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Three data-driven steps for building powerful customer experiences

There is a wealth of data out there that has the potential to transform the customer experience (CX). In an uncertain climate, CX could mean the difference between success and failure — so how can businesses get their hands on that data and use it wisely?

The uncertainty of the past year has tested organisations’ ability to respond to change — and many have come up short. More than three in four business leaders say that their organisations need to react faster, according to research by Fujitsu. But the continuing uncertainty and rapid pace of change are overwhelming, so where should they start? The customer, of course, comes first.

Customer experience is the priority

When, how and why customers interact with brands have all changed over the past year, and to survive, businesses need to change alongside them. To recognise and exploit new opportunities in this and any future crisis, organisations will have to captivate their customers online and in person, by creating “phygital” ( a mix of digital and physical) experiences across different customer channels.

The answer lies in data. In fact, Fujitsu’s research finds three in four businesses say data will be key for survival in 2021. Taking decisive, data-driven action at an increased speed is now critical to delivering a great customer experience (CX) – and doing so means organisations now need to unlock data insight in near real-time. 

For Danish retailer Coop, data is shaping the future of the whole organisation. “Instead of thinking of ourselves as a 156-year-old brick-and-mortar company, we think of ourselves as a data company,” says Morten Christiansen, the company’s Chief Information Officer. “What we have is our data. In a digital future, it is all about using that data to become more relevant for our customers.”

Here are three ways in which organisations can use their data to create a great CX.

 

1. Right data, right place, right time

As a user logs into their banking app, they are welcomed with their name, account balance and recommendations about products they might need, such as a credit card or a loan. It may not sound revolutionary, but this is an example that other industries should consider modelling.

To gain real-time access to this data and create personalised recommendations, businesses need to democratise and decentralise their data. They also need tools to analyse it and feed insights back to consumers as well as employees and systems to help them serve customers more effectively.

There are many tools that can help, and almost all of them are cloud-enabled. “Modern enterprise data estates are becoming more decentralised,” says Jason Rees, Vice President, Technology Solutions and Cloud Engineering for UK, Israel, The Netherlands and BeLux at Oracle. “So businesses need to freely stream and govern their data across clouds.”

But this does not mean that all the data needs to be moved to the cloud from the start. For organisations that have acquired large amounts of data over the years, such as those in the public sector or in the financial services industry, it might be easier to go straight to the source. 

“Rather than moving all this data around to exploit it, organisations can first analyse the data close to, or in, the source system — where possible — to get value from it quickly,” explains Rees. For instance, a retailer might struggle to move all its historically accumulated customer data quickly, safely, and inexpensively to the cloud. The same applies to historically accumulated financial or operations data, which the organisation might use for enterprise resource planning. In both examples, the data could be analysed in the source system, and only the insights required moved to a centralised data source, where they can inform further decisions. “This way, complexity can be reduced, data security improved, and data consistently maintained,” Rees adds.

 

2. Prepare your people and infrastructure 

Organisations need to create the right environment, digitally and culturally, for data insights to be shared and acted on. 

Tap into modern platforms to exploit data 

Old back-end technology is a major barrier to effective data use. Organisations will need to expand their adoption of modern application environments and architectures that can replace their existing legacy ones, or facilitate use of data remaining in existing systems, similar to the example above. In fact, 75 per cent of organisations say that modernising applications is essential to staying competitive, according to Fujitsu’s research.

For Coop, this has been a vital initiative. “Instead of supporting a big back-end machine, we need to focus on interacting in real-time with our customers, which is a completely different ballgame,” says Christiansen. “Changing our IT backbone to be able to handle that is a big initiative for us — we are running a huge SAP program and all kinds of other initiatives to be able to support that journey.”

But Christiansen cautions that organisations should remember to strike a balance between long-term investment and short-term plans. “You never know what the customer uptake will be, so you have to experiment, and therefore cannot focus on the backend alone,” he says. “Yes, you have to renew your legacy, but in parallel you need to experiment.” The two are inextricably linked – by modernising legacy systems, organisations can free up resources, financial or talent, for experimentation, allowing them to invest less on keeping the lights on and more on moving the business forward.

 

Empower everyone to make decisions with data

To enable their people to use data and new technologies, organisations should facilitate a mindset shift. One way to do this is by empowering frontline staff to drive the adoption of new technologies using data. 

Our in-store employees have not always adopted technology quickly,” says Christiansen. “For instance, our app allows customers to self-scan and pay for products without having to queue or interact with cashiers. However, the share of total transactions done this way is 6 percent in some stores, and about 25 percent in others. The difference is that in the latter the head of the store has seen the value of the technology and encouraged adoption.”

3. Personalise the customer experience 

“Hyper-personalisation is where you really bring value to your clients,” says Marco Eijsackers, who is Global Digital Transformation Lead at ING. “At the same time, you want to leverage your brand and a common technology to scale and grow.”

ING is doing this through its banking app. “Together with the use of data and a wide range of offerings through our platform, we give our customers a unique and seamless user experience, while simultaneously giving them the trust of a recognised brand (or app for that matter),” says Eijsackers. 

ING is also exploring new, exciting features such as face ID. “We will also introduce identification with face ID, which will make it even easier for our clients to use the app” says Eijsackers. “And this also means customers won’t have to go through a branch anymore.” In a post-pandemic world, this will certainly be a welcome shift for consumers.

Innovating to enhance the customer experience is not easy, but organisations are not alone: partnerships can help them to unlock new opportunities. ING, for instance, is using artificial intelligence to provide personalised recommendations. For example, when shopping online, at checkout a consumer might see a suggestion to pay in instalments through ING. “This is made possible,” says Eijsackers, “By entering partnerships and making client data available in a secure way.” 

 

Making data the north star

While organisations such as ING and Coop are making moves to maximise data value, many are yet to tap into its potential to augment CX. Doing so would enable them to improve their customer service quickly and iteratively across channels by adapting to evolving customer expectations precisely when, or even before, they change. 

The data to do this is there in vast amounts – whether sitting in silos waiting to be unlocked, or more readily available through cloud-driven digital services. 

The Covid-19 crisis showed business that data has the potential to keep them afloat – and help them thrive – as rapid change threatens to capsize them. Those who can exploit it through systems and people seamlessly will delight customers and drive growth during a time of continued uncertainty – a key characteristic of the adaptive organisations that will prosper in future.

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