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Understand your customer if you want to survive

Business and Marketing Strategy

 
Organisations that are not actively mining customer data and using that to support business decisions are missing out on valuable opportunities. They are also putting themselves at risk of not providing their customers with what they actually want and could lose those customers to competitors. This is particularly true in more mature industries such as financial services and telecommunications where products and services have diverged and are no longer a competitive advantage. This is the view of Sandra Galer, Consulting Director at Merchants.
 
“Most organisations already know everything about their customers, such as their buying habits, demographics and age. By applying that information appropriately, they could be using the analytics to target the right people, with the right products, at the right time,” she says. “What this means for consumers is that you don’t get random calls offering you irrelevant products. Your service providers know exactly who you are, what products and services you already have and what you are likely to want next.”
 
Through proper analytics, organisations could identify products and services that a customer is considering, but might not necessarily have made a final buying decision about. According to Dimension Data’s 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, almost 85 percent of South African respondents in the banking and investment sector believe that analytics helps develop customer experience (CX) and 73 percent state that it drives agent performance. Now in its 19th year, the Benchmarking Report not only highlights where customer service organisations are today, but where they are trying to take CX in the future.
 
Galer adds that self-service is another area showing massive growth. “It’s very important for cost-saving, but we, as customers, also want to do things for ourselves. We don’t want to talk to somebody unless we absolutely have to and then you want that person to know who you are, understand what you’ve done and be able to talk to you properly.” That means the focus on the contact centre is even more important. “When a customer does call you, you are facing a real moment of truth. So, it’s so important that when a customer does need to call you, their engagement with your organisation is easy, simple and you have all the information about that customer at your fingertips as an agent so that you can offer the service they expect.”
 
Darren Arnold, Strategy Director at Merchants, believes customer experience will ultimately be the only differentiator in certain industries. “For mature markets, like banking, where every other aspect of the service is starting to converge and the products and costs are fundamentally similar across the service providers, one of the only differentiators there is, is the experience that you provide your customer when they are interacting with you. The service we provide in these industries is much less transactional than it used to be. So, enabling our agents to provide an extraordinary customer experience through using technology is crucial.” Self-service channels enable organisations to be available 24/7, not just in emergency situations. “The Benchmarking Report also shows that the self-service platforms South African companies are providing for their customers are in line with the rest of the world and, when you ask these organisations why they are investing in those technologies and platforms, South Africa is ahead of the curve in terms of relating that to the customer experience.”

Galer says over the past three years, globally, they have witnessed a 30 percent increase in organisations who see customer experience as a competitive differentiator. “Of the South African banking and investment organisations surveyed, 96 percent agree with their global counterparts, which should relate to a better service to you as the customer. These local organisations are also saying that CX is increasing their revenue and profit, and they are seeing a direct link between the service they are offering their customers in their contact centre and their bottom line.”
 
“There are two fundamental areas for organisations when it comes to customer experience and they are linked,” says Arnold. “One is omnichannel or the ability for a customer to interact with an organisation across any channel they choose. Historically when an organisation decided to introduce new channels, it was to reduce their costs and broaden their service to their customers. That’s no longer the case and customers are now driving channel choice. They are telling organisations how and when they want to interact, so having a seamless view of the customer across all those channels is really important,” he says.
 
This is being enabled by cloud technology. “Take the label away and focus on why it is important to organisations. Cloud allows organisations to access new channels and technologies on demand and the commercial constructs tend to be much more flexible. So, the ability to try and react to customer demand with lower investment reduces the strain on trying to develop a business case and allows you to be much more agile to deliver on customer requirements. And, because you are paying on demand, it really gives the organisation access to technology in a much more flexible way,” says Arnold.
 
Where traditional technology procurement methods resulted in organisations having to deal with legacy infrastructure, cloud gives them access to far more modern solutions. “Historically, by the time organisations were ready to invest in new technology, they were already behind the curve,” says Galer. Traditional purchasing methods also saw organisations catering for peak volumes, resulting in wasted licences during quieter periods. “Agility is the keyword for most organisations today. It is a case of being quick to respond to what customers are saying and being able to adopt new technology quickly. As we have said before, if you are not giving your customer what they want via the channels they want, they can easily go elsewhere and they will,” she concludes. 


Lizelle McDermott | Consultant | Headlines | +27 11 887 3422 (d) | lizelle@headlinespr.co.za

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