If this year is anything like the last, the Australian marketplace is shaping up for further competitive pressures; commoditisation is leaving little if any distinct differentiation, there will be rapid innovations in technology, data and marketing and new brands will disrupt the status-quo.
In light of these challenges, brands in 2016 need to quickly shift priorities from being product/service led to being customer-centric; focusing on leveraging superior customer value and the competitive advantage that rewarding customer experiences deliver.
Gartner predicted that in 2016, 89% of companies expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience (CX). So expect to see more brands embarking on designing customer experiences that are personalised, contextual and real-time – experiences that meet customer needs in a way that delights them.
Here are 10 customer-centric initiatives to kick start 2016:
1.Rise of the Chief Customer Experience Officer (CXO)
2016 will be the year that the executive marketer will lead the charge in transforming customer relationships with the brand. Given chief marketing officers’ exposure to the customer and their focus on data, technology, media and design, marketers are best placed to help drive customer experience
transformation. High on their agenda will be designing CX initiatives that satisfy customer needs and foster advocacy.
2.Designing the Customer Journey
Customer experience journey mapping has become an essential tool in the CX leader’s toolbox. The mapping process provides clarity around the customer’s needs at each brand intersection; the gaps, pain points and moments-of-truth. Understanding customer behaviour across the entire customer journey for each segment creates a detailed roadmap for increasing customer satisfaction, managing churn and aligning internal processes and systems.
3.Era of the Customer-First Culture
Great customer experiences are a reflection of alignment around a customer-first culture to ensure there are no gaps between what is promised by the brand and what is delivered across the customer lifecycle. Business leaders will need to unify internal stakeholders around a shared vision and values, promote collaboration to encourage the sharing of customer intelligence and undertake team customer empathy training programs to broadly educate employees on CX.
4.Power of Design Thinking
Savvy brand leaders will utilise Design Thinking to create experiences that will improve the success rate of their CX strategies and innovations. Design Thinking is a human-centred process used for creative problem solving. The method is collaborative and employs divergent and convergent thinking to explore many ideas and then narrow these ideas into a solution. The method uses a seven-stage process: define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement and learn. The approach is empathetic to how the customer interacts with the process, product or service in their purchase journey.
This year will see more brands move from simply optimising their websites for mobile to creating mobile apps. Marketers will shift their thinking from device to context, to better understand customer behaviour. Contextual data includes location, time of day, purchase preferences, social influences and device types, enabling brands to provide always-on, personalised experiences. Importantly, brands need to optimise their customer experiences in tandem with the design of mobile apps to create a seamless experience throughout the purchase journey.
6.Predictive Technology Drives Hyper-Personalisation
Customers have become accustomed to personalisation from brands such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, who use sophisticated predictive analytics to tailor recommendations, provide reviews, offer extensive inventory, preferred delivery options and return merchandise with ease. More often than not, today’s customer doesn’t differentiate between channels. Increasingly, they expect to be recognized by brands whether they’re shopping in-store or online, with mega-personalisation using predictive analytics to close the gap between digital and physical experiences.
7.Crowdsourcing Leverages Customer Power
Traditionally, brands have kept innovation in product and service development in-house. However, organisations rethinking innovation to boost their competitive edge have turned to customer groups, communities and start-ups to participate in crowdsourced intelligence. Crowdsourcing draws together groups of diverse individuals with the potential to solve business challenges of all kinds. The process encourages active participation in creating richer experiences and the joint creation of value, to deliver improvement in existing offerings or create new ideas from which both the brand and the customer benefit. For inspiration look to the Lego brand which uses crowdsourcing with its customers to increase the number and quality of new product ideas or Unilever’s tackling of global sustainability problems with their Foundry IDEAS platform. The power of crowdsourcing assists brands to think more broadly about their customer and their environments from multiple perspectives.
8.Social Service Goes Mainstream
The new customer service model is ‘always on’, enabling customers to use social media to interact with brands anywhere and at any time. Today the expectation is that brands will deliver real-time social media service that’s instantaneous and resolves any problem at a time and in a channel that suits the customer.
9.Customer Service Live Video Trend
Video’s role in customer service continues to grow, with more brands incorporating video into self-service offerings such as product/service education, customer tutorials, testimonials and on-boarding. A rising trend is live video, face-to-face chat with a number of leading brands such as AMEX and Amazon rolling out one-click video chat for a richer personalised experience.
10. Internet Of Things (IoT) is Set to Explode
The Internet of Things (IoT) presents a massive opportunity for companies that manufacture and market smart devices, and the world’s biggest brands including Samsung, Google, Intel and Apple are all investing heavily to add customer relationship value. It is estimated that by 2020, 90% of cars will be connected to the internet and the connected kitchen will contribute at least a 15% saving in the cost of the food we purchase.
Customer experience is set to be a fundamental dimension in which brands compete. For customer experience initiatives to successfully deliver customer value, competitive advantage and sustainable growth, organisations will need to embrace transformation; building customer-centric cultures where the brand exists to serve its customers, overhauling legacy systems, designing experiences from the customer’s perspective, empowering employees to fix customer problems and seamlessly delivering the brand promise at every touchpoint.