Driverless taxis ferrying us around, robots carrying out surgeries in healthcare, Artificial Intelligence (AI) in automating tasks for recruiters so they can focus on the personal touch points with candidates, Internet of Things (IoT) making cities more connected and smarter.
Our world is constantly shifting, with disruptive companies changing the face of industries – whether it's retail, hospitality or finances. The consistent theme across these changes? The customer experience and expectations have changed fundamentally.
These days, customers want speed, convenience, and personalization, placing organizations under huge pressure to deliver against these desires. Some may look at technology as the cause of this predicament, but it also is the answer that will allow businesses to flourish.
Because we wanted to better understand UK customers and the role that technology plays in underpinning the business-to-customer relationship, we surveyed over 200 business leaders in companies with 500+ employees across the UK.
So what did we find?
No matter the technology – cloud, data analytics, artificial intelligence, mobile – organizations are struggling to manage the customer experience in the right way. But as we’ve seen in recent years, those organizations able to manage their customer relationships effectively are able to see the transformation.
Take Amazon’s increasing dominance of the online retail market as an example of maintaining successful customer relationships, largely down to its ability to deliver on fast and easy shopping and delivery options. Or the introduction of Microsoft’s Multi-Geo offering for Office 365 - which will now help multinational customers address their regional, organizational data residency or industry-specific requirements.
Both may be very different examples of how organizations are managing their customer relationships effectively, but are key indicators of both company’s continued success in their given market. A remarkable nine-out-of-10 business leaders expect a shift in customer behavior over the next five years. Organizations must, therefore, work to understand their customers’ experience from start to finish, to help evolve this alongside developing behaviors.
But what is the key driver of this change? Technology.
Technology has and continues to transform every facet of our lives, from carrying tiny computers in our pockets that allow us to shop, connect, work, and create, to headsets – such as Microsoft’s iconic HoloLens – that augment the realities we perceive.
There’s no doubt that technology presents a potential threat to some organizations, but, as with dealing with customer expectations, it also represents the path to success. Although 86% believe digital has enabled the evolution of business and the creation of new services, many still find it a challenge to put theory into practice.
Business leaders do, however, feel ready to face the digital age with nine-in-10 (89%) confident their company is ready to meet the demands of the digital customer. With the vast amounts of data that organizations generate and collect, any conversation around technology these days inevitably throws up two huge factors; security and privacy.
With 84% of business leaders revealing it’s important to their customers that they know where their data is being stored, it was unnerving to see that more than half (54%) find storing data securely extremely difficult.
Bearing that in mind with the fact that the General Data Protection Regulation comes into force in just over six months, it’s never been more important for organisations to put data privacy at the top of their priority list.
After all, letting data privacy take a back seat has the potential to cause irreparable – both financially and reputational – damage to customer relationships. What better example of this than TalkTalk’s breach in 2016 which saw the company face a jaw-dropping loss of £60m, not to mention the fact that over 100,000 customers left during its third quarter.
Disrupt or be disrupted - what this means for organisations? It is encouraging to see that business leaders appreciate the importance of technology in enabling and supporting the modern customer relationship. But, it’s clear more must be done.
Now is the time to put customer experience first, and to put them at the heart of the organisation’s technology strategy. Otherwise, the competition will win the battle for the customer.