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Imagine rushing to a movie after work hours. You walk (more like sprint) by a specialty bookshop and the newest thriller novel by your favorite author is on display. You want to pick up a copy, but you are running late and your screening starts in 10 minutes.That’s okay. After the movie, you visit the publisher’s website to purchase a copy of the book. Shipping takes two days, but if you drop by a store closer to your home, you can already get it tomorrow at lunch. The next day, you had to to go to a lunch meeting, so you decided to get the novel after work instead. You message the store via their Facebook page, and they said that they’ll wrap it up for you so that you only need to walk in and out of the store later. You drop by a self-service grocery store for supplies – wine, chips, the works – before picking up your book and enjoying it over the weekend. The Friday after, you receive a voucher via email for a 10% discount on other popular thrillers. You click yes and have them delivered to your home.

If only our transactions happened as smoothly as they did in our imagination. True, we’ve come a very long way since we exclusively bought stuff from brick and mortar stores. Today, we can order anything from an app – books, clothes, transportation, even massages. But our experience may not necessarily be smooth. Our deliveries may come late and we only have chatbots to complain to. Our regular store may have run out of shoes our size, but we’d have to check the online store ourselves to see if there’s still some available in another warehouse. We call customer service, but they’ll have to see if they can get someone from engineering to attend to our home internet problems. Because the person we’re speaking to is from sales.

We’ve all screamed on the phone or in our heads: don’t you work for the same company?!

 

Why does customer experience matter?

Today, if a customer is displeased by any of your channels, they can shout out their complaints in any of their social media accounts. So while many companies already boast of multichannel touch points, what customers need for a great holistic experience is omnichannel coverage – being able to seamlessly engage with the brand throughout all touch points, whenever or wherever is convenient for the buyer.

Of course, the omnichannel approach is easier said than done. And being able to deliver consistently great customer experience has never been more important.

 

Do you deliver consistently great customer experiences?

According to the entrepreneur Evans Klein in his article “Four Habits of Highly Customer-centric Organizations”, companies who want to deliver consistently great customer experiences do the following:

  1. Ask how to make their customers’ live easier

The answer to this “how” question becomes the “why” of the existence of an organization. For example, Uber asking themselves how they can make commuting easier became the very reason for the company’s existence.

Apart from asking the question internally, customer-centric companies ask their customers how they can help solve everyday challenges. They open feedback channels and use this input to develop products or services according to customer demands.

  1. Understand the customer lifecycle

We’ve all heard of – maybe experienced – the nightmare of post-sale service. We feel great after a salesperson assists us through the buying process and compliments our very good decision. But when the time for service maintenance comes around, we don’t get as much enthusiasm as we did when brands wanted our credit cards. This is an unfortunately missed opportunity to keep customers loyal. As a result, you are pushing them to a competitor who cares more about their experience.

The same good care should be given to the customer throughout their entire lifecycle. Customers don’t see you as different departments – marketing, sales, engineering, or the contact center. They see you as one brand. And loyal customers are still the best brand evangelists.

  1. Protect customer data

While customer-centric organizations use data to understand customer behavior and preference, they also make sure data is protected. There must be consent, transparency, and control over what information will be used. Drawing up and implementing customer data policies is a big organizational effort, but you will be rewarded with trust, and, ultimately, loyalty.

  1. Innovate

Not only should you be customer-centric, you should be future-centric too. Analysts periodically predict trends in the coming months or years, but only the fastest, most innovative companies can stay on top of the game. Be open to evolution – in terms of products and in terms of the the changing demands of customers.

 

How do you begin?

Transforming the way your customer experiences your brand is a corporate-wide, top-to-bottom, award-winning project.  Start today. As with most agile projects, pick the business process that would give you the most value and roll out. If you have multiple locations, pick one that you can control and scale up. Draw a roadmap in modules and aim for a continuously improving and holistic transformation.

 

How can SAP help transform customer experience?

In the 2018 SAPPHIRE NOW keynote of SAP CEO Bill McDermott, customer experience is central to the whole SAP platform. SAP-acquired solutions Hybris, Gigya, and Callidus Cloud have been folded into the SAP C/4 HANA suite, joining the multiple components of customer experience – frontend, backend, analytics – into a single organic platform.

This 4th generation technology (hence, C/4) is ready for emerging business models, bringing together customer data, machine learning, and microservices. It seamlessly provides a customer experience-oriented platform to power all aspects of your business – from sales, services, marketing, commerce, and beyond.

Customer experience is in the very core of the SAP brand itself. As McDermott puts it in his keynote, “Our belief is simple: that the greatest validation is, in fact, our customer’s success.”

It’s not going to be easy – we all know this from experience. System implementation projects don’t come without challenges, but the online SAP community has been very helpful – sharing solutions to the unexpected challenges of an SAP S/4HANA implementation, contemplating whether the best approach is SAP S/4HANA Conversion or SAP S/4HANA New Implementation, or providing in-depth technical overviews of new SAP features. I’ve found many such useful resources in this SAP blog.

 

Beyond digital transformation

Across the years, businesses have subjected themselves to countless transformation projects – ERP, CRM, and more recently, digital transformation. Is customer experience just another transformation trend?

With digital transformation, we have finally put a name to what forward-looking business have been trying to do for decades – managing an entire business from end-to-end in the most operationally efficient manner in order to make informed decisions anytime, anywhere. It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears from both business stakeholders and technology partners, but it looks like we have gotten there, finally. Transforming customer experience is naturally the next step.

Now we have to make sure that our hard work benefits those that ultimately matter: our customers. With the right tools and mindset, we can go beyond our imagination and actually deliver consistently great customer experiences.

 

Image from Pixabay

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