Written by Ben Morgan, Managing Director of Accenture New Zealand.
The emphasis on experience is arguably at its greatest today because the structure of almost everything we do has been upended by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Increasingly, the customer experience (CX) offered by organisations is measured not just by standards set by competitors but also by non-competitors across industries.
61 percent of executives surveyed for recent research by Accenture agree that customers are shaped by the most hyper-relevant, real-time, and dynamic experiences they encounter across all industries and that those experiences affect how and why they innovate. Yet 41 percent believe an inability to respond quickly to changing customer habits is a key barrier in responding to the Covid-19 crisis.
The consumer behaviour shifts we’re seeing today are not a blip. They are likely to stay with us for a long time, some likely forever.
While attention to CX is not new, it has taken on an urgent business imperative largely due to three major challenges: increasing customer demands; a sea of sameness amongst brands; and, pressure to stand for something bigger than the products and services they sell.
Until now, well-executed CX strategies have given businesses what they need: customers, sales, and loyalty. However, while the fundamentals are now commonplace, the value proposition has diminished. To continue to offer great experiences, organisations must change how they deliver them.
The Business of Experience (BX) is a new way for organisations to consider their approaches to CX.
It treats experience as the lifeblood of businesses’ core competency, especially considering customer expectations have become so much more elusive, and most historical trends have been massively disrupted. According to our research, BX-oriented companies on average grow their profitability year on year by at least six times more than their industry peers.
Our research identified four ways to help companies realise the promise of BX.
1. Obsess about customer needs
Customer requirements have been shifting for some time, but the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated change. Customers will continue to transform in unpredictable ways, and organisations need to find ways to uncover their unmet needs. Doing so will allow growth into new and promising categories.
Traditionally, organisations have limited their customer insights function to marketing, using historical data and market segmentation to understand customers at given moments in time. To understand customers more deeply, they need to pick up on data signals and research that demonstrate what people are saying and how they are behaving. This analysis needs to take place across all business functions in a cross-organisation approach.
Customer obsession is not a nice-to-have strategy anymore. In the era of artificial intelligence, the ability to have deep insights about customers has become a competitive advantage. Leading players are not constrained by the limited data they have about their customers; in fact, they use innovative techniques to tap into a 360-degree view of customers. Winners in BX will demonstrate a ubiquitous ability to harness customer data.
2. Make experience innovation a habit
A true experience innovation culture closes the gap between the brand promise and the experiences it delivers. BX businesses solve problems in fundamentally new ways by anchoring innovation to human needs. Conversely, most companies rely only on a new look and feel to existing touchpoints without changing processes or operations to align with customer needs.
In the post-COVID age, being intentional with all things matters with experience. Experience needs to impact the entire lifecycle of customers and employees, and companies need to take a more systematic approach to address non-stop experiential expectations from their customers and employees.
3. Expand the experience remit
Experience isn’t the responsibility of just one member of the C-suite anymore; it’s everyone’s business. Every person and business function must act as one cohesive, customer-obsessed unit.
Companies can start this cultural transformation by making experience a priority across every function, including operations, HR, product development, strategy, technology, and more. Employees should feel empowered to make data-driven decisions because they treat customer experience as the holy grail, and they need to be rewarded by management because they’re also making their ability to contribute to customer experience their personal goal. Employees need to be more digital-savvy and data-powered to operate with a BX mindset, giving this obsession with experience an upskilling benefit as well.
4. Sync the tech, data, and human agendas
BX leaders rewire data, tech, and people to build agility and unlock efficiencies that can be reinvested in new opportunities. This allows them to improve experiences and give customers what they want without affecting profitability and sustainability.
The cloud should be the foundation of organisations’ experience infrastructure, as it allows them to save costs and link data and people in newer, faster, and more creative ways. Companies then need to immediately reap benefits of cloud investment by accelerating their journeys with scaled AI; that is, making AI powered by data and algorithms an inherent part of their business processes and systems as opposed to an afterthought. As data continues to improve performance through more impactful experiences, companies can use those learnings to refine their infrastructure and unlock additional efficiencies.
5. Make Experience Your Business
Becoming a BX business will not be easy, but it is necessary. Every organisation is trying to manage its way through the economic and health crises unfolding around us and come out on the other end stronger and ready to compete in what will be a much different world.
Delivering on experience will be critical in this new age, providing a vital lever for disruption, differentiation, and customer satisfaction. If you’re not already in the Business of Experience, now’s the time to get started.