‘Customer experience’ (CX), as a discipline, is starting to mature. What was once a fashionable buzzword which drove organisational change has now become a routine category of management reports.
And though its no longer trendy, marketers are still tasked with improving CX, often in the headwinds of changing technology and shrinking budgets.
So what do marketers see as the future of customer experience? And what challenges do they still face when trying to improve it?
To find out, Econsultancy, in association with Epsilon, recently held roundtable discussions in Hong Kong with dozens of client-side marketers. At a table hosted by Bessie Ng, Head of Integration and Strategic Planning Director, H+K, marketers discussed the trends driving customer experience improvement initiatives as well as some of the frustrations they are still facing.
Results are summarized below, but before we start, we’d just like to let you know about our upcoming roundtable events in Bangkok on July 10th and in Mumbai on July 12th. Senior client-side marketesr interested in joining at these locations should click on the appropriate link and request a seat at the table!
1) Data is helping marketers deliver more sophisticated customer experiences
First off, participants indicated that data is helping marketers deliver more specific messaging. By using behavioural data, marketers can now develop a channel strategy to speak differently with a prospective customer vs. an existing customer.
Another way in which data is helping marketers with CX is that instead of providing experiences based on ‘portrait sketching’, or using qualitative data based on demographic, marketers can now use data to do ‘reverse profiling’.
This means that marketers are
- Capturing behavioural traits and reactions on the website
- Identifying which prospect profile they belong to, and
- Deducing how far down the purchase decision journey they are, as well
So by using data, marketers can paint a more realistic picture of who the target is and, through testing, deliver more relevant messages and experiences.
2) Front-line sales staff are becoming ‘data enabled’
Attendees agreed that, previously, the heaviest users and biggest beneficiaries of customer data were the eCRM and loyalty program departments.
Now, they assert, data is also being used by front-line sales staff as well. This helps them deliver stronger, more relevant sales pitches.
Doing so is important because customers feel that they are giving organizations a lot of personal data and so customer-facing staff should know what they want already.
Consumer expectations, in this area, have risen sharply and one participant spoke about the need for marketers to be able to deliver what the customer wants in three questions/clicks or less.
3) Chatbots on the rise
There is a growing sentiment that computer-based customer service agents, or ‘chatbots’, have not matched the high expectations set over the past couple of years.
Interestingly, though, attendees said that they still felt that algorithms to resolve customer queries were growing in popularity and that we will still see innovations in this area.
Others were keen to point out that chatbots will not, however, replace customer service staff who deliver trust, credibility and resolve complex issues. For high-touch industries, such as automotive, consumers may be ok with some computer-based assistance, but ultimately want to speak to a real person who understands their needs.
Yet many still felt that chatbots have secured a place in the customer service workflow though where the handover from a chatbot to human customer service lies was still an open question.
1) Data collection still in the dark ages
Participants agreed that most brands are collecting data through a traditional ‘give and take’ exchange. That is, brands give consumers something valuable for free – product updates, intelligence, incentives – and take valuable personal information, in return.
This exchange, however, is not ideal and attendees indicated that the model needs to evolve.
Instead, marketers need to be much more selective regarding what data they really need to serve the consumer. They should ensure that any data collected is to help deliver what the consumer needs instead of what messaging to blast at them.
Attendees said that most marketers still don’t get this, though, and they are still using data to tell the consumer what the brand wants them to hear, regardless of what the customer wants to know.
2) Regulations are holding back CX improvements
Marketers in Hong Kong, attendees agreed, are bound by strict data and privacy compliance policies which hinder customer experience improvement initiatives.
Participants from the finance and insurance industries indicated that regulation was particularly difficult for them. One eCRM specialist from a global finance company stated that their team is aware of customer pain points, but that they have their hands tied when they launch initiatives to improve CX. Instead of making material changes, they must spend time and resources just trying to justify what data collection they can do against regulations.
The table moderator noted that there were ‘lots of nods’ around the table when discussing this point.
3) Departments outside of marketing are not aware of the power of data to improve CX
Delegates reported that they were running into issues getting management to support data-driven experiments to improve CX.
One attendee pointed out that this challenge may be caused by the fact that marketers tend to make business cases for new initiatives instead of gauging whether management really understands what they are asking for.
The solution to this issue is that marketers should be educating the whole company about the power of data and how it will be the future of the company.
One suggestion was that marketers could bring in data-driven marketing experts to conduct training for all employees not just marketers. This approach had allowed one participant to break the impasse at their company and gain access to data which previously had been siloed.
A word of thanks
Econsultancy would like to thank our sponsor for the discussion, Epsilon, the roundtable moderator, Bessie Ng, Head of Integration and Strategic Planning Director, H+K, as well as all of the marketers who participated on the day and shared their views on the future of customer experience.
We hope to see you all at future Econsultancy events!