The rise of the customer

By Amit Kaundinya

In a market where customer experience trumps product as a competitive advantage, businesses are constantly faced with the challenge of providing customers with the experience that they are looking for. Today’s customers are both savvy and demanding, knowing what they want and expecting to get it when they want it. This is invariably immediately.

While the product is still what attracts customers, the ability to provide a unique and consistent customer experience that is attuned to the customer’s requirements, is the true key to customer retention. Brand loyalty has become a thing of the past and customers are quick to switch brands if they are not happy with the service or level of interaction they are receiving.  Organisations need to ensure they are leveraging all available technologies in order to tailor their services to suit the market, or risk losing business to those competitors who are.

Luckily, we are also living in a world where there is a vast amount of data streaming in from all channels, giving organisations the information they need to identify who their customers are, and pinpoint exactly what they want – sometimes before they even know it themselves. Typically, customers will stay with the brands who know them best and are able to offer them what they want based on that knowledge. Big Data and data analytics provides organisations with a 360-degree view of their customers, enabling them to target customers in a way they’ve not been able to before.

The power of mobile is something which brands are becoming increasingly conscious of. Not only does mobile enable real time interaction with customers and potential customers, the data generated by mobile activity offers businesses a host of benefits. Mobile applications (apps) provide organisations with access to a lot of previously inaccessible information about their customers, giving brands the ability to know and interact with their customer on a new level. For example, a brand can use location based services to know where their customers are at any given time and develop targeted campaigns around this information, extending their reach and – often – maximising their bottom line.

Customers also enjoy being able to interact with businesses digitally, usually through a mobile app or via social media. Being able to use an app to view, order, buy and track delivery of products and services, as well as make suggestions or raise complaints, gives customers an instant and direct connection with that business. The importance of the mobile app is such that, much in the same way as websites were to companies a few years ago, if an organisation doesn’t have an app, they almost don’t exist.

Another platform which has totally disrupted the way that customers interact with brands is social media. While social media can be used very effectively for viral advertising campaigns and targeted marketing, it has also become a vastly popular platform for the airing of consumer grievances. A single tweet can effectively make or break a brand. And customers know this. This new power that they wield means that organisations need to have a well-defined social media strategy to react immediately and appropriately to customer queries and complaints in a personalized manner. How quickly – a business responds to a matter raised on social media can determine how the brand is viewed going forward.

It also provides a wealth of information to the astute business, along with mobile apps and other communication platforms. Brands that utilise data analytics in a proper and well-planned manner to scan these unstructured sources of data will have a better insight into the mind of their customer and will be best positioned to leverage this information.

While embracing an omni-channel, or multi-channel, communication strategy is important, what has become even more vital is that brands give their customers a consistent and seamless experience across all channels. Customers wish to have their needs met whether they interact telephonically, via mobile app or through social media. Businesses need to ensure that they can provide all services in a similar manner across all platforms.

The saying, ‘the customer is king,’ has never held more true than it does today, with customers holding all the cards. Those businesses who wish to stay ahead need to be not only providing their customers what they want, when they want it, but also cleverly using the data generated by their customers to further entrench themselves and secure their success for the future.

Amit Kaundinya - Digital Business Advisor- Connected Enterprise Services, Wipro Limited and Gavin Holme, Business Head, South Africa, Wipro Limited

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