An effective customer focus can be a business differentiator, but the pandemic and the changing attitude of customers means technology is key in meeting customer demands.
Staying focused on the customer at all times is, in today’s business world, little more than standard good business practice. Of course, remaining customer-centric is easy during the good times, but becomes more difficult during times of crisis, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. This is why those companies that succeed despite the current adverse conditions will be those with the most precisely focused customer-centric strategies.
Marc Emert, Customer Experience Solutions Specialist at SAP, suggests the foundation on which such customer-centricity is built is transparency and honesty, along with constant communications with the individual client. A simple example of this, he explains, is when a customer has placed an order, the company should ensure the client is kept in the loop as to the status and disposition of the delivery.
“An additional element is that you need to be sure that the customer can contact you via the channel of their choice – whether this is a contact centre, e-mail, social media or another channel. Furthermore, customers today do not want to wait; they demand service on a 24/7/365 basis,” he says.
“This, in turn, creates the challenge of maintaining a single view of the customer across a multichannel engagement. The only way to succeed here is to implement software that allows you to ingest data from multiple sources. Technology is also the answer to delivering another increasingly in-demand option, namely self-service.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has furthermore added another unique layer of difficulty to customer service, as it has led to many customers having far less patience. He explains that the massive rise in online shopping, driven by the lock-down, has given customers a taste of the kind of speed with which organisations are capable of delivering goods. Most retailers that provide such a service can get the products to the customer within a couple of hours.
“Of course, once they realized that retailers could deliver so quickly, customers began to query why other e-commerce organisations could not achieve the same delivery speeds. While it is potentially tougher to deliver large electronic or household appliances so rapidly, the nature of logistics is also evolving, and forward-thinking businesses should be able to find ways to achieve this. Moreover, in instances where they cannot, regular communication with the customer becomes even more critical so the customer remains informed of the status of their delivery throughout the process.”
“For me, the real key to customer-centricity lies in building a relationship and forming a bond with each customer. If you can provide them with a sense of security and deeper personalization, they will likely remain with you, even if your delivery speeds are potentially slower than your competitors. Customers today are, after all, seeking a deeper sense of engagement with their suppliers.”
Essentially, adds Emert, it boils down to data and the manner in which companies are able to leverage it effectively by unifying it, ingesting it and analyzing it. In other words, it is about having a single view of the customer and breaking down organisational silos.
“What businesses need, therefore, is a platform that collects the data and unifies the customer profile, bringing together both structured or transactional data and unstructured data such as that found on social media sites. This will mean they can build a unified customer profile that enables them to both understand the client better, as well as engage and serve them more effectively.
“Looking to what the future of customer service holds, the simple answer is that data will only become even more important moving forward. Not only will you and your competitors all be vying for the same information, but the legislative and compliance issues around consumer privacy are clearly also going to increase. So the answer to effective customer-centricity lies in having the right platform that can help you gather as much data as you can, but in a compliant, transparent and ethical manner – I believe this will be how organisations differentiate themselves in this space in the near future,” he concludes.
This article first appeared on IT Web