With consumer technology rapidly advancing - from augmented reality apps, predictive shopping suggestions and AI chat bots - a huge gap has emerged between customers’ service expectations and the experience most enterprise companies are able to deliver.
The divide is significant. Research by Capgemini, surveying 3,300 consumers and 450 of the companies that serve them, found three-quarters of organisations think they are customer-centric, but only 30% of their consumers agree. This discrepancy grows when looking at established industries. Utility firms and manufacturers are the most stuck in their ways, with gaps of 71% and 67% respectively, while ‘born in the cloud’ businesses only see a 12% divide in terms of customer expectations. The hefty difference shows that older companies, in general, are struggling to keep up with today’s consumers.
However, it is not all bad news for firms who acknowledge this shift. Companies who put customer experience at the heart of their operations score much higher on consumer satisfaction and in turn are able to boost revenue and have higher levels of customer retention. In addition, 81% of consumers say they are willing to pay more for a better experience, with nearly a third saying they would be prepared to increase spending by more than 15%. For any brand, heritage or a new start-up, it’s clear that being customer-centric and providing stellar service is critical to future success; organisations will succeed or fail by the experiences they create.
Don’t bury your head in the sand
Looking ahead, consumers will continue to demand omni-channel and always-on communication from the brands they engage with. In order to compete in this environment, companies must recognise that they have room to improve and understand that, right now, few enterprises are delivering customer service in ways that consumers want.
Our report found that businesses rate themselves 45% better at service than the level customers give them credit for. For brands, this is an issue and it is likely to be down to the two sides having greatly different views of what good customer service looks like. For example, while some heritage organizations focus on improving use call centers and answer times, consumers are used to having instant access to information, services and support via apps on their phones. Many companies seem to be focusing on improving areas that are no longer relevant, or won’t make an immediate impact. If businesses want to benefit from improving customer service, they first need to engage with customers to understand what it is they want, not just what businesses think they want.
Technology’s role in customer experience
With consumers’ desire for easy-to-access service, technology plays an instrumental role. Having a strong digital strategy is no longer a ‘value add’ but a necessity if firms want ensure they are creating a valuable and meaningful customer experience to maintain loyalty and engagement.
To survive and gain competitive advantage through improved customer service, businesses need to deploy technology that will be of genuine benefit to their customers. For example, advanced voice recognition for phone services, chatbots on Facebook messenger or WhatsApp are an increasingly popular way of engaging with brands. What is critical is that services like these are what customers actually use; deploying technology cannot just be a gesture or a way to tick boxes internally. To really make the most of consumer preference (and thus consumer spend), businesses need to identify what platforms their customers use to connect with them, understand current pain points and then create a plan to meaningfully engage with them in an authentic way.
Learn from the best
No business or consumer exists in a vacuum, so it is important to take inspiration from service their customers are getting elsewhere. Many firms are already using technology to engage with customers and businesses should look at best practices across industries.
Some great examples include EDF, an energy provider, launching a mobile app and website, enabling customers to review bills online and track their consumption trends. Another Capgemini customer, retailer Boulanger, wanted to give customers an amazing in-store experience that also linked to mobile and online sales channels for true omni-channel integration.
Boulanger installed high performance kiosks across its first city-center store in the center of Paris. The kiosks feature interactive display units that allow customers to browse product categories, read reviews, and compare prices across a range of brands and products. Some of the kiosks also feature a larger display in the form of a Virtual Wall, which enables customers to explore larger items such as oversized electrical appliances, even if they are not physically in the store.
Shop floor employees use tablet devices to bring up details on specific products for customers and can process purchases from anywhere in the store – facilitating customer purchase decisions and personalised product recommendations, as well as improving the efficiency of sales staff to order and schedule product deliveries. These examples are just an indicator of the many ways to engage with customers and improve satisfaction, and companies can come up with their own approach relevant for their audience.
Experience is the new battleground, and how you connect with your customers will determine how you win. While the current gap between businesses and their customers is wide, both sides stand to gain a great deal if firms take steps to properly listen and alter service accordingly. Organisations that tightly link their business operations with customer experience will reap the benefits in both streamlined operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.