Don’t Fall into the Widening Customer Experience Gap
by Betsy Burton
Consumers and businesses do not want to be viewed as living in two distinct worlds (physical and virtual). And yet, many of the traditional retail, banking/investment, travel/hospitality organizations have not integrated their back-end or front-end systems so that they can provide their customers with an integrated customer context experience, even after all of their investment in CRM—nor are their technology providers helping reach this goal.
The Widening Gap
The widening gap is that while your customers and partners are increasingly and seamlessly operating in a hybrid virtual/physical world, your business is still operating as if it has different online and brick and mortar customers. In fact, in some cases, consumer and business customers must speak with a different customer service agent depending on the channel they use.
I recently experienced two events that highlighted this gap—even as the organizations believe they are pursuing digital business (See Demystifying Digital Business Myths).
Define a Strategy That Bridges the Gap
I recently visited a “big box” retailer store to return a product that I had purchased online. During this process, I quickly realized that the retailer had no insight into my online and in-store purchases. They had no idea that I was a frequent customer, nor did they have any idea what types of products I had purchased. At that moment, my customer context was only that of a person who happened to walk into their store. After a bit of scrambling, the customer service person admitted that they have completely different systems for handling online (virtual world) purchases versus in-store (physical world) purchases.
I am sure this is a very common experience for many of you. Regardless of whether you are operating B2B or B2C, retailers, financial services and investment organizations, service providers, travel and hospitality and government, organizations often have independent systems depending on the sales and service channel.
In our increasingly complex hybrid worlds, a customer may be a partner, a reviewer/recommender, operating in multiple channels, and increasingly with AI, may not be the primary one making purchases.
Technology Providers Must Help Their Customers Bridge The Gap
A cloud service provider recently briefed me on their customer relationship management and customer analytics products. Their product is specifically focused on large retailers selling to consumers (B2C), and on helping them build a profile of their customer and customer buying patterns. They even supported some rich predictive capabilities. The problem is that they only tracked customer experience and engagement for the virtual world.
The big gap is that they are only solving part of the problem—or rather missing a large opportunity. Most of the retailers they have worked with are struggling to reinvent their business to operating and engage in omni-channels—yet as a technology provider they were perpetuating the stovepipe channel view.
Leading Organizations are Changing the Game
Yes, organizations that started online are in an enviable position (Amazon, Overstocked, Expedia, Alibaba, etc.). Everything they sell is online, so they can provide their customers with a highly customized experience, and build detailed customer analytics, even as they move more into the physical world.
But let’s also consider more traditional businesses that have made the leap. Look at healthcare providers; many of them have invested in, or rather HIPA required them to invest in, the infrastructure to support an integrated patient view and experience. Today, with most of the healthcare providers, patients have a seamless experience between email, tele- and video- medicine and in person visits. However, anyone who followed the healthcare industry knows this required significant cultural, organizations, business process and technology investment.
We have passed the tipping point. Your customers and partners expect you to know their context and be able to provide them an experience and customers journey that is based on their experience—not a stovepipe view of them in the moment. It is time to invest, or put your business at risk.
- Begin to develop a business-driven architecture that is based on outside-in view on your business (See Time For New Business Perspectives: Outside-in).
- Look for products and services that either enable an integrated channel customer view, or that partners with others to deliver integrated solutions.
Over the next few months, we will be producing more research to help organizations make the right business and technology investments to meet the demands of customers in a digital business-driven world.