Today, we are understandably obsessed with the effects of the pandemic on commerce, but customer experience (CX) was already an area of intense study before Covid hit. A pre-pandemic survey conducted by PwC showed that if they could be assured of a superior experience, consumers were willing to accept price premiums of up to 16% on everything from a plane ticket to a cup of coffee. And they would be more likely to be brand loyal.
Both B2C and B2B businesses in the GCC region were acutely aware of these trends. As consumers, digital natives were looking for the best deal for themselves, but as their employer’s representative in a B2B transaction, they exhibited the same savvy tendencies – willing to switch to a supplier’s competitor in a moment because the digital realm had made it easier for them to do so.
CX took another leap forward in the region when the lockdowns came into effect. For example, KPMG 2020 UAE Customer Experience Excellence The report showed that the country’s overall performance in customer experience has increased by 7% since 2018, based on a range of measured factors such as expectations and empathy. The report also unveiled “Client 5.0”, defined not only by generational leanings but also by the lessons and trials of the Covid-19 pandemic. KPMG expects the “new client [to] be more goal-oriented and demand integrity”.
Although these are consumer trends, we have every reason to believe that they will affect B2B transactions. But whether it’s B2C or B2B, the business can exercise significant control over customer interactions, from lead generation to sales and beyond to post-sales and opportunity. to inspire the brand ambassador. Those who respond well to the moment will reap many rewards. Those who fail are unlikely to have it easy in the market.
Getting it right means giving front-line, customer-facing employees the tools they need to make the right decisions in real time. This means empowering everyone in sales, warehousing, supply chain management, delivery, customer service, billing – anyone a customer might ask. Companies need to build an employee experience (EX) in which every company representative is connected to all facets of the business, and is therefore able to give useful and accurate information to customers – soothe them when they are frustrated, reassure them when they are anxious, and solve their problems when things go wrong.
Strangely, a recent Freshworks study conducted in conjunction with the Harvard Business Review showed that only half of executives believed in a connection between EX and CX. But the pandemic has shown us that public-facing agents armed with superior digital platforms can leverage these tools to deliver high-quality customer experiences. And if their management teams recognize their hard work and respond accordingly, that also fuels EX and produces positive results.
Technology: curse or blessing?
For customers, a positive experience starts with freedom from common frustrations, including difficulty finding the right information or having to enter the same details multiple times to complete a transaction. These are flaws in digital platforms that have nothing to do with frontline workers. Fix them and those employees won’t start so many conversations with complaints. A comprehensive, omnichannel support solution staffed by highly trained agents who have a 360-degree view of their customers’ journeys will go a long way in delivering optimal CX.
So, customers want information at their fingertips. They want to provide their personal information, or that of their company, only once and be recognized as a returning customer even if they have not made a purchase. They want personalized service. Meeting all of these large-scale needs is a budgetary, technological and logistical challenge, as much of this activity must now take place digitally. Even though we may have been able to tame the variants of Covid to the extent that we could all return to a mask-free normal, all signs point to a new hybrid working model and a permanent increase in e-commerce volumes.
Consumers and businesses expect round-the-clock omnichannel experiences. This is where advanced technologies like self-service platforms and natural language chatbots can relieve heavy customer support teams. loads. One of the best ways to ensure customers are always directed to information that will help them help themselves is to improve SEO for information-rich web pages. Another is to implement site-wide widgets to ensure that customers already in the company’s domain can find their way to useful information.
Then, on the FAQ pages, a “Contact us” button will direct the customer to advanced chatbots, which are the perfect complement for remote teams. Supported by bots, human agents can focus on more complex queries that might otherwise lead to poor results. For example, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s Rammas bot received more than 87,000 inquiries in its first six weeks of service, drastically reducing human agent inquiries.
The finest examples of digital transformation in the post-Covid era will bear the same hallmarks of those before the era of masks, social distancing and hybrid working. Success stories are told by organizations that recognize that automation is not a direct substitute for human agents. Amid the substantial growth we have seen in online interactions, human agency – and its strengths of empathy, initiative and innovation – must unite with advanced technologies such as chatbots. Together, digital and human agents can deliver experiences that delight consumers and sales reps and keep them coming back.
Anand Venkatraman is Vice President and General Manager of Freshworks APAC and MEA