Most Australian organisations now realise that customer experience (CX) is an important – if not the most important – single factor impacting their success.
But which CX trends have been most important this year? Which verticals in Australia are working hardest to improve and which still have some work to do? And how important is employee experience (EX) to the CX equation? To find out the answer to these questions and more we spoke to our very own CX expert, Stephanie Bauer, Head of CX Consulting.
FQ: So what’s been the hot topic in the world of CX this year?
SB: Probably the two things that most people are talking about are artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots. This year we’ve seen more organisations planning to trial chatbots, which will have a significant impact on cost-to-serve. However, a lot of organisations are still not at a point of maturity in terms of their technology platforms and they are still really struggling to provide a seamless experience across channels.
FQ: Has the rise of AI been gradual or did it really just burst onto the scene this year?
SB: It is still at its really early stages. There’s probably only around 2 per cent of organisations in Australia that are currently using chatbots. But we expect that to move to around 14 per cent next year.
FQ: Which verticals are you seeing the greatest demand for CX services?
SB: We’re seeing a lot more financial services organisations needing support because of the changing environment in Australia and because they are facing significant disruption in the mid-tier. This has led many organisations in the sector to refocus on CX, particularly with some recent bad press. They are looking to improve customer advocacy, loyalty and their brand position as well.
The other vertical we have seen a lot of movement in over the previous few years is the government sector. They are in a monopoly position as consumers have no alternative. However, at varying degrees between local, state and federal government, they are really wanting to ensure that the experience the community has when interacting with government entities is comparable with the private sector.
People no longer think in verticals, we think in terms of our experience and our expectations regardless of the type of organisation we’re interacting with. Everyone wants a low-effort, frictionless interaction
FQ: That’s a really interesting point, this idea of people expecting the same level of CX across everything. It’s like paying taxes should be as easy as buying something on Amazon. Do it badly, and people have more ways than ever to vilify you.
SB: And that’s one of the reasons the government sector are making the effort to catch up. If there is disengagement, the venting of that disengagement in the community can become a hot political issue.
FQ: You mentioned bad press in regards to financial services. I’m assuming you have seen a bump as a result of the recent Royal Commission.
SB: Definitely, and that comes down to brand trust and loyalty. There is a lot more opportunity to shop around and look for other products so it has become a much more competitive arena than in the past.
FQ: So which vertical is currently leading when it comes to CX in Australia?
SB: It is difficult to generalise within verticals. There are organisations in every sector that are doing a great job at providing a good experience, I wouldn’t put any one vertical at the top. No one has nailed it and is delivering a completely seamless experience across their respective channels.
FQ: Walk me through the typical process you go through with a brand or organisation when you trying to help them improve their CX.
SB: Our approach is to start off with a very deep dive and diagnostic assessment of their current state. And that really covers everything from strategy through to channels, people, projects and technology. The reason for doing that is to really understand the drivers of a particular organisation – what their intent is from a brand point of view and strategically where they are focused in terms of growth and overall profitability.
We also look at what kind of things will impact them within their vertical and how their enablers of CX are performing. At this stage, we typically provide some evidence-based benchmarking so that we can gauge how they perform not just against their own industry peers but also more broadly against all organisations.
From there, we develop a strategic roadmap of transformational recommendations to help transition the organisation to meet their commercial key performance indicators. We align that to how they can either reduce costs by improving efficiency or through better ROI.
FQ: I imagine this involves a mix of qualitative and quantitative data.
SB: Yes, the process we go through involves a deep analysis of existing data but also interviews with stakeholders across the business and to observe process and practice operationally – to see how things are done in the real world. This gives us a good 360 view of an organisation.
FQ: We’ve also been hearing a lot about EX this year. Is this a relatively recent development or has it always been an important component of CX?
SB: It has been on the radar of many organisations for a long time. Research has shown a direct correlation between high levels of employee engagement and good CX outcomes. However, in saying that I am not sure that it is high enough on the agenda of a lot of organisations. Most companies place a lower priority on their frontline teams because it is seen as a large cost to an organisation.
What I’d like to see more of is organisations making sure their frontline staff are empowered to solve customer problems across channels. Rather than it being about following protocols or processes because that’s one of the easiest ways to improve customer outcomes.
FQ: It seems hard to separate EX and CX – they are so intertwined.
SB: Absolutely. The vast majority of customer interactions with organisations are still through human interaction channels. The people on the receiving end need to be trained, highly engaged, empowered and have the tools to support them in doing the right thing for the customer. It takes investment, energy and commitment from the leadership to ensure that this is the case. This process starts with attracting and recruiting the right people with the right skills, competencies and CX attributes and then providing them with great training and support.
FQ: People often talk about the machines taking over, but going by what you say humans are as important as ever.
SB: Watch this space in the next few years. Certainly what we’re seeing right now is that from a customer perspective the more complex your enquiry and/or the more dollar value that’s associated with that interaction, the more likely you are to want a human being to be involved in the problem-solving process.
While the majority of interactions are still happening through human channels, we’re seeing an added complexity in that area as the simpler interactions are moved to self-service and non-human channels. When it comes to more complex issues consumers still want to talk to a person.