loyalty in a world where that’s increasingly difficult to come by.
Suggesting that customer experience sits squarely in the pocket of one team or another doesn’t recognise the impact of all business units who interact with the same base of customers. With no unified plan, many senior executives are left wondering: ‘Who is responsible for customer experience in my business?’
Mandate for change
The answer? Digital CX must be a company-wide mandate for the continuous improvement of interaction across every touchpoint. For this to work, it needs to be driven by the senior leadership team, filtering through your business to ensure everybody is aligned.
In practice, this means focusing on delivering content and offers that the consumer wants. The Digital Experience Report found consumers desire omnichannel experiences, with 43 per cent of customers using at least five channels to communicate with brands.
Now in its third year, the research found that brands are doing a better job of delivering digital experiences, but there’s still much room for improvement. To meet customer expectations, they must be willing to unify and integrate digital services to deliver seamless cross-channel experiences.
This is where technology and data can help. Broader digital transformation programs are an opportunity to improve the flow of data across channels, customer touchpoints and departments, build centralised customer profiles, and deliver real-time, personalised and relevant experiences.
But to reach this ambition, you must start at the top with a mandate that focuses on customer experience. This is the role of today’s executive leadership team – to build a business ready to serve highly connected digital consumers.