With several years having passed since the original ‘tech boom’, technology has now deeply embedded itself within our everyday lives. Whether it’s for communication or entertainment, the rapid evolution of technology has meant it is now most people’s ‘norm’.
Today, consumers not only desire better content, but also experiences that are personalised to them. You would expect therefore, that all marketers are keenly awaiting the latest technological developments so that they can use them to optimise the digital customer experience (CX). However, the reality is far less straightforward. Research by Acquia, which surveyed 1,000 UK-based customers and 100 UK-based marketers, has highlighted that difficulties with joining legacy systems with new innovations is continuing to cause a barrier between marketers and their CX goals.
In fact, when asked about the challenges that they are currently facing, 84 per cent of marketers admitted that despite attempts to make their technologies work together, they were unable to make it happen. Considering that more than half of them had over 11 technologies in their CX portfolio, this should come as no real surprise.
Yet whilst the challenge of using technology to enhance CX may be substantial, businesses cannot simply avoid the problem anymore. In the modern landscape, there is a substantial difference between marketers’ and customers perceptions of a brand’s CX. Despite more than 90 per cent of brands having confidence in it, more than half of consumers said the brands they interacted with failed to provide a good experience.
Naturally, this is an incredibly alarming situation for brands. In a crowded marketplace, CX is crucial for long-term business prosperity. Such is the impact of poor CX that Acquia’s research has even revealed that 71 per cent of customers said they would transfer their custom to a competitor if they preferred the experience that was provided.
The power of technology
Technology has the ability to revolutionise an organisation’s customer experience, but only if it is applied properly. The rise of AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants are the latest innovations that have allowed brands to personalise the customer experience. However, 75 per cent of consumers in this study said that automated responses can actually feel impersonal, with many feeling like they were treated as a generic customer as a result.
Organisations that want to connect with these consumers must find a way to use websites, apps and other high-tech tools to deliver an enhanced CX. After all, it appears there is now overwhelming support for tech-enhanced CX amidst today’s consumers - with 88 per cent of customers believing that technology should enhance their online experiences with brands and 85 per cent agreeing that technology should improve brand experience generally. Brands must remember, however, that the type of technology applied really does matter: for example, less than half of those customers asked were looking forward to artificial intelligence (AI)-driven brand interactions.
Only once companies recognise the importance of delivering an effective online experience, will they invest in new technology solutions. According to these new statistics, when companies were asked about their investment plans over the next 12 months, 90 per cent planned to invest in personalisation technologies, 85 per cent in the Internet of Things (IoT), 82 per cent in AI and machine learning and 77 per cent in links with smart in-home devices like Alexa and Apple’s iHome.
One of the trickiest barriers to success is the challenge of using existing and new technology to upgrade CX, without making that interaction seem artificial, impersonal and/or generic. Falling into this trap will alienate customers, and be highly detrimental to customer engagement. Doing that, or worse, doing nothing at all, is a sure-fire way of alienating customers who, as we have seen, are highly motivated to take their business elsewhere.
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Integration is key
Technology can play an important role for brands, by helping to improve speed, efficiency and convenience. Unfortunately, with so much to offer, many UK marketers are still struggling to achieve this. According to three-quarters of marketers surveyed, the current speed at which they can bring CX innovations to market is too slow. We know this is a challenge often caused by legacy systems, that stall success by making the integration of new communications more or less impossible.
In order to overcome these barriers – brands need to implement new tech solutions into the CX as soon as they become available. How? Open source allows marketers to create the experiences customers want, with more power, resources, and ultimately, freedom. They will also benefit from near-constant surveillance and a more aggressive update schedule than proprietary options, including upgrades that address potential vulnerabilities in software as soon as they are discovered.
While many digitally-minded marketers appreciate the benefits of open platforms, some are deterred by the investments they have already made in their current and legacy systems. Yet the sunk cost fallacy can be particularly damaging here. Increasingly, more and more businesses are now recognising the importance of technology and how it can positively improve CX.
If a system cannot integrate the latest solutions, and fails to understand its customer’s needs (and according to Acquia’s survey, customers are very far from delighted as things stand) this will damage the relationship between a business and its customers, resulting in poor brand loyalty.
A positive CX doesn’t just make people feel good, it translates into tangible business outcomes. If businesses want to enhance their CX, embracing an open approach is the most effective way to help achieve this. By putting customers first and investing in digital experiences, this aids a business to foster long-term loyalty and build better relationships with its customers.
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Steve Williamson, general manager and senior vice president of EMEA, Acquia