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More is more: Delivering a seamless customer experience with a unified digital ecosystem

(Image credit: Image Credit: M247)

A strong product or service no longer guarantees growth. Today, businesses grow because they make it remarkably easy for buyers to do business with them. Your customer experience has to be easy for buyers to navigate. More than easy: it has to be seamless.

But delivering a seamless customer experience is a challenge. Consumers are impatient, their expectations are high and speed is essential. Recent research by HubSpot shows that an overwhelming majority of consumers find an immediate response from companies important (82 per cent when it comes to marketing or sales questions, and 90 per cent when it comes to customer support). These respondents expected a response within 10 minutes or less.

The UK is no exception. According to research conducted by Accenture, British B2B business executives' expectations about personalised experiences and end-to-end solutions are significantly higher than they were just a few years ago. And what’s more - 75 per cent believe customer experience will be even more important in the next two years.

With the Covid-19 pandemic having far-reaching impacts on businesses, the flexibility and resilience offered by true digital technology ecosystems is more important than ever. Savvy organisations will use the current crisis as an opportunity to re-evaluate their approaches towards digital technology and the related ecosystems to ensure smooth and continued operations, as well as to give themselves an edge over competitors when business as usual resumes. The basic function of enabling remote working has succeeded where core technologies, had broader digital and partner ecosystems that could integrate easily and securely. For example, HubSpot is a core sales and marketing automation platform that integrates easily with Zoom, with Okta, with Slack, with G Suite and O365, thus enabling remote working in a heartbeat.

The fight against complexity

As customer expectations shift towards convenience, seamless experiences and speed, managing the customer journey becomes increasingly complex. This is particularly true when it comes to software. On average, a mid-sized business uses more than 75 pieces of software and works with at least five different service providers just to cover their full customer experience - and somehow, they're still finding gaps. This proliferation of tools and partners can lead to a fragmented experience for your company and customers if all the components don’t align. British businesses are at particular risk of seeing these gaps. According to Accenture, 60 per cent of executives note that external partners influence more than 25 per cent of their company’s yearly revenue.

This proliferation of tools and providers isn’t a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s necessary to create a good customer experience - it’s impossible for even the largest businesses to do everything themselves. But trying to build a seamless experience with those 75+ tools can unintentionally create silos between teams.

For example, live chat is often managed by a single team, while research shows that consumers use this communication channel throughout the customer journey. If different teams use different or disconnected systems, this leads to disconnected data across an organisation. If you want to grow, you need a single source of truth - nothing kills growth as much as decentralised systems, which leads teams to make decisions based on different or incomplete data sets. This is why seamless customer experience is hard to achieve - connecting all these different pieces and creating a 360-degree view of the customer takes time, money, and skill.

You can learn to integrate…

Does this mean that you have to use fewer tools, or that you have to instruct different teams to consider using only one tool? No.  Removing tools won’t always close the gap between consumer expectations and business complexity - this approach often limits the kind of experience you are trying to build.

The solution lies in integrating your software into one digital ecosystem. Use a platform that centralises your data by linking all your different apps and tools. This way your data is consistent across your entire enterprise and different teams can work together, confident that they all have the same view of the customer. This ultimately benefits buyers, which in turn receives a more consistent and superior experience.

... and also how to delegate!

A digital ecosystem also makes it easier to scale, because it provides context for service providers. They are often overlooked in the context of integration, or they are ignored because "we can do it all ourselves." But partners are often the best way to scale quickly. As an old African proverb goes:  If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Sometimes it's better to hire a band for your party than to learn to play an instrument yourself. This is no different for companies. Every company has gaps in the customer journey that is sometimes better filled by specialised partners. In the UK, the opportunity is massive. As the Accenture research reveals, three-quarters (74 per cent) of CEOs in the B2B space acknowledge they want to get better at leveraging ecosystems to deliver superior customer experiences.

But what’ll happen to your data? Does working with other service providers mean decentralisation? There is no reason to think that. By integrating your partners into your own ecosystem, you retain control over your entire customer journey - and your data.

A living, breathing system

Not only does a true ecosystem allow you to break down barriers and service your customers better on a day to day basis, but it also allows you to respond and pivot in periods of change or crisis. This is because altering your business model or ways of working quickly is nigh impossible when using various pieces of software that don’t integrate well one another or are only loosely stitched together – you might be able to get everything working in harmony for business as usual, but this falls apart when things come under stress and change is needed.

When there’s a need to open up new revenue streams, having a simple platform with all your data in one place makes it much easier to adapt and change. If that platform has an array of integrations and partners then that only serves to make adapting and growing easier.

This is key for any business that wants to grow better, because your ecosystem should be a living, changing system that grows with your business. Say goodbye to silos, to black boxes, to miscommunication between teams. Replace it with an ecosystem that integrates your teams and partners and centralises your data. As a result, you will meet your customers’ high expectations by creating experiences that they will truly enjoy and remember - and they will reward you for it.

Ed Barrett Senior Director, EMEA Partner Sales, HubSpot

Ed Barrett is Sales Director, EMEA at HubSpot. He specialises in helping all businesses, from startups through to large enterprises, to grow better through effective sales and marketing.