Reimagining Customer Experience in the Age of Remote Work

Many analysts, including myself, have repeatedly written about us having entered a new normal, which is enforced by a so-called green swan event—an event that according to BIS is “extremely [financially] disruptive and that could be behind a systemic [financial] crisis” (brackets set by Thomas Wieberneit). Supply chains are broken, employees need to work from home, stores are forced to close for prolonged periods, and so on.

This has the potential to seriously harm the base function of a business, which is helping their customers solve their problems. Looking at the pyramid of customer expectations, businesses are often barely, if at all, able to maintain its lowest level—the level of effectiveness. They are far from making it easy for their customers or even providing them with a joyful experience when interacting and engaging with them.

Figure 1: The hierarchy of customer expectations

Figure 1: The hierarchy of customer expectations

Yet, we are in an era where products and services themselves get increasingly deprecated, so the experience becomes the main distinguishing factor for continued success.

Still, not all organisations are set up to deal with this. Most are not resilient enough to fend off or even mitigate the disruption caused by a crisis. Some organisations are affected more than others. So are the people who work in these organizations.

  • Salespeople cannot interact with their customers in the "usual" way anymore, since they cannot go out and visit them currently.

  • Customer service professionals need to change how they collaborate with their colleagues, since they cannot just ask their neighbour anymore.

  • Marketing teams cannot create and host offline events due to distance and meeting restrictions.

  • Finance departments find it challenging to create invoices in time because information, advice, data and documents are less accessible.

  • Bonding between colleagues works differently now, as there is no coffee corner anymore, nor the common smoke. Social interactions in general work differently now.

  • Stores can only serve a very limited number of customers, if at all, again, due to distance and meeting restrictions.

These are different problems and need different solutions. Their result is that both employees and customers are dissatisfied.

However, looking at the examples above, two common themes emerge:

  • People cannot interact with each other as they are used to.

  • Processes that rely on siloed, best-of-breed implementations break down.

The good news is that they have two common denominators: culture and technology.

I wrote a while ago about the role of culture: Employees make, and want to make, customers happy. Therefore, the company culture needs a relentless focus on the customer, and it is the role of management to make employees happy, so that they can do what they want to do.

Culture is the foundation of a business's ability to be an integral part of solving its customers' problems.

Then, there is the question of technology. Employees' ability to provide customers with a good experience requires powerful applications, built upon a strong platform, which big companies like Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, or SAP, and also emerging players like Zoho, provide.

Wisely selecting a platform and gradually integrating processes and data on it to serve people—employees and ultimately customers—is key to business resilience.

Figure 2: The building blocks of a customer experience platform

Figure 1: The building blocks of a customer experience platform

This platform provides four elements:

  • A strong technology platform that holds and exposes the main capabilities that all enterprise software needs to create a great experience: analytics, integration, machine learning/AI, IoT services, blockchain, database access, security, no-code/low-code development services, to name just a few of the more important ones. An organization's ability to innovate and while maintaining a stable core depends on this.

  • Insight, i.e. actionable information with the objective of achieving an outcome. Insight is what enables companies or individuals to turn raw data into actions that yield positive results for customers and therefore for themselves. This data may be structured or unstructured, transactional or behavioural, etc. This may be first-party, second-party, or third-party data. Through the use of analytics, data can be turned into information, and through the use of advanced analytics and AI, into insight. The services to enable this are delivered via the technology platform.

  • Efficient collaboration, based on insight, is not only necessary for people, but for interacting software systems as well; it is crucial for an effective process automation. Productivity is about effective and efficient process automation, where possible, combined with an efficient way for people to get their jobs done. Especially within a business, but also across businesses, people need to collaborate easily and efficiently. This requires a lot of tools, services, and a strong data sharing ability. It also requires people to interact with computers not in the computer way, but the same way people interact. This is one of the main reasons for the rise of speech and voice interfaces.

  • And finally, an ecosystem of customers and partners, that enables scale. This scale is achieved by building and nurturing an ecosystem of partners. Some partners develop solutions that augment the core ones; other partners implement solutions across the ecosystem. To be accepted, it needs to distribute the value it generates fairly and transparently to all involved parties.

As said above, only a few software vendors are capable of providing this kind of platform, along with the relevant business applications and a culture based on being part of the solution, not the problem. One of them being Zoho, which recently invited me to their analyst briefing 2020. Many thanks again to Sandra Lo for inviting me to this enlightening event.

Want to learn more about how you can set your business up to be able to deliver the same high customer experience in a post-COVID-19 world? Then join me in this webinar (in German) and discuss how you can leverage the opportunities created by these circumstances.

I am looking forward to discussing with you!

Thomas Wieberneit

PS: The post was originally posted here.


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