What differentiates your company from your rivals? In corporate literature, the answer to this crucial question is usually about unique selling points, improved value propositions and unrivalled leadership teams. However, such internally sourced answers are rarely meaningful – you should be asking the customer.
Increasingly in the modern economy, the profitable established sectors are becoming crowded with competent corporate competition. Think insurance, banking, or healthcare: The only real differentiation is in customer experience.
What builds customer loyalty is consistently good service; platforms that make it easy to access and use services on a choice of technology platforms; and communication that is prompt, polite and accurate. If its customer experience is really good, a company will gain personal recommendations, social media likes and valuable reviews. If it is even occasionally slightly less than good, it will be slated and abandoned.
Most executives understand enough to avoid the latter, but only a few business leaders can galvanise their organisations to deliver the true excellence of service and turn the user experience into a valuable differentiator. In order to do so, it is essential to harness technology – but how this technology is used will also be critical.
In a recent article, Paul Shepherd asked: “Do CEOs need to employ chatbots to keep customers relaxed?” He concludes that bots are an extremely useful tool that, when deployed correctly, goes well beyond simply speeding up response times and freeing up personnel. Equipped with artificial intelligence, these bots can burrow into the data they gather and help both customer service and the end product evolve.
Shepherd concludes that “chatbots are a perfect example of how people and smart technology can be brought together to deliver a far more satisfying customer journey.”
In order to combine people and technology into an outstanding customer experience, organisations must also have excellent internal systems and an open flow of data which is accessible to all stakeholders. They must align and integrate front and back office systems across all geographies and platforms, and at the same time ensure that customer data is safe, reliable and up-to-date. Otherwise, the more efficient your high tech customer interface is, the faster errors in the base data will be relayed to customers.
On the other hand, making good data available empowers people and bots to deliver outstanding service. Organisations that have built a positive corporate culture already have the skills and systems in place to adapt to this kind of advanced customer engagement programme: communication, sharing and a culture of facilitating employees’ work on the customer journey are the core requisites. However, leaders must also ensure that the technology behind the scenes is good enough to keep pace.
While companies will inevitably have built up a variety of platforms and formats to deal with the arrival of each new customer engagement channel, these can be linked strategically by a single enterprise information platform. This will not only bring all front-line systems together, but it can also be used to offer full connectivity to any legacy ‘back office’ systems that staff are still using. Such a system can hold an organisation together like glue, but it will only really be effective in terms of customer experience if the internal user experience is equally good.
A modern hub will also be capable of feeding chatbots and AI programmes. Just like employees, these algorithms deliver a better, faster and more compelling service when they can access information on an interface that is designed to work for them. This is what your customer-facing technology should be doing: creating valuable differentiation for your brand and making your company stand out as a leader in its sector through sheer excellence of service.
Bob Dunn is Associate Vice President of EMEA and APAC with Hyland.