Disruption driven by evolving digital technology will remain a key business challenge this year and reshape customer expectations.
In the pandemic-altered landscape, companies of all types have accelerated modernisation programs, driven by the need to be more personalised, targeted, and relevant.
CIO and Adobe recently hosted a senior IT roundtable to address the challenges and solutions. Participants agreed that now is the perfect time to re-evaluate how teams can work together to transform customer experience (CX) strategies.
The panel reflected on the ‘good and bad’ of 2021. They also discussed how to align enterprise modernisation with customer experience (CX) optimisation.
The meeting followed the Chatham House Rule, so not all participants can be identified.
Understanding customer needs
The roundtable included experts from food supply and hospitality, to financial services and software. All of them regarded understanding customer needs and providing outstanding CX as key challenges. However the individual challenges and needs they identified were quite different.
A participant who supplies animal products throughout the U.K. spoke of connectivity problems at farms and difficulties caused by businesses still relying on landlines, fax machines, and paper-based processes.
Meanwhile, a property developer who also manages tenants explained that some of their lower-income customers didn’t actually have broadband connections.
And a participant in financial services spoke of applying a technology-first approach to CX, although he warned that’s not always popular.
Indeed, Phillip Starrett, International CTO and Director of Adobe Experience Platform at Adobe, cautioned against just that.
“I see this with a lot of our customers,” he said. “They want a CDP [customer data platform] — so, technology first — without having a clue of what they want to deliver against that or why they want to do it.”
Instead, he advised starting with what outcome you want to achieve and understanding why you want to achieve it, regardless of the technology involved.
Getting the right data
Roundtable participants spoke of the difficulty of obtaining the customer data necessary for better CX. This challenge was why the fintech participant said he had to turn to technology first and figure out how to address customers’ needs after that.
“I haven’t got the intelligence around customers’, he said. ‘What I’ve got to do is put in — horrible thing today to say — the tech solutions that enable throughput.”
In other words, to find his ‘what’ and ‘why’, he needed customer data – and the only way to get it was through technology.
The hospitality participant said that challenges imposed by the pandemic led his organisation to innovate, returning dividends that will last well into the future.
‘We’ve had to become agile in reacting to the latest virus announcements,” he said, “whether it be contactless [payments] or tracking people coming into our club.”
As a result, the team did away with cash payments, a step that would have been more difficult to take beforehand. But that gave them more flexibility in modernising the organisation.
The participant working in property development said that a critical component of better CX for his organsiation was breaking down silos between departments.
Previously, he explained, a customer support call might get forwarded to three or four different departments. They would struggle to agree on what department was responsible and which budget line was appropriate. As part of modernisation efforts, the organisation rebuilt the customer service function around specific problem categories regardless of departmental divisions.
“And if it comes out of my budget, or it comes out of repair’s budget, it doesn’t really matter,” the participant said.
The result is faster decision-making and customer service.
“What I’m hearing is it’s around what are your KPIs [key performance indicators]”, Starrett said in response.
He said a data-driven operating model could go a long way toward getting managers the results they want.
“So, if we talk about complaints, one [KPI] is, you might want to reduce the number of complaints,” he explained. “And then the time to resolve the complaint might be another one, and so on.”
With this approach, he said, a company can head off problems before they even come up. And to get there, he explained, it’s helpful to address four main pillars for CX success.
Four pillars for CX success
“From the Adobe strategy perspective,” Starrett said, “we see customer experience has four pillars.”
He described the pillars as:
- Data insights derived from connected intelligence, AI, and other advanced tools
- Audience management involving technologies such as cookies and enterprise customer records linking customer actions with durable identifiers
- Journeys, of which inbound and outbound experiences are foundational, leading to orchestrated event-and-trigger-based journeys
- Content, including how organisations deploy and use communication channels and interact with customers. “Rather than having just a standard web page,” Starrett explained, “you can personalise the content based on the enriched data you get.”
In concluding observations, the hospitality participant cautioned organisations not to lose sight of customer interaction basics even as they deploy new technologies.
”Just make sure we don’t lose our customers as we innovate,” he said. “You still have to keep the more traditional channels of face-to-face and paper.”