Rethinking the Future Customer Experience for the ‘Always on’ Customer

Customer-centric business strategies have become the new phenomenon, as organizations position themselves to become leaders in their respective industries. A good customer experience strategy works in tandem with solid customer and business strategies. While the Business Strategy focuses on growing profitability and shaping a company to be a market leader, a Customer Strategy (CS) defines how a company intends to deliver long term value to customers while generating returns for the business. With a concrete customer base, an Experience Strategy should be developed to express the company’s identity, resulting in experiences that customers value; it is the ‘human’ face of the organization, that listens to, speaks to and empathizes with the customers. According to Forbes’ September 2019 issue by Blake Morgan (a Customer Experience Futurist), 73% of customers say a good customer experience is key in influencing their brand loyalty and customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that do not focus on customers.

By Wreford Momanyi and Annitah Mukoli

Customer Experience (CX) is the aggregate impact of every customer interaction with the company’s products, services and channels. It is about creating a lasting impression with customers and shaping how they think of your brand across every stage of the customer journey. It is about building brand loyalty and affinity and intentionally creating truly authentic customer connections that last a lifetime.

In order to remain relevant and competitive, today’s organizations are constantly working to personalize their customer’s experience; calling for deeper customer insights e.g. predictive shopping behaviors, spend, influencers/drivers, shopping baskets, associations etc. through data and analytics, which are used to refine the business strategy and customer strategy. In the current business environment where everything, including customer behavior is changing so fast, business agility is key. Rise of the ‘Always On’ Customer The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the rise of the ‘always on’ customer. According to a Forbes’ article by Mark Beech in March 2020, the pandemic had resulted in a surge in internet use by 70% and streaming by more than 12%. Similar figures were also reported by Reuters in April 2020 – where Kenya’s top telecoms operator Safaricom saw a 70% surge in data usage as people stayed home to curb the spread of COVID-19 s.

According to a research by Statistica on the impact of COVID-19 as of June 2020 (week ending June 14, 2020), online transactions increased by 32.9% compared to the reference period of January and February 2020. With most retail customers shifting to online platforms, companies’ strengths and weaknesses in terms of their relationships with customers has been put under a spotlight - forcing them to redesign their customer experience strategies to reflect the change in the customer journey.

According to PwC’s 2018 Future of Customer Experience Survey, 59% of global consumers surveyed felt companies were losing out on the human element of customer experience even before the crisis - and now more consumers might be struggling to navigate the many friction points of the “new normal” and need a human touch even more.

As a result of this, what ‘always on’ customers care about most right now might be changing. Brands with the best price, most attractive product, or most memorable marketing campaign might not have an advantage compared with those that exhibit emotional intelligence and communicate with care, honesty, and empathy, and build trust as a result. In times of crisis, people want to be seen and understood, and they are extremely sensitive to tone and motive.

The four key drivers of ‘Always on’ customers include:

  1. Social – Rise of social networks has had a great influence on customers globally. Customers’ behavior and sentiments towards products and services are being greatly influenced by their social circles; and companies are now leveraging social intelligence to deliver value in order to improve customer loyalty.
  2. Mobile – Mobile technology has penetrated nearly every corner of the globe - smartphone adoption stood at 65% globally and 45% in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2019 while mobile internet penetration stood at 61% globally and 45% in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2019, according to GSMA’s Mobile Economy 2020 report. Mobile technology accounts for well over half of the traffic to web sites today and provides mobile enabled solutions that enable customers to connect with businesses on the move.
  3. Cloud - Internet of Everything (IoE) is taking shape. Mobile devices are increasingly connected to objects and physical places through cloud platforms, making it more convenient for customers to shop online.
  4. Technology Advances – which are eliminating barriers to entry, leading new competitors to challenge or upend established players by offering these “always on” customers value in new ways. Getting close to the customer and giving them a good experience has become table stakes in today’s environment—and CEOs know that they need to do more than that to keep their customers happy.

The most pressing question for companies today therefore is “How do I support my customers right now in a meaningful, human, and relevant way? And how do I develop strong relationships that will last in the long-term?”

Six customer experience practices can frame short-term responses to the ‘always-on’ customer, build resilience, and prepare customer-forward companies for success in the days after the pandemic:

  1. Understand demographics – Be genuine about understanding the behavior of the target market to effectively meet their needs. Developing customer patterns based on their demographics ensures a targeted approach for sales, marketing and customer engagement.
  2. Prioritise authenticity – Interact openly and honestly with your customers, ensuring your actions are consistent with your words and brand promise. Transparency, genuine care, and credibility outweigh clever marketing strategies at this time.
  3. Balance technology with personal touch – Since customers are always on, businesses need to ensure 24/7 availability of customer service. As more time passes after the worst of this pandemic, the apparent need to invest for technology investment in fault tolerant and high availability platforms such as cloud platforms and adoption of upcoming technologies will increase. Artificial Intelligence (AI) for example, is transforming customer service by employing chatbots which use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to provide interactive customer support, predict customers’ intents and perform desired actions.
  4. Recognize differences in customer journeys – Recognize that customer journeys are evolving in different ways around the world and adapting customer experience strategies e.g. personalization, self-serve options, omni-channel experience etc. to the different customer dynamics
  5. Build big data and predictive analytics capabilities – By investing in these capabilities, companies are learning whom to engage and how to engage them. Companies are now diving deep into customer analytics, sentimental analysis and using machine learning to predict future trends and inform their decision making.
  6. Reimagine customer experience for the ‘New Normal’ world – Changes in consumer preferences and business models occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic have become the new normal e.g. shift to online commerce; thus, businesses may have to think around permanence/longevity of their online customer experience strategies.

Keep in mind that the impact of the actions you take today will become the new normal and define the loyalty people have to your brand and your products.

Hence, the messages you put out in the marketplace must be grounded in the actual experience and needs of your customers, and those messages must be matched by your credible ability to deliver on them. Businesses that can earn customers’ trust in this way, will be able to build a connection today and in the future.

Bottom line is - know your customers. Get acquainted to your customers’ value systems, preferences and behaviors. Once you have accumulated this information, activate the useful content within your strategy translating it into long-term sustainable growth, profit, customer loyalty, reduced cost of service and marketing for your business. Customer experience (CX) may be a soft concept, but getting it right takes a tough-minded strategy.

Wreford Momanyi

Senior Associate, Advisory at PwC Kenya


T: +254 (20) 285 5000

Annitah Mukoli

Senior Associate, Advisory at PwC Kenya


T: +254 (20) 285 5000

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