As technological innovation accelerates at an alarming pace, the challenge of adapting and executing a winning customer-experience strategy can prove expensively daunting for many organisations. The largest gains accrue to firms that can incorporate great customer experience — augmented by digital technology — as an inseparable product feature to harness their competitive advantage.
According to recent Gartner research, application leaders supporting customer relationship management (CRM) and customer experience (CX) are under pressure to deliver a new technology portfolio to support a customer-centric business strategy.
Improved customer experience is likely to be an intended business outcome for digital initiatives. Therefore, relying on nascent technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and smart machines alone will fail to deliver a long-term business advantage. Brands must also build customer empathy into processes and IT system configurations.
The Gartner findings also reveal that the focus on improving CX is fragmented in many companies. Their processes are ad hoc, disconnected and disorganised. In the absence of a formal organisation-wide CX strategy, Gartner predicts poor customer experiences will destroy 30 per cent of digital business projects.
There are some recognised common traits that all best-in-class CX organisations possess, said Gartner Research Vice President Olive Huang. These include: a clear CX vision to systematically improve customer-centricity; an ability to listen to customers, analyse the feedback and act on customers’ needs; and a cultivated culture of engaged employees.
Huang said that for companies to maintain a CX advantage, their leadership must lay out a clearly defined customer-centric vision that is communicated to all employees.
In a best-practice scenario, Huang said, a Chief Customer Officer would be appointed to execute the CX vision and remove obstacles to the information flow between operations and marketing teams. Moreover, in developing a clear CX vision, Huang said firms should ask “What is our CX mission that delivers our brand commitment towards the customer experience?”
“A firm needs to measure the CX they are committed to delivering against the CX they are actually delivering,” she said.
From here, Huang advises moving into experience management, using metrics to gauge customer satisfaction, loyalty, and emotional connection to the brand in the form of advocacy and net promoter scores.
Experience management requires attentive customer listening — which Huang said comes from direct, indirect and inferred feedback — to create an unbiased understanding of customer expectations and ability to understand the context of those needs. By mastering customer listening, businesses would be able to adapt to customer demands and circumstances in real time and promptly react to unexpected events, she said.
Moving beyond experience management, Huang strongly emphasises that engaged employees are the backbone of a customer-centric organisation. The Gartner research links high levels of employee engagement to higher levels of customer satisfaction. Companies with engaged employees enjoy increased productivity, improved retention and reduced absenteeism.
Furthermore, the research states that engaged employees provide better customer service and brand advocacy, as they demonstrate a passion for their work and willingness to go the extra mile to help customers. This same attitude makes them better team players, which assists in breaking down the silo mentality that negatively impacts interdepartmental collaboration and information flow.
The Gartner research indicates that those digital businesses that deploy CRM technology and applications with a compelling customer value proposition and commitment to deliver their CX strategy are three times more likely to fend off a digital disruptor — highlighting the important function CX plays in an organisation’s future profitability.