By Graham Douglas, vice president of customer experience for the EMEA region at Momentive
Despite the many challenges that the pandemic has brought with it, one thing can be agreed upon – consumers don’t want to return to pre-pandemic habits when it comes to e-commerce. Customer experience (CX) professionals are now tasked with ensuring that insights and data underpin the customer experience and that this data is readily available, bountiful and well-integrated in order to keep businesses at the cutting edge and consumers engaged.
As the advance to ‘digital only’ continues to quicken pace, it becomes ever more important that businesses have the customer experience technology in place to keep up with this changing consumer relationship. Old ways and legacy systems won’t cut it anymore as consumers find themselves overwhelmed with choice when searching for products and services through digital channels and are highly accustomed to ease-of-use and a frictionless experience. Agile access to insights will be key factors for the businesses that successfully navigate their way through post-pandemic changes as organisations vie for customers’ attention.
How will CX technology keep up with this ever-changing landscape? That answer lies within the technology itself and the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Bringing AI to the forefront of CX strategies gives businesses the ability to collect, analyse and apply data to extract even greater value from customer insights, allowing them to act at speed to improve the overall experience.
Consumer expectations are skyrocketing
As mentioned, the pandemic disrupted the world as we knew it in a remarkably short amount of time. With businesses forced to close and rethink their digital strategies, we’ve seen digital offerings advance by about seven years worth of progress in a matter of months and consumer and business relationships evolve into a new form. But how exactly did we get to the point where 17.2 million U.K. consumers expect to make permanent changes to their shopping habits? Indeed, what was so wrong with the old CX systems?
Well, nothing in particular. The problem lay instead in business attitudes. Pre-pandemic, most companies and their marketing departments were offering very little digitally with online channels very much in their early stages and without focus. Businesses instead devoted time to the in-person experience. Consumers may have even been content with this had they not had a taste of what could be. In the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, brands who demonstrated empathy, safety, and trust to their customers have remained on the front foot. This resulted in digital channels becoming a top priority for marketers who are now relying more and more on CX technology to gather crucial insights about consumer behaviour, allowing them to better understand the needs of their customers, while, at the same time, tailor their services and offerings to each journey.
In-store experiences are therefore now having to rival personalised and agile online experiences, which are becoming hard to replicate. Customers have seen what can be achieved through online channels and their expectations are higher than ever.
Technology that keeps up with the modern pace of change
As I have already alluded to, CX needs are now much greater than before. The best CX technology goes beyond collecting customer feedback, and brands and marketers need to now look further then simply gathering insights and instead begin to use CX for more sophisticated approaches. This technology can allow companies to collect insights from a multitude of areas: website reception, customer website behaviour, the overall effect of a businesses’ online presence on customer retention and brand loyalty, and even feedback on marketing campaigns. This data is invaluable to businesses as it enables them to gain a clear picture of who their customers are, what success looks like in the customer journey as well as identify any pain points. The introduction of AI into this journey has served to make businesses more agile at scale with insights delivered quickly and easily.
AI is inherently agile, which helps organisations shape what’s next for customer experience at the pace that today demands. This is ushering in a new period for CX design, development, and strategy. AI-powered technology understands information as a human would with one major difference – it can sort through large quantities of data at speed while, at the same time, learning and improving on this knowledge. This knowledge building is allowing AI-powered CX technology to create experiences that mimic natural human engagement. When used correctly this technology can help organisations to highlight potential biases and errors in feedback channels, questions and responses, and apply logic as it flags audience segments and data that marketers need to pay attention to. These insights, which paint a full picture of the customer journey and needs, can lead to less biased feedback channels that are ultimately more engaging for the consumer.
It’s clear that having the right CX technology is key for businesses who want to remain agile and move forwards post-pandemic. Having a large data set is only as valuable as the technology and teams that analyse it and the speed at which it is able to do so. The best systems are those that will provide deeper insights into representative data sets with technology that adapts to the ever-evolving consumer-business relationship. Especially as we come out of the pandemic, AI-powered insights will be invaluable as they provide professionals with actionable data as they build upon their CX strategies.