July 5, 2016

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Customer Experience in the 21st Century: Where will organizations fail?

Customer service challenges have mounted enormously with social media pitching in to amplify the customer voice—leaving behind digital footprints everywhere. The customer is actively participating on online platforms and is unabashedly vocal when it comes to feedback, or, reviews. Across the world, consumers are demanding ‘immediate value’, and would take their business elsewhere if their needs are not met. Even when the customer is not explicitly voicing concerns, he still manages to generate significant amounts of data through wearables such as fit-bit or sleep-in headphones.

This data is being mined, monitored, analyzed by leading companies to identify and cater to latent customer requirements, and others have no choice but to step up their game. Customer experience (CX) and Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs are emerging as fast-growing segments of a core business strategy for companies across the globe to ensure customer delight.

With rapid and unstructured tech adoption within businesses (across service centers, marketing teams, and product lines), the challenge here is to create a single view of the customer. Once organizations are able to initiate this change, they would be able to anticipate customer requirements and architect a personalized experience at every touch point of the customer journey.

The Importance of Delighting the Customer

Customer interactions in the 20th century were sporadic and transactional in nature, occurring only to voice grievances. Under these circumstances, the traditional Customer Relationship Model (CRM) worked seamlessly. However, in the 21st Century Enterprise,CRM is no longer the sole repository of customer experience data. If aggrieved, customers would not mind flooding social networking sites with their opinion. In 2014, customers made 22 million inquiries to brands on Facebook and Twitter. Despite this, even a year later, a mere 4% brands were socially devoted on Facebook and 3% on Twitter.

Multi-channel and omnichannel commerce have also created significant complexities in the buying process with the increase in customer touch points.With customer churn rates being a major concern in a competitive market, businesses are frenetically looking to implement tailored feedback mechanisms and channels—sometimes without a robust strategy in place.

However, organizations are still investing in legacy CRM technology in order to ameliorate customer experience. A recent survey revealed that only 10% of business and IT executives felt that their investment in CRM resulted in a meeting or exceeding the target.

So, how can we evolve digital experiences for the 21st-century customer ?

Crafting the Right Strategies: Learning from the Leaders

Companies that are great at customer care services invariably do well. Apple, the world’s largest IT Company, for instance, is globally lauded for offering the ultimate consumer experience and knows how to delight customers. The company has identified what customers like and dislike about their shopping experiences, and taken the necessary steps to address issues.

Consumers can make appointments with a ‘genius’ at the Genius Bar at Apple’s retail stores—and need not wait for the salesperson’s time or attention. The checkout process, a pet peeve for many, has been simplified too. Customers’ receipts are emailed to them so that they don’t have to wait for printed ones at the counter.

As a result of a completely customer-centric approach, apple’s brand retention is the highest in the smartphone industry. This is an invaluable takeaway, considering that it costs between 5 to 25 times more to attract new customers than to retain one. Moreover, even a 5% rise in customer retention levels due to customer delight leads to 25-95% increase in the organization's profits.

Adobe seems to have followed Apple’s disruptive model and has upgraded their internal tech support. They set up 18 ‘Tech Cafes’ , or, service counters, in their largest offices, encouraged people to stop by, and deployed experts to help them.

Employees could try new hardware, loan laptops, and power cords when traveling, and had the convenience of a personal interaction with the support staff. This model is a great example to show how silos in corporate culture are gradually giving way to a more innovative, and permeable environment.

. Customer experience is being incorporated within new product development cycles as well, to deliver a better and relevant product.

The Way Ahead: Catering to the Influencer and Advocate

Apple’s example demonstrates that these days, neither does customer service initiate with product purchase nor does it end at simple after sales service. The customer experience journey might even begin while collating inputs and feedback for a new product designThe 21st Century customer expects nothing less than streamlined service and effective cross-channel interaction—where he or she is both the influencer, as well as the advocate.

Therefore, organizations need to implement strategies that can help them sync these expectations with long-term business goals. They need to assess their requirements and adopt the right technological tools and platforms to make feedback available at all levels.

However, creating an unparalleled experience for the customer can only happen, when a change is initiated by the company. Delivering great service begins with turning employees into brand advocates. The future undoubtedly lies in creating a symbiotic link among customer service, employee satisfaction, and company culture.