Customer experience – the new innovation battleground

SUMMARY:

Companies that look to become the business superstars of tomorrow are using cloud technology to evolve, offering customers amazing, personalised experiences.

One of my favourite companies at the moment is Ocado. Every time I use their website or send them a tweet, I get an exceptional level of customer service, personalised and appropriate to my needs. No matter how I connect with them the experience is always welcome and timely and they always send me great discounts and offers.

It’s a great example of a business that’s transformed to focus on the customer experience. Recently, Salesforce examined  attitudes to customer experience and I think one of the stand-out findings of this research is that despite everything you read about cost-cutting and belt-tightening, it’s often not price but rather poor customer service that becomes the defining factor when it comes to putting consumers off a particular business.

Survey respondents overwhelmingly chose poor customer service (73%) as the reason for not purchasing from a company. And digging deeper, more than one in three (36%) said that an inconsistent experience across mobile, online and in-store put them off a brand, and a further third (36%) said they were put off by receiving offers that weren’t relevant to them.

For businesses, the message is clear: if you want to grow, put the customer experience at the forefront of your operations.

In order to do that successfully, it’s critical that the C-Suite and entrepreneurs have a deep understanding of what their customers feel constitutes a good experience so that they can continually enhance the service they provide and tailor it as closely to their customer needs as possible.

I do think that on the whole companies are listening to this message. The research showed that consumers believe customer service is improving. What’s more, most brands I spoke to at the Salesforce World Tour London event last month said they see the customer experience as the biggest opportunity to get ahead of the competition. Many are working to make this experience consistent and personalised across different channels, including web, mobile, social and in-store.

At Vax, for example, consolidating all customer engagement channels onto a single platform has freed up agent time and delivered a more personal service. The company has adopted an omni-channel approach that includes self-help, email, social media and live chat. Regardless of the engagement channel, details of every customer interaction are captured on one platform. Since introducing the solution, Vax’s database has grown to encompass more than 2.5 million customers.

Vax and businesses like it also realise that now is not the time to rest on their laurels. Customer expectations are continuing to rise, and it is only by constantly innovating around the customer experience that companies will be able to meet and exceed these expectations.

At Coca-Cola Enterprises, as well as connecting existing customer contact channels, the firm is also developing new ones. It has recently established a customer engagement platform that allows customers to collaborate with Coca-Cola and each other in a single, online space. Within five months more than 10,000 customers signed up, with 45% of exchanges happening on a mobile device. Coca-Cola Enterprises is also launching an app for its field sales representatives to help them spend more time with customers. The app is currently being used by 800 people in the UK and 300 in the Netherlands, and is currently being rolled out across Western Europe.

Flexing

But this kind of innovation doesn’t just appear from thin air. Like a muscle, an organisation’s ‘innovation quotient’ requires regular flexing to perform at its best.

This means creating a culture that supports collaboration and focuses on expanding innovations as they become available. For example at Salesforce, everyone is encouraged to speak up with their ideas. Even our graduates have the opportunity to feed into our campaigns, our programmes and our processes.

Our senior executives are encouraged to act as cultivators and moderators, leaders who are able to embrace ideas and bring in the right people to help make those concepts reality. And to communicate, our teams use Chatter, an enterprise social networking app to capture and nourish these ideas. It’s a more natural format for people to collaborate within, and more than one big idea was born on Chatter! But tools aren’t enough – we also look to foster innovation through meetings, hackathons and even employee challenges.

Only by encouraging teams to focus in on identifying customer pain points and ways to address them will companies be able to drive the kind of innovation that really “disrupts” the customer experience. After all the most successful companies today are those that have created new solutions to customer needs. Think about Deliveroo, getting tasty meals to hungry consumers right when they want it, and you’re already on the right path.

In reality there are many organisations – Ocado, Vax and Deliveroo are just great examples – already successfully harnessing innovation to deliver customer centricity. More broadly, companies of all sizes, in all sectors are using cloud technology to evolve, offering customers amazing, personalised experiences – and these companies look to become the business superstars of tomorrow.

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