Even as brands work hard to create exceptional in-store or physical experiences, and digital commerce continues its post-pandemic dream run, there is a cautionary tale to be told to the purveyors of customer-centricity. Overall customer satisfaction is at its lowest level in 15 years, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Disconcertingly, these dismal figures are at complete odds with the heightened importance and resources that businesses dedicate towards building enhanced customer experience.
By all accounts, companies large and small, have poured billions of dollars into understanding and enhancing their engagement with consumers. The global customer experience management market was estimated at USD 9 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow to around USD 40 billion by 2030. So why are customers dissatisfied? The only plausible explanation is that they are not getting what they want. This means organizations don’t know what their customers want. But, in an environment where invaluable customer data can be gathered at every survey and technology-enabled touchpoint, this is a problem of not seeing the forest for the trees. Modern enterprises have access to enormous volumes of customer data, but are they using that data to make the right decisions that will delight customers with enhanced digital customer experience and keep them coming back for more?
The world of data-powered customer experiences
Customer service and customer experience are key drivers of corporate value. As consumers have transformed their buying journeys via social commerce and ecommerce, companies have recognized the need to arbitrage the ensuing data dividend to build data-driven experience. Regardless of size and sector, companies have invested heavily in analytics tools for speech recognition and web content to tap the data that customers leave across mobile, social media, and contact center touchpoints.
But to gain a deeper understanding of your customer, it is not enough to simply purchase and deploy new technology. The integration of new technologies into a business has strong implications for both legacy IT and employee mindsets and culture. Disjointed processes and unaligned business users can severely undermine the process of mapping and enhancing customer journeys. To overcome this, and to extract maximum value from a technology that promises customer delight, all stakeholders across departments must collaborate cross-functionally and own the process of continuous improvement. This means putting customer needs first and prioritizing them over other business demands.
Of course, simply overworking customer service workers or holding them to impossible standards is not the solution. Apart from the ethical issues, the degradation of employee well-being inevitably results in a poorer customer experience and ultimately diminishes the value of the brand. A 2022 Forrester CX study points out that customers increasingly jump ship from brands that fail to deliver on this benchmark, even if data was their guru.
So, what is the solution here?
Data can be a drag
As data volumes reach epic proportions, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here, building processes around data, to separate the signals from the noise, can lead to a big payoff for organizations. In a McKinsey 2021 outlook document, only 6% of the 260 CX leaders surveyed expressed satisfaction with surveys as a measurement of customer feedback even though a staggering 93% of them admitted to using surveys as metrics.
In many ways, we have now outgrown our reliance on unfiltered, clunky information like surveys that are prone to external variables. Companies today can leverage a wide selection of data sets. Some of these are internally generated data on customer interactions, transactions, and profiles and third-party data sets that cover the same parameters. Others, such as the data on various touchpoints covering omnichannel customer behavior and IoT devices can act as valuable inputs for insightful decision-making.
Armed with the right predictive analytics platforms, smart CX champions can unify the tracking of customer journeys with the ability to make informed, strategic decisions. Predictive analytics platforms are predicated on three elements: customer data aggregations or lakes, predictive scores, and customized insights. While the first two elements use customer data to rate the customer journey and track inflection points, the third element creates actionable recommendations for employees or interfaces like CRM systems to implement. Predictive analytics can lower the operational and interaction costs of companies. This is, in large part thanks to its deliberate focus on specific points of the customer journey like the number of times the customer has certain adverse experiences in a month. It can then make a personalized recommendation and drive an action engine based on those insights to propel the customer journey forward.
Redefining the future of customer conversations
The pandemic placed digital channels at the heart of all customer communications. While the pandemic has receded, the trend is here to dominate. It is very much a situation where consumers have grown acclimatized to contacting businesses and service providers through digital methods. But digital services and communication, with their promise of instant gratification, also raise the bar for customer expectations.
Companies must move swiftly to transition to organic ways of facilitating customer conversations. Combining millisecond-level decision-making while keeping privacy concerns and regulatory scrutiny in mind will become crucial. Here, being proactive via AI and using customer trends and training for forward resolution is an example. Conversational AI that preemptively nudges customers into action, for instance, to buy consumables in the tech sector, and delivers a personalized, real-time experience, will become the norm and not the exception. Customers must be able to quickly segue from bots to human interaction for an optimal end-user experience. Underpinning all these is the enterprise’s rootedness in data secured from multiple, omnichannel customer interactions.
All future customer conversations will be driven by the blurring of lines. In fact, social commerce, ecommerce, blockchain, and fintech are already conspiring with Web 3.0 to create digital communities and consumers in one such crossover called the Metaverse.
Customer digital experiences: Back to the future
However, the Metaverse is a new and relatively unexplored frontier and an unknown quantity for companies looking to deepen customer engagement and explore new revenue streams. Even though the Metaverse market is predicted to cross the USD 800 billion mark by 2024, according to a Bloomberg report, its fortunes are linked to the massive injection of funds by tech majors.
Showing up to capitalize on the promise requires deep pockets and the retooling of most enterprises. On the wish list for metaverse domination, you can expect to find digital storefronts, immersive shopping experiences, digital avatars, and digital commerce including NFTs.
Some tech industry watchers argue that elements of the metaverse are already part of the customer experience. Gamification of education delivery, the use of AR by home improvement companies to visualize new décor schemes, and the use of blockchain tokens for fintech transactions are everyday occurrences. Companies have already become digital avatars of themselves in this data-defined age. The Metaverse might just be the next logical extension of a brand’s digital presence.
It doesn’t take a data scientist to know that every enterprise must either shape up or ship out. Digital entities need continuous improvement to remain relevant in these times. After all, Digital native customers demand curated, customized digital experiences built on their own unique needs and preferences. Using AI and automation with an equal dose of behavioral science could revive customer sentiment and propel the next cycle of business change.