Businesses should focus on creating great customer experiences because they will drive customer loyalty and retention, and ultimately deliver and improve business profitability. Analytics is key to this process because it provides the power to understand and improve customer experience, enabling businesses to create optimised customer journeys that are both satisfying to the customer and valuable to the organisation.
Defining customer experience
Customer experience touches on, and emerges from, a combination of company culture, capabilities and systems. Company cultures have already been affected by globalisation, and are likely to change even more with the advent of digitisation, becoming much more customer-centric. This has made it possible for businesses to focus on customer experience. Digitisation aims to improve business systems and processes and make them faster and smarter. This means that businesses can better anticipate and meet customer needs, even in real time.
In practice, businesses will be able to engage their customers and prospective customers with increasing confidence as they draw on data, analytics and the insights that emerge to understand more about each individual. This will enable them to create relevant, individualised customer experiences, preferably in real time . The key is to automate and apply analytics to the decision-making process during real-time customer interactions, and ensure that insights are used to generate and drive actions.
Customer journeys are no longer static. They now consist of a series of touch points across multiple channels, and are different for each customer, each time. Using analytical insights, it is possible to predict and therefore optimise each customer interaction by identifying and providing the right next-best action each time.
A change, or more of the same?
You could argue – and many people do – that companies have always been in the business of serving customers, and that this is no different. I suggest, though, that customer priorities have changed as more becomes possible. Customers now expect more from their interactions with companies, and businesses have had to improve in response. What’s more, using analytics to improve customer experience, and therefore a business’s connection with its customers, actually leads to competitive advantage.
A recent MIT Research Report stated that 59 percent of managers surveyed said that they were using analytics to gain competitive advantage, an increase from the situation two years before. The same report also suggested that analytics itself is driving customer engagement. Analytically mature companies and organisations use more data sources to engage customers, and sharing data can improve an organisation’s influence with customers and other stakeholder groups.
Digitisation and analytics: Two parts of a whole
Both digitisation and analytics are important components in this process. Digital capabilities play a huge role in delivering great customer experiences. Organisations need to layer technology into and across the business so they can meet and exceed their customers’ expectations. This, in turn, will make their customers more loyal. To do this, businesses need a clear vision for customer experience, and a strong commitment to data-backed decision making, embedded throughout the organisation.
These two things alone, however, are not enough to guarantee success. Companies also need to develop “digital intelligence,” the ability to apply their technology intelligently by drawing on strong analysis across all channels. Customers, as a rule, are not thinking about (or bothered by) whether they are using a particular channel. They expect their experience to be seamless, certainly across digital channels, and ideally in stores and by telephone too. This requires intelligent linking of data and insights across all touch points along the whole customer journey, in such a way that the next interaction can be influenced. Each customer must be genuinely understood at each point, and all engagements need to be relevant and set within the correct context.
A complex series of interactions
Customer experience depends on sophisticated decision making and engagement engines. They make cross-functional customer experience decisions at scale and in real time to deliver contextually relevant engagements. This is easy to say, but not necessarily easy to develop or to deliver, nevermind to sustain and even grow over time. Those organisations that manage to do so, however, are likely to reap the rewards as they develop stronger and more sustainable competitive advantage and pull away from their less sophisticated peers. This is very definitely an investment worth making.
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