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The Future of Customer Experience: What marketers really think

As COVID-19 dominates the news, one of the main discussion points among marketers is that customer experience (CX) will be the key for keeping businesses going through the crisis.

And, if the experts are correct, most of that experience will be digital. Research firm Gartner estimates that customers now manage 85% of their relationships with an enterprise - mostly through online touchpoints.

So, how well are companies facing the challenge? Are they able to satisfy customer needs through their digital services or are they stuck in the antiquated, offline world?

To find out, ClickAcademy, in association with Amazon Web Services, held roundtable discussions with client-side marketers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At the Future of Customer Experience table, hosted by Amol Mogadpally, SVP, Active Intelligence, attendees discussed their views on current CX trends as well as the obstacles they face when trying to improve CX at their companies. Below are highlights from the day's discussion.

1) Marketers are thinking of new ways to understand customer needs

A key part of providing excellent CX is understanding the customer's needs, sometimes even better than they do themselves.

To ascertain what customers are looking for when shopping in their category, marketers often conduct surveys, hold focus groups and even 'live' with customers to observe their in-home behaviours.

Some, however, said that they are working on new ways to become familiar with their customers and their needs using digital platforms. One participant said that social media listening is now part of everyday operations at their company and has yielded insights that would have been difficult to get in any other way. Others felt that engaging with customers on social media was a great way to understand their concerns and learn how to 'speak their language'.

2) Data-driven CX is becoming a reality

What was once only discussed at marketing events has now started to happen in the real world. Companies are now using data to improve their CX, some doing so dynamically.

According to one delegate, executives now understand that customer behaviour data is a much better indicator of what will drive future action than any one person's opinion. Marketers, too, have learned not to anticipate how customers will react to a change in the product or messaging, but to test and learn from experience.

3) Personalization is back on the agenda

As mentioned at the other table (Hyper personalization, see highlights of the discussion here), companies have once again become interested in personalization.

Whereas before it was seen as a 'nice to have', personalization is now being viewed as a competitive advantage when trying to provide superior CX. As apps and other online services have become more sophisticated and reactive to customer behaviour, brands, too, must follow suit or risk appearing 'behind the times', as one marketer put it.

Every customer has different likes and dislikes, said another attendee, and it's the marketer’s job to know these and respond appropriately on an individual basis. The difference now, however, is that personalization initiatives have management backing and they are 'no longer being treated as an interesting experiment'.

4) Many obstacles to achieving excellent CX remain

While participants were, overall, positive about the state of their CX programmes, many also admitted that there were many hurdles to overcome before they would be satisfied with their company's CX.

First off, delegates said that they are still having trouble assembling the data needed to truly personalize CX. One attendee said that at their company, different applications were being built for each segment, resulting in a big 'data mess'.

Additionally, another attendee said, companies struggle to get feedback from customers beyond observing digital behaviour. When a customer churns, 'they just leave' - and marketers are left guessing as to whether it was the CX or another reason for the departure. Also, without knowing the customers' expectations it is much harder to define the journey, said another.

Finally, everyone agreed, CX is being talked about a lot, but customer-centricity is not yet part of most companies’ culture. People want to improve CX metrics, but there is little agreement on the best way forward.

Still, marketers were, overall, positive about the future of CX and felt that things were 'going in the right direction' at most companies.

A word of thanks

Click Academy would like to thank Amol Mogadpally, SVP, Active Intelligence for moderating the Future of CX discussions and Robert Killory, Principal Business Development Manager, AWS for providing subject matter expertise throughout the day.

We'd also like to thank all the marketers who took time out of their schedules to attend and hope to see you at future Click Academy events!

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