The pursuit of lasting customer experience is a daily endeavor. It is dynamic and often unpredictable.

Organizations across industries such as retail, public sector, banking, healthcare and telecommunications have painfully realized that unless they go beyond their traditional approaches, and understand the specific needs of their customers, their relevance will be questioned sooner than they can imagine.

Delivering world-class customer experience consistently is easier said than done when customers today have more choices than ever before. IDC’s worldwide research reveals that more than 80% of customers prioritize the ‘buying experience’ more than the product or the service.

The perception that customer experience management is a marketing responsibility is fading rapidly and the technology backbone of an organization is playing a differentiating role in capturing, analyzing, and distilling the data, and converting that data into actionable insights for the business teams. CIOs and Chief Digital Officers play vital role here. IDC’s Survey reveals that 68% CIOs are driving strategic and disruptive digital initiatives that are measured on business outcomes rather than the technology KPIs. The operational activities in their roles are seen to have reduced from 44% to 32% in last couple of years.

Customer experience is increasingly becoming a joint responsibility between IT, Sales, Customer Service and Marketing. If Marketing fails, organization fails.

Every touchpoint with a buyer is an opportunity for a business to know more about the customer’s buying behavior. Technologies can help organizations capture these touchpoints, analyze them, and improve the organization’s ability to increase the footfall, deepen the loyalty and ultimately, increase the wallet share.

Like private organizations, public sector organizations can also leverage technology to deliver consistent citizen happiness. With 50% of marketing leaders in government organizations and educational institutes prioritizing their technology spending on customer experience / citizen happiness.

Marketing leaders in government organizations realize that unless they overhaul their citizen-facing applications, and simplify processes, it is hard to deliver lasting happiness to the residents and citizens.

While organizations in the Middle East and Africa are trying to use next-gen technologies, they are facing a few challenges too. For example, 63% of organizations are struggling to establish a deep understanding of their customers’ experience with their products and services. On the other hand, ‘limited availability of skilled resources’ and ‘siloed approach to driving digital initiatives’ are the two important hurdles for 38% of organizations in the region.

Leading technology vendors are creating products and services to address the needs and challenges of their customers worldwide. Most vendors have created a well-thought-out roadmap to infuse artificial intelligence and automation in their products and offer cloud-based options. Adobe and Microsoft for example are collaborating and helping organizations in various industries to transform their customers’ experience using the digital experience platform and associated technologies. These technology leaders are the inseparable pillars of The Living Enterprise (TLE).

Adobe is known for creating innovative products that help organizations deliver total experience to their customers. Be it for a retail conglomerate that is looking to understand its shoppers’ persona better, or a bank that wants to analyze its customers’ transaction patterns, Adobe has been at the forefront of leveraging AI / machine learning, analytics and automation to conduct sharp personalization and bring organizations across industries closer to their customers.

One of the retail customers in the Middle East highlights how Adobe’s Experience Cloud is delivering intelligent product recommendations with a high degree of accuracy and strong capabilities in Customer Segmentation, personalization and offers.

Customer experience is incomplete without talking about Microsoft.

Microsoft’s Azure is a leading cloud platform and is becoming a platform of innovation across an organizations’ functions and departments. Apart from Azure, Microsoft has built a strong portfolio of solutions for customer experience. Microsoft’s Customer Data Platform (CDP) goes beyond traditional sales transactions, marketing campaigns, and digital commerce. It offers deeper insights that its users can leverage to strengthen their customer engagement.

Most governments cite citizen happiness as one of their strategic objectives. The macro-economic growth of a country broadly depends upon safety and happiness of its citizens and residents. Microsoft’s CDP is helping government organizations to ‘anticipate and respond faster’ to citizen needs and is using AI and applied CRM data for real-time impact to transform citizen experience.

Taking advantage of Microsoft Dynamics 365, Power BI, and Azure solutions, the customer support center unifies the government and business services into 80 integrated journeys. This integration merges a 360-degree view of customers’ information and their interactions across the government into a seamless, proactive, and personalized customer experience.

Delivering sustained, consistent, and superior experience to the existing and future customers is a conscious endeavor and organizations need to create a culture where employees are encouraged to prioritize value over the price-point.

Here is a three-point advice to the leaders that are planning to take this never-ending journey:

1.      Plan a long-term technology roadmap

Creating an elastic and modular technology backbone using technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence, big data and analytics, and automation will help organizations across industries to meet their customer’s stated and unstated needs, differentiate themselves from the competition and build long-lasting loyalty.

2.      Tie technology investments to the business outcomes.

Quite often the business case for a technology investment is not clear about its role in improving an organization’s financial KPIs. Tying business outcomes to technology investments especially in customer experience, brings accountability and ownership from IT and line of business (LoB) users.

3.      Prioritize investment in Analytics

Approximately 58% of organizations are planning to use analytics to improve customer satisfaction and quality of service and 55% are planning to invest in technologies that can analyze their customer data to support business decisions. These investments are expected to help them sharpen their understanding of their customer needs.

While on one hand, organizations are leveraging analytics to understand customers better, on the other, 42% of CIOs are looking at analytics to optimize their production and marketing costs. In addition, 37% are eager to understand consumption patterns and drive business process improvements.

Delivering superior customer experience is no longer a choice.

Customers in the digital age do not hesitate to push organizations to innovate and evolve better engagement models. Customers are willing to help their service providers to create new business models that they have not tried before. Customers in most industries in the Middle East and Africa are challenging the status quo and demanding unrealistic timelines.

These are the realities of the new normal. Organizations in the Middle East and Africa region need to embrace the new reality proactively and prioritize customer experience transformation in their list of digital initiatives before the customers lose patience and turn to competition.

Customer experience is rapidly becoming a collective responsibility, and organizations need to take conscious efforts toward knowing customers well, reaching out to the right set of customers with attractive offers, and driving sharp campaigns. The path to achieving financial goals traverses through consistent delivery of a superior customer experience.