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As customer loyalty declines due to the huge choice of brands and ease with which consumers can switch between them, customer experience (CX) is becoming increasingly central to brands’ fortunes.
In what Forrester has dubbed the ‘Age of the Customer’, consumers expect their interactions with brands to be flawless and engaging. It’s therefore unsurprising that the research group found that 71 percent of B2B businesses have made it a top priority to improve customer experience.
In addressing customer experience, brands now also have to contend with an increasing demand from customers to interact with them without ever going offline or contacting a call center. In response, brands are looking to adopt emerging technology like virtual reality, artificial intelligence and automation to differentiate and improve the experiences their customers receive.
In addressing customer experience, brands now also have to contend with an increasing demand from customers to interact with them without ever going offline or contacting a call center.
In our latest research - Can Virtual Experiences Replace Reality? - 78 percent of brands in EMEA said they expected to be using VR for CX by 2020, with 34 percent having already implemented the technology in some form.
In addition, 80 percent will be using chatbots for customer interactions by 2020, with 88 percent turning to automation technologies in sales, marketing and customer service.
Examples of VR being used for customer experience include Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which recently-showcased its Buy+ virtual shopping experience. Consumers purchase a low-cost cardboard VR headset that holds their smartphone which then enables them to browse clothing as if walking through a shop and even see them modeled on the catwalk. Through integration with Alipay, users can even pay for goods with the nod of the head.
Other big names to bring virtual reality to their customer experience include McDonalds, which launched a promotion in which children’s meal boxes in Sweden converted into VR headsets for their smartphone. US retailer JC Penney, meanwhile, set up virtual reality experiences at four locations last Christmas, with customers transported to the North Pole via an Oculus headset, where they could interact with reindeer, elves and snowmen.
This appetite for innovation in customer experience is all well and good, but brands need to make sure they get this right. Spending millions on developing a virtual reality application for customer experience without knowing if it will deliver what customers want, is not something most businesses could afford, particularly in such an uncertain economic climate.
To ensure they don’t create CX white elephants, brands must first ensure they have a deep understanding of their
To ensure they don’t create CX white elephants, brands must first ensure they have a deep understanding of their customers. And for this, they need to ensure they are drawing insight from customer data.
However, the truth is that many companies are struggling to unify, organize and process the increasing amount of customer data that is being produced.
Our research found that 42 percent of brands collect a great deal of data from multiple sources, but are unable to extract customer insights from it. And worryingly, 60 percent aren’t even including social or CRM data in their customer analytics.
This is despite 41 percent agreeing that smarter analysis of customer data will have the biggest impact on the experience they deliver to their customers.
The issues around customer understanding must be addressed if brands are to avoid wasting time and effort on CX technology that provides little value.
Brands aren’t currently getting a complete view of individual customers, meaning that their customer experience is unlikely to provide the kind of personalized and seamless service that customers crave.
In order to make sense of the various sources and types of data, businesses should invest in technology that pools it and allows it to flow freely between marketing, sales, and service so that it can be quickly acted
Particularly worrisome is that many companies aren’t making use of information generated on social media, a rich source of real-time customer data.
If brands are to make virtual reality, chatbots and automation count for customer experience, they must first take steps to organize and get value from the customer data they have. First and foremost, the data being used must be accurate and relevant. And it should include social media, CRM, sales and service data, and information of previous issues and interactions.
In order to make sense of the various sources and types of data, businesses should invest in technology that pools it and allows it to flow freely between marketing, sales, and service so that it can be quickly acted upon.
If organizations can achieve this, they’ll be able to identify potential issues before they occur, spot sales opportunities and deliver relevant marketing materials at the most effective time. It will also mean they can deliver personalized, relevant and helpful customer experiences.
If VR and AI-driven experiences are to deliver on their potential, they need to be underpinned by an overarching strategy that unifies and organizes customer data.
Brands will always experiment with emerging technology to deliver compelling experiences to their customers. And those that move early to put cutting edge technology in place could well reap the rewards of the early mover advantage. But it’s critical that they truly understand their customers first.
Using the right data will lead to a better, more personalized experience for customers. It will mean the right message is delivered to the right person at the right time on the right channel, whether that’s through virtual reality, artificial intelligence or the humble mobile app.