Corner OfficeExpert Opinion

Businesses Must Adapt To Meet The Changing Customer Experience

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There has never been a more important time to listen to your customers! This has been the biggest lesson from the upheaval and disruption of the last twelve months.The phrase ‘the customer is always right’ has become something of a cliche, but it’s telling that those organizations who suffered most were typically those who were unable to adapt quickly to the changing needs of their customers,when the world was turned upside down last year. And after all, how do you really know if the customer is always right if you don’t really understand that customer?

Put simply, when the world changed, so did customer expectations – in a big way. Many people found themselves in unique and difficult financial situations. They had to approach businesses about sensitive things like late payments, deferred billing, and payment holidays. Many customers who had previously had the choice of physically communicating with businesses were suddenly restricted and compelled to accept the digital channel through which a certain business communicated with them.This compounded the anxiety for many customers– as though many businesses were not able to give them the ‘personal touch’ they had appreciated before.As a result, when the customer experience falls short of their expectations, they are more likely to take their business elsewhere.

The true winners of this scenario were the organizations that had the foresight to put the customer, and their needs, at the center of the way they operated before the disruption came. One of the best ways of achieving this goal has been through the use of real-time decisioning technology, which has empowered businesses to quickly adapt each conversation based on an individual customer’s unique needs. Indeed, a recent global study carried out by Pega late last year underlines this point, with 82% of all respondents who were familiar with the technology agreeing that COVID-19 has made the use of real-time decisioning technology more important.

That’s really no surprise given that 68% of the decision-makers who responded to the same survey said that keeping up with increasing customer expectations was their top priority. This in itself was a challenge for them, given that 46% of organizations reported that a high rate of their customers don’t engage with their communications, while 43% see a high rate of customer churn. In addition and quite concerning, 49% of businesses admitted to high numbers of customers raising complaints and issues. By comparison, those already using real-time solutions reported happier customers (63%), reduced churn (61%), and even an increase in the acquisition of new customers (55%).

Three-fourth of respondents said that businesses must engage clients individually based on their behaviour and preferences in order to be successful. Meanwhile, 63% agreed that mass marketing to customers is a thing of the past. Organizations are beginning to realize that a ‘center-out’ approach, where the customer is in the middle of everything they do, is the future of customer engagement and experience.

So, organizations that adopt real-time technology are better placed in providing superior customer experience.However, many organisations stated in the same poll that there are considerable impediments to adoption of these solutions. The point is that the technology on its own isn’t the solution. The ‘center-out’ approach touched on earlier, needs to permeate throughout the organization. Businesses must prepare themselves, their people, and everyone within the organization to be on the same page, by training, providing the correct infrastructure and, perhaps most importantly, reinforcing this culture from the top-down.

This is equally true for businesses that already have real-time tools, but perhaps aren’t maximizing their effectiveness. Our study found that of companies currently using real-time technology, only 38% were re-scoring and re-decisioning on a real-time, continuous basis, which is, to be clear, the most optimal way of using these tools. This means that although they were seeing some benefit from decisioning, they were not fully maximizing its potential. By using the technology in real-time, and not hourly, daily, or weekly, organizations start to see far more tangible benefits.

The bottom line is this: we have never lived in a time when customers are more savvy, demanding, and unpredictable in terms of brand loyalty. The world is getting smaller and more digital every day, and organizations have to work hard to provide a customer experience that stands out against their competitors. Moments of opportunity can open and close in a second or less, and real-time decisioning tools can help grasp them by considering a customer’s immediate context in the ‘here and now’ and use it to not only give the customer what they need, but sometimes even give them something they didn’t realize they needed.

(Suman Reddy is Managing Director and Country Head, Pega India and the views expressed in this article are his own)

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