2020 was a year of unprecedented change for businesses across the globe, including Australia.
Seemingly unending upheaval and disruption resulted in massive challenges and opportunities, with those businesses most successfully adapting being the ones who listened closely to customers. While the phrase “the customer is always right” may be a tired and clichéd expression, listening to customers’ needs is integral to any business’ success. But how can organisations know if the customer is right if they don’t really understand them?
Put simply, when the world changed, so did customer expectations – in a big way. Many people found themselves in difficult and unique financial circumstances and had to approach businesses about sensitive topics like late payments and deferred billing. With changing needs and external pressures, customers needed quick solutions from organisations. Customers who typically interacted with businesses in-person were suddenly forced to communicate via digital channels. This compounded many customers’ frustration, as they felt businesses were not able to provide the personal touch they were used to.
Recent research conducted by Pegasystems into customer service reflects this challenge. Growing pains are prevalent in businesses’ customer service models, as consumers struggle to resolve issues through subpar digital channels. The research revealed poor customer service ruined 30 per cent of respondents’ days, and even caused one in ten customers to cry. Coupled with 82 per cent of Australian consumers saying they would take their business elsewhere if the service didn’t meet their expectations, and the impact of subpar omnichannel solutions is clear: Inconsistencies across customer service channels is resulting in organisations losing business.
On the flip side, the winners of this scenario were the organisations with the foresight to put the customer, and their needs, at the centre of the way they operated before the disruption came. This can be achieved via real-time decisioning technology, which has empowered businesses to quickly adapt each conversation based on an individual customer’s unique context and needs. Pega’s recent study on real-time decisioning underlines this point, with 82 per cent of all respondents who were familiar with the technology agreeing COVID-19 has made the use of real-time decisioning technology more important.
That’s really no surprise given 68 per cent of the decision-makers who responded to the same survey said keeping up with increasing customer expectations was their top priority. This in itself was a challenge for them, given almost half (46%) of organisations reported a high rate of their customers don’t engage with their communications, while 43 per cent see a high rate of customer churn. By comparison, those already using real-time solutions reported happier customers (63%), reduced churn (61%), and even an increase in the acquisition of new customers (55%).
The same research found three quarters (77%) feel to be successful, organisations must engage customers individually, based on their behaviour and preferences, while 63 per cent agree mass marketing to customers is a thing of the past. Organisations are beginning to realise a “centre-out” approach, where the customer is in the middle of everything they do, is the future of customer engagement and experience. Furthermore, they are beginning to understand the best way to engage with customers is to understand them better and engage with them on their terms.
However, technology on its own isn’t the solution. The “centre-out” approach needs to permeate throughout the organisation. Businesses must prepare themselves, their people, and everyone within the organisation to be on the same page, by training, providing the correct infrastructure, and reinforcing this culture from the top-down.
We’ve never lived in a time when customers are more savvy, demanding, and fickle in terms of brand loyalty. The world is getting smaller and more digital every day, and organisations must work hard to provide a customer experience that stands out. Every interaction with a customer matters because it can bring them closer to the brand or push them away and result in churn. Moments of opportunity can open and close in a second or less, and real-time decisioning tools can help grasp them by considering a customer’s immediate context in the “here and now” and use it to not only give the customer what they want, but what they need. You know real-time decisioning tools are working effectively when you can confidently say you know your customer so well that, they aren’t always right. In fact, they may not know themselves what’s right for them, until you show it to them!