Kodwo Manuel’s thoughts: Supporting your experience digitally

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Credit: smallbusinessblog

– Leverage technology to enhance your customer relationships

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to planning any strategy. The key elements recognizable in strategy though will generally represent a commitment to direction, consistency, concentration, and flexibility.

This will lead any business to birth what ultimately becomes the blueprint to trigger a move from obscurity to prominence. Strategic direction includes the plans and actions needed to work toward the vision of the future for the organization. Consistency in strategy depicts a fixation over time and advised changes in magnitude and direction at different points in time. Concentration is where a business focuses on a single market or product enabling it to invest more resources in an identified area. Flexibility is the ability to identify major shifts in the external environment and quickly commit resources to a new course of action.

Put simply, an improved customer experience depends largely on consistency in the development and deployment of seamless and integrated technology systems. The contrast to this would be to rely on piecemeal silos which hardly deliver the kind of unified experience the customer seeks. An example of a poor experience would be to fill out a form online and lose the trail on deciding to continue the process on your mobile phone. Today’s technology innovations focus on the following key thrusts, customer acquisition, retention, and experience.

Therefore, leveraging technology to grow your business and to gain market prominence through differentiated experiences is the way forward. Getting your digital strategy on track to improve your experience is the new quest! According to research, 79% of CEOs in banking, insurance, and fintech believe that customer expectations are shaped by “hyper-relevant, real-time and dynamic experiences encountered across the industry”. New digital technologies have become pivotal in influencing customer behaviour and in particular contributed significantly to customer experience in the banking sector as a consequence of the covid19 pandemic.

Digital customer engagement in the ‘new normal’

Pentacle, a virtual business school founded by Professor Eddie Obeng, and based in the UK, pioneered the model of a New World emerging some 19 years ago. At the time it seemed a distant reality. In their assertion, they claimed a change in business rules where change was happening faster than the rate of learning. In the ‘Old World’ learning had a long shelf life thus knowledge was relevant for a long period of time. However, to survive in this ‘New World’ one has to acquire a culture of continuous learning to cope with the challenges posed by consistent change relying on evolving learning strategies. It would appear that even though the process had already begun the covid19 pandemic has snowballed this long-anticipated change. One key take from this New World paradigm shift is the ‘12 new rules’. For the sake of limited time and space I will refer to only 2 of these namely; ‘to re-invent your information. Stay digital in cyberspace …. the other is to go virtual’. Consequently, businesses must optimize their channels and be flexible to adopt changes quickly. The need to adopt eCommerce to gain a competitive edge against traditional brick-and-mortar stores has become imperative. Businesses will now thrive better on a digital foundation.

Managing the digital agenda

Digital platforms for Customer Experience as a strategy present limitless opportunities for companies looking to significantly improve their touchpoints. ECommerce in all its ramifications, ranging from digital customer tracking through to customer relationship management (CRM), is permanently changing sales strategies and structures. Although customer experience often also includes offline experiences, customers are significantly influenced by what they experience in the digital landscape, because they are constantly online with mobile devices. The mobile overdraft app in Kenya M-PESA is a case in point of how the use of digital platforms has improved customer experience and growing interest in digital solutions. Prof. Dr. Robert Daubner, a sales expert at Horváth & Partners says, “Transparency in digital media forces companies to adopt a critical approach to their own subjects and products”. According to him, it brings them closer to customers in very unique ways. “Those who successfully create a feeling of emotional connection between consumers and products through authentic communication, lend a high degree of authenticity and credibility to their customer relationships.”

That digital content strategy has become an imperative goes without saying. Websites must offer the highest degree of interaction by offering great usability to the average customer. What is noteworthy is that the process of eliciting requirements for websites must be pursued professionally to ensure that outcomes are fit for purpose.

The key requirement here is to mirror traditional processes yet focus on the dynamism required to leverage the opportunities to address business needs with the customer as the main focus. This calls for a holistic approach to enable the business to make all the right calls. If the internal culture is right employees will freely participate in the process of gathering and structuring of information for the deployment of digital touchpoints. In reaction to the disruptions caused by the covid19 pandemic, many local banks and corporates have quickly evolved their digital strategies to address key processes with the sole aim of reducing physical transactions to the barest minimum.

So team meetings are held on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other virtual media as part of social distancing strategies. Some banks champion data free campaigns enabling their patrons to open their Apps without additional data costs. Also noteworthy is the freezing of charges by the banks for using their ATM systems, a practice known to have been adopted by telecoms on interoperable transactions. Processes such as account opening, internet banking and the use of social media platforms to communicate have added value to the management of touchpoints and ultimately made life easier for service users.

Consummating the Digital Customer Experience

Digital Customer Experience comprises 4 key elements namely, the digital customer journey, user experience, touchpoint management, and omnichannel management. To leverage digital platforms companies will need to make these elements the key focus of their change projects. Companies have found ways of focusing on the digital habits of their customers as a precursor to applying new digital opportunities in a targeted manner. By familiarizing themselves with the path of the customer they are better able to use data gathered to increase sales performance and turn out advocates ultimately. According to Thorsten Lips, Head of Sales Consulting at Horvath and Partners “Sales excellence in the future will include far more than traditional interaction with customers, which was limited to one touchpoint. Rather, all information will flow through all sales channels to a central office in the sales organization.”

User experience is based on the customer’s information needs. The key to improved user experience hinges on a constant real-time dialogue with customers to inform the choice of tools to evaluate their interests. Duolingo, the online tool for learning international languages, has used this strategy to good effect, they have simplified the learning process through the use of 3 easy questions to get users on track to learn a new language such as French or German. This way they have achieved the goal of a preferred learning tool over Rosetta Stone whose uptake processes have proved relatively more cumbersome. Furthermore, by analyzing all interactions at touchpoints, information can be obtained on important outcomes such as the company’s turnover, to enable sales teams to prioritize future content strategy. Prior to rolling out their redesigned website in 2014, Paypal’s original design was overly complex. They have gone on to simplify their site by reducing and optimizing content to making it more accessible to the average user and with better meaning as well as timesaving functionalities.

Starbucks has found omnichannel a useful strategy to improve user experience. They have creatively introduced a personalized mobile app for online ordering based on their understanding of users’ purchase histories and patterns. They have intuitively discovered Humans as creatures of habit who will often repeatedly order the same thing or rotate from a shortlist of things. Therefore, for most people, it is easier to pick what you want from a list of your previously ordered items than from a full menu. Using the Starbucks app at least once a week, one rarely uses the option for the full menu, one can use their friendly app by looking at the “Featured” tab to see if there is anything new and then select what you want from the “Recents” tab. It makes life easier in comparison to others such as the Panera app, where you are required to sort through the full menu every time.

Digital Experience Management

Digital customer experience management (DCXM) includes the coordination of all digital content activities that are intended to give customers an outstanding experience at each interaction point on the customer journey. By analyzing all interactions at the touchpoints one can derive information about which touchpoints are most important for a company’s turnover to enable it to prioritize future content strategies for its digital platforms.

It impacts the overall corporate structure and culture. It means introducing completely new and sometimes unfamiliar processes. DCXM is an important transformation step for sustainable growth for any company. How content is handled and placed becomes the core task in the context of the sales strategy. Organizing the digital customer experience is not a one-off process – rather, it is subject to constant change and adjustment. Customers are individuals, after all, so be advised that your approach will depend on your target audience.

Photo: Kodwo Manuel

The Writer is the Managing Consultant at Capability Trust Limited a People and Learning Organisation serving the market with Talent Acquisition and Management, Leadership Development, HR Outsourcing and General HR Advisory, Training and consulting services. He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected]/ www.linkedin.com/in/km-13b85717

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