Guest Blogger

By Celine Maher, Vice President UK and Ireland, at Zendesk

In today’s digital and distributed landscape, businesses that want to deliver exceptional customer experiences can no longer operate with a fragmented view of their customers. Consumers don’t differentiate between the different departments of an organisation – they expect the person they’re speaking with will know their history with the brand. So having a unified approach to customer experience (CX) is vital.

And, despite the changing market conditions brought about by the pandemic, customers haven’t become more forgiving. In fact, quite the opposite: patience has run thin for Covid being an excuse for poor service. Customers are seeing leading brands across industries adapt and innovate in their CX over the past 18 months and now expect the same from all brands. When more than three quarters (77%) of customers in the UK would go to a competitor if they had more than one bad customer experience, there’s more pressure on businesses to improve their service.

Find motivations, not preferences

According to Zendesk’s recent Agility in Action research, 37% of agents at mid-market companies say they need more customer context to provide better experiences. This is because far too often, departments and teams don’t pool their customer information, learnings and best practice freely enough with each other. Without the adequate amount of customer context from across the business, organisations end up with a disjointed view of the customer, ultimately resulting in a poor customer experience. 

Companies need to understand their customers’ motivations, even when the context and channels change. This benefits both the individual interactions and, pooled together, gives the bigger picture to predict forthcoming challenges and opportunities to adapt to them faster. 

For this to happen companies need to adopt an agile mindset of constant evaluation and adaptation, investing in flexible, integrated tools and technology that remove internal knowledge gaps, siloes, and outdated processes. But businesses are not quite there yet. Less than one in ten companies have demonstrated the minimum agility competencies needed to be considered ‘market leading‘. 

Listening actively to maintain relevance

A unified view of CX is becoming even more important as the shopping patterns and expectations across different industries diverge. CX professionals can’t rely on sweeping generalisations about customer expectations – they need to understand more specifically what ‘good’ looks like within their respective customer bases.

In the UK, the restrictions around Covid-19 have been lifted gradually, and shoppers are adjusting to the way they will shop and communicate with businesses in the future. When it comes to retail, most shoppers use both online and bricks-and-mortar stores to meet their needs, with nearly three-quarters (74%) having made purchases through both channels in the past three months, according to YouGov research. 

There’s a slightly different picture in financial services, with digital banking changing the shape of branches irrevocably. Three quarters of Brits used online banking regularly in 2020. In all cases, whether it’s retail, financial services, or other customer-focused industries, there’s a need for a cross channel understanding of customers.

That’s where the power of data comes in. But data alone is not useful unless you integrate it across the business – the more interconnected it is, the easier it is to have a complete picture of the customer, and even spot and fix problems. Without this, companies will always be playing catch-up, trying to react to macro trends they are too late to do anything about, rather than constantly listening, analysing, and understanding their customers.  

How can we unify CX?

An important part of this is to change the way we view CX altogether and recognise it as an opportunity for revenue and relationship building, rather than simply a cost to streamline. Create a total experience that brings together information across platforms – CRM, service, mobile apps, delivery systems, etc – to give a transparent lens of the customer that empowers your teams to change the tone of their conversation. Imagine, for example, a conversation where instead of being asked for your order ID (again), you’re asked, “How are you enjoying the food processor you purchased six months ago?” and “Did you see the new accessory that was just launched?”

This vision is accessible today – but calls for the seamless combination of: data insights, to know where to focus efforts; connected data, that gives teams a full view of the customer; knowledge management tools, that can prompt agents with relevant content; and automation, that can manage simple requests, giving agent the time to focus on relationship building. This approach is innovative – but, through a better understanding of their customers, companies can provide new services that are the perfect fit and keep them wanting to come back. 

For instance, rather than taking a multi-channel approach and adding WhatsApp or chatbots to support agent multi-tasking, the aim should be to look at how all channels can work together to create a clearer picture. A bank could, for example, plug in customer journey analytics data from across the business to identify whether a retail banking customer is also a mortgage owner. This could lead to a suite of budgeting and finance tools for the customer and also potential upselling opportunities to offer them related products, such as home insurance, that reflect their specific needs.

Or if the same customer has a mortgage payment due and they don’t have enough in their account to cover the payment, the bank could offer alternative options to meet their payments before they default on their mortgage account. The more a company uses the insights they have, the more they can enable customers to gain more value from the services they already use and open up opportunities for business growth.

One data set alone can’t deliver this. It requires the context of the wider business, different departments and different customer trends. So, while some might say that “data is the new oil,” I’d argue that context is what refines that oil to help power your business. And, by taking a unified approach to build that context, businesses can power even better customer experiences. 

Celine will be taking part in an exclusive session at the Customer Engagement Summit on Tuesday 9th November at 11:05am – you can register your FREE ticket to the event and catch Celine’s discussion live at the Customer Engagement Summit here

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