Cape Town - By 2020 customer experience will overtake product and price as the key brand differentiator, according to a report by customer intelligence consulting firm Walker.
"The customer of 2020 will be more informed and in charge of the experience they receive. They will expect companies to know their individual needs and personalise the experience. Immediate resolution will not be fast enough as customers will expect companies to proactively address their current and future needs," according to the report.
"As customer expectations shift, companies are forced to adapt. To be relevant in 2020, companies must focus on leveraging big data to create a single source of truth and making customer intelligence accessible throughout the enterprise."
At the same time the Institute of Customer Service has found that a customer’s intellectual and emotional engagement with a purchase will be the driving factor that will determine future decisions.
This means more emphasis needs to be placed on the experience a company delivers to create a competitive advantage, according to Fatima Sullivan, vice-president of customer services for DHL Express sub-Saharan Africa.
“If the customer is not the key focus in all activities, whether it is improvements in delivery times or query resolution processes, efforts are wasted. Customers know what they want, and how they want it. You just need to listen to them,” said Sullivan.
“The voice of the customer is, therefore, an important element to consider when planning your strategies. Customers want to engage with companies who can not only provide a service, but are able to tailor-make solutions and respond quickly to changing demands."
She said engaged customers understand that things go wrong sometimes, but they need to trust that you are able to recover from it in a fast and professional manner. Customers should also be able to access various escalation channels easily.
"It’s not just about problem resolution but more importantly, about determining the root cause, and to ensure that the problem does not occur again," said Sullivan.
“We need to make sure that every individual in the business understands the impact they can have on the customer experience, and focus on the smaller details that drive quality."