In 2020, Salesforce released a report named State of the Connected Customer. The report looked at consumer attitudes to engaging with companies, and found that 76% of them expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. A further 84% said being treated like a person, rather than a number, is very important to winning their business. Another 59% said tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important to winning their business. The message is clear: meet your customers’ digital expectations or they won’t buy from you.
And it is not like companies can say they did not see this trend coming. Previously, Gartner forecast that by 2020, 85% of all customer interaction with brands would happen without any human interaction, by utilizing self-service digital interfaces and chatbots. Although we are not there yet, it is clear that evolving consumer habits and COVID-enforced changes in behavior have made digital CX a business imperative.
What makes up digital CX?
There is a range of tactics and tools that I expect to see continue becoming dominant in CX through 2021 and beyond. Omnichannel communications has already proven its popularity and value during lockdowns, as consumers had to interact with brands from home.
Conversational commerce is a logical progression of omnichannel. It’s an ongoing exercise in direct communication between brands and customers, via digital or voice interactions over platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Viber, or other digital apps that offer the ability to make purchases online.
Chatbots will continue to play a part in enhancing digital CX, and conversational artificial intelligence (AI), which has machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities built-in, will make chatbots more powerful. These techniques all contribute to an overarching trend that is going to grow and grow: hyperpersonalization.
What is hyperpersonalization?
Hyperpersonalization is the next leap forward in digital customer experience. With consumers now expecting personalized service and an experience that treats them as an individual, companies must really know their customers when they engage with them. That means calling them by name, tracking their preferences and purchases, and using historic data to predict their subsequent wants and needs. It also means gathering data from touchpoints along the journey to keep up to date with each customer’s preferences.
This predictive approach helps you know what your customer wants before they do. B2C companies like Amazon are already doing this, with product recommendations. This is a simple example of hyperpersonalization: AI is used to analyze data and spot a customer’s purchasing habits and offer recommendations based around other shoppers’ buying patterns.
It’s the sort of thinking B2B companies in MEA need to prioritize: implement hyperpersonalization strategies, give your customers what they expect and you will drive greater loyalty and strengthen your relationships.
Where is MEA on CX today?
Bluntly, there is work to do. According to research by Dimension Data, the CX report card for companies across MEA today reads “could do better”. The report, Customer Experience Benchmark Report 2020, finds that MEA customer expectations are the highest they have ever been, but that just 6% of organizations are delivering a fully-functioning, digitally-enabled CX. This despite 63% of companies stating their belief that CX is now their primary competitive differentiator. Further research found that 96% of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) companies ranked CX a top business priority for 2020.
A concerning result of the Dimension Data report was that MEA companies admit they currently struggle to align their CX strategies to voice of customer (VoC) feedback: 68% said they have no formal process for managing this data. Just 38% said they can connect data relationships between channels, meaning nearly two-thirds of MEA companies don’t have full visibility of their customer ecosystem.
Digital CX must be embraced
Digital is powering the type of CX that companies now give to customers, and MEA companies simply cannot afford to ignore CX as a business imperative. According to Adobe, 97% of business leaders believe CX management is essential to create loyal and long-lasting customer relationships. And with CX now such a powerful competitive differentiator, you need to use data and analytics to understand customers more fully.
AI tools can help you create memorable interactions that will keep customers satisfied and coming back again and again. Salesforce reports that 84% of customers say the experience a company gives them is as important as its products and services, and 80% of customers are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalized experiences. MEA companies must get on board now or risk getting left behind.
If you would like to talk about the next level of customer experience or anything else relating to digital transformation in MEA, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sahem Azzam is VP Middle East & Africa at Orange Business Services. He is an experienced senior business leader with extensive experience in the Middle East region and emerging markets and a strong track record of achievement in the information technology and services industry. Sahem has developed special interest and expertise in business and sales management leadership, partner management, go-to-market strategy development, infrastructure services, IoT, Big Data, Smart Cities, Blockchain and IT service management.