The impacts of COVID-19 won’t be temporary. Customer experience as we know it is coming to an end. But luckily, we can all learn from the changes to come.   

Over the next year, we will shift further from a physical product-based economy to one that is increasingly digital and subscription-based. Subscription companies have grown where most have contracted, and it’s not just the consumer industries. Platform and software as a service are growing more critical to business operations.

This is exactly why it’s key that businesses are aware and awake to the changes this is having on what customers want and expect from their experience.

Keeping up with expectations

In this environment, the digital customer experience has never been more important. Customers and clients are becoming accustomed to the convenient, instantaneous nature of digital services. Subscription models provide customers with great flexibility as they can browse various plans, select what suits them best and personalise the offerings. They have greater control over what they use and can alter their service plans as they wish.

In return, businesses enjoy a recurrent revenue stream, easier to plan against. But continuously delivering a satisfying customer experience can prove daunting. Subscription models can lead to deeper, longer customer relationships, but they require more work.

A service needs to continuously change to remain relevant to customers. If it can’t keep pace with expectations, it won’t be long before the subscribers have disappeared and gone somewhere else.

If you want to participate in the competition of CX, it is all about providing an engaging one-to-one customer experience – personalised, dynamic and fast – despite the lack of in-person interaction. You need to be ambitious with your CX – whether that means delivering AI-powered chatbots with intimate customer understanding, or an integrated data layer that allows customer agents to be agile to every request.

Yet traditional customer systems are too often siloed, built to audit sales activities and depend on manual efforts to create new opportunities. They have no intelligent process to carry the customer through their journey and ensure they receive a relevant, satisfying experience at each step.

Breaking down barriers to better service

A customer isn’t a static entity, they’re a unique individual whose needs change daily. So how can a service or business change with them? First, it needs a full view of the customer and the business itself. To achieve this, you need to integrate how your organisation does sales, marketing, customer experience and relationship management.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, organisations should strive for fully integrated and intelligent infrastructure. An infrastructure that connects the front and back offices through a single, connected data platform. So, when a customer agent needs data on a client, they have it, instantaneously. Because the purpose should always be to empower customer agents and solutions designers, helping them make faster and more successful decisions.

Once – in a not-so-distant past – back-office functions used to be of little concern to CX leaders. The need to rapidly fetch tech customer data to inform every interaction has changed that. However, many businesses are still stuck in the past. They have separate systems for the front and back offices, which can’t be joined without an expensive third-party integration. As a result, they can’t manage their inventory, supply chains, or service according to the needs of the customer.

By contrast, a unified solution can capture and analyse customer interaction data from both front and back-office operations. This helps service providers to better understand changing buying behaviours and preferences. It enables them to quickly launch new offers and products, and create an adaptable service that keeps the customer happily locked-in.

Aon, a global professional services firm providing risk, retirement and health solutions, faced this exact situation. The organisation needed to consolidate its data, sales and marketing applications in order to get a single view of its clients and prospects. By eliminating data silos and adding robust analytics and reporting, Aon gained visibility into client-facing activities within and across departments, as well as deep insights for better targeting and cross-selling. In other words, they were able to exploit their existing data assets to make real improvements to the customer experience.

This integrated data layer also provides the foundation for smart, AI-powered automated systems that can scale rapidly and intelligently to customer requirements and demands. How a customer gets billed, ensuring a company has the right products in stock to meet demand, providing timely delivery and excellent customer service – it can all be orchestrated and streamlined with AI. This removes the complexity of customer management, reduces human error and instead allows employees to focus on what’s truly important: customer care.

But in all practicality; what does this system look like? Well, it can carry a prospect through an opportunity nurtured in the marketing system. They can become a subscriber through the customer reference database, with suggested offers and services recommended to them based on machine learning. And if they ever need to contact the company, a customer agent can jump on a call with them, providing them with all the data they need at their fingertips.

Simplicity through unity

In today’s economy, it’s safer and more effective for businesses to pay for access to services than build and maintain the infrastructure to supply them. Yet service providers can’t take anything for granted. The subscription and as-a-service space has never been more competitive, and it’s only getting harder to stand out from the crowd. That’s why all businesses that operate or are transitioning to a subscription-based model need the same thing: a unified infrastructure.

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