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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, RETAIL | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Gaurav Srivastava

Measuring the customer experience whilst connecting with customers

BY GAURAV SRIVASTAVA

As consumers increasingly move from their traditional in-store shopping habits to researching, choosing and purchasing products on-line, customer experience has become the mantra for today's marketers.  They strive to reach the customer at every touchpoint along the journey, looking to deliver personalised experiences that will not only close the sale but keep the customer coming back for more.

The aim is to know your customers so completely that you can entice them to not only remain loyal to you, but also to evangelise to others about you – and that’s the most valuable form of advertising there is.

This means creating a relationship with the customer that is good not just for today, but for the foreseeable future. In this fast-changing, increasingly digital world, building strong customer relationships like this is the key to building a great business. The challenge is even greater now as global disruptions occur with alarming regularity—whether it's political unrest, economic meltdowns or a pandemic.

How can brands best build lasting relationships with their customers, and measure their value?

A new, global study called Experience 2030: The Future of Customer Experience provides insights into the mind of the future consumer and on the actions brands can take now to grow, evolve and thrive, for the long term.

A key finding of the study is that by 2030, 67 percent of digital customer engagements between a brand and consumer will be completed by smart machines rather than humans. And by 2030, 69 percent of the decisions that are made today during a customer engagement by human agents, will be completed by smart machines.

According to the report, brands are investing heavily in emerging tech to face new realities. For example, 54 percent of brands are investing in augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) to help consumers visualise the look or use of a product or service remotely. And 53 percent of brands are pursuing AR/VR tools to improve product use and self-help.

Locally,  Forrester’s CX Index data that surveyed financial brands in Singapore shows that how an experience makes customers feel, has a bigger influence on their loyalty to a brand than effectiveness or ease.

There is no doubt that smart technology will be able to aggregate mountains of customer data from online channels and beyond and extract valuable insight from that data with speed and precision.
Analysis of this treasure trove of data will facilitate the kinds of measurement that the C-Suite wants to see from their colleagues in marketing - measurements that link investment to business outcomes.

According to Forrester’s APAC 2021 Predictions, it is expected that the spend on loyalty and retention marketing will increase by 30%. Therefore, measuring the return on marketing investment (ROMI) becomes more paramount than ever considering the increased scrutiny for budget allocation and optimisation, across the region. Types of measurement include:

  • Customer engagement measures. This category examines the effectiveness of your customer experience efforts -- in other words, the health of your customer relationships.
  • Operations performance measures. This category assesses the efficiency of customer experience activities.
  • Corporate business measures. This category assesses customer experience contribution to overall corporate value.

Corporate metrics incorporate available financial and market data to link customer engagement and operational performance to the firm's top and bottom lines. Examples of this include revenue, growth, margins, market and wallet share, and other productivity measures. Tying everything together, these metrics are often the ones that matter most to the executive team.

These are sophisticated approaches to marketing metrics that regional companies, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), would be wise to study and adopt. The purpose of measuring customer experience is well understood - after all, if you don't measure you can't improve. However, as the nature of retail changes and customer behaviour becomes more complex and sophisticated, simple customer satisfaction surveys are no longer going to provide the insights that brands need for enduring growth and success.

There is one crucial caveat to the technological revolution that is transforming customer experience, and that is a generally held negative view of marketing.  Consumers don't want to feel they are being marketed to.  They want a partnership with the organisations they buy from; they want to feel understood, listened to, and appreciated. Therefore, great care must be taken to ensure that the technology does not get in the way or de-personalise the relationship.

A research study found for example that despite the increasing use of chatbots, consumers for the most part continue to want human interaction. Apart from the convenience of 24-hour service, respondents to the study consistently said live chats with human beings were preferable to chatbots for a variety of reasons, including convenience, ease of communication and good customer experience.

Data analytics has an unprecedented ability to provide insights that, when acted on correctly, will deliver experiences that enhance the relationship. However, this capability must never make the customer feel they are the subject of a digital experiment.

As organisations set their experience measurement framework to map their customers' journeys, their aim must be to create customer intelligence. They must rigorously identify the touchpoints that leave indelible impressions and develop metrics for each of those critical interactions.

The objective is to truly understand the customer, and that means the actionable insights derived from these measurements should go beyond short-term objectives or higher conversation rates.

With the multitude of data that can be derived from a customer – From their search and click behaviour, to their email responses and their purchase decisions and more, there is much potential to truly understand the customer.

And customers are looking for better, more memorable experiences. Singapore has seen a 12 times spike post-lockdown in search volumes for staycations, according to the Google e-Conomy SEA 2020 report. This provides local brands a great opportunity to create a more emotionally bound journey for customers to boost their confidence and increase their brand loyalty. And every little improvement to a brand's customer experience could be a potential revenue booster for the business, in the current market.

With purchase decisions more often driven by emotion than by logic, the ability of data analytics to measure sentiment brings with it a multitude of possibilities for brands to establish an empathetic connection with their customers, and to take personalisation to the next level.

At the end of the day, the key is in balancing what that customer experience measurement result tells while capturing the heart of your customers.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Gaurav Srivastava

Gaurav Srivastava

As the Head of Customer Intelligence (CI) for ASEAN at SAS, Gaurav empowers enterprises with practical applications of Artificial Intelligence and Decisioning to enable extraordinary experience,
maximise customer lifetime value and improve customer centricity.

Prior to SAS, he has worn multiple hats at conglomerates like Deloitte, Oracle as well as startups. Previously, he was aboard at DBS Bank in a regional advisory role driving the bank’s transition from being a product-centric organization to the one where customer is at the center through data-driven customer journeys.

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