From British Airways’ infamous IT meltdown to British Gas’ £9.5m Ofcom fine for billing mistakes, businesses are increasingly finding that poor Customer Experience is costing them dearly.

Events such as customers being unable to get an update on when their flight is taking off, and being sent inaccurate utility bills, are the root cause of negative headlines within the business world.

Long-term reputations can take a serious hit from these kinds of problems. In fact, a recent survey of European consumers revealed that more than four-fifths (83 percent) say customer communication is an important factor when they’re deciding whether or not to stick with a business.

The pressures people face during the busy Christmas period can amplify this sentiment even further, making communication particularly important at this time of year. 

Businesses are beginning to realise that the pendulum has swung in the favour of customers, and that they must react in the face of this change; it’s no surprise that Forrester reports almost three quarters (72 percent) of organisations cite improving Customer Experience as a high or critical business priority for 2017.

However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to provide the kind of experience the modern customer wants, as they are increasingly empowered and demanding.

Specifically, there are four forces that are looming large, threatening to tear business’ Customer Experience functions apart if they don’t take action:

The first force: Consumer power

The balance of power has continued to shift from brand to consumer over the last few years; 44 percent of European consumers feel they have more power compared to five years ago.

People have more of a voice than ever; social media platforms in particular have made it easier to share negative brand experiences far and wide. It’s also much easier for people to take action and switch providers, with a sprawl of industries from energy to banking increasingly being opened up.

Operating in this environment, brands must ensure that they are in a position to give customers the right piece of information at any given time, and take extra care to listen to consumers if they are to avoid the double-edged sword of negative online sentiment and a shrinking customer base.

The second force: Transition to digital

From the UK Government to Manchester United, many organisations have been through digital transformations over the last few years, replacing legacy systems and processes with programmes fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

Looking through a Customer Experience lens, this is resulting in an increasingly large amount of channels that could be used to communicate. While this represents an opportunity, it’s also a challenge, as businesses must ensure they are able to communicate across whichever channel a customer favours.

It is important to be consistent across every channel, both in terms of brand voice and speed of response. Fail to provide this and customers will conclude that your CX is not up to scratch.

The third force: Regulation

It can be a battle just to keep pace with the evolution of regulations. In the financial services sector, for example, there can be hundreds of changes every single day.

Organisations, especially those in tightly regulated industries, must walk a tightrope between constantly improving the Customer Experience without breaking compliance. For instance, with the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force in 2018, there will be an even greater emphasis on regulation within Customer Experience than ever before.

GDPR signals a step-change because it grants customers vastly more control over their personal data.

Meeting regulatory requirements is becoming an increasingly crucial piece of the Customer Experience puzzle, with industry bodies and customers ready to pounce if something is not up to scratch.

Legacy systems can prove a real barrier to progress, as customer information is likely to be hidden away in silos, and it can prove difficult to make updates. As such, organisations need to ensure they have the agility to react as needed to changes in regulation, without sacrificing the Customer Experience.

The fourth force: Data

The amount of data businesses have to deal with is dramatically increasing; most of the world’s data was created in the past decade. This represents a tremendous resource, giving businesses a real opportunity to create value for customers with new experiences and services that make use of that data.

But it also means that for this approach to succeed, businesses must be able to deal with the huge amount and variety of data that’s coming at them. Failure to do so will simply result in the business being overwhelmed, and adding nothing to the Customer Experience.

To avoid drowning in the data deluge, organisations must be able to decide what is relevant and useful, make sense of all the data points they have access to, and remain in control.

Taking proactive steps

Once businesses are clear on what these four forces are, it is imperative that they take proactive steps to overcome them.

Now is the time for organisations to get to work strategically, planning how they will overcome problems relating to consumer power, communications, regulations, and data.

In the current climate, mastering these four forces can become a real differentiator, and stand an organisation in good stead not only for success over the busy Christmas period, but also in the longer term.

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