So, what is CX — and why does it matter so much to the new-age customer?
“Today’s customers need a very good reason to give you their money and it is high time business got out there to understand how customers perceive and experience their brands. Not just at the point of purchase, but holistically. It means embedding a customer-centric perspective into your organisation’s corporate DNA.” Mandisa Makubalo, Founder and Managing Director, Unlimited Experiences SA
In simpler times, one of the basic rules of business stated that persuading customers to give you their money simply involved offering them the right product at the right price. But in these turbulent times, when the very fundamentals of business are challenged every day, product and price are no longer enough to satisfy the expectations of an increasingly sophisticated and demanding customer base. So, if you take the old school ‘take it or leave it’ approach to customer relations, there’s a very high risk that customers will leave it.
All this helps to explain the growing importance of Customer Experience — more commonly known as CX. Briefly, CX is about how your customers perceive the way your business treats them on a personal, emotional and sensory level through a series of touchpoints that go well beyond just product and price. Examples include your advertising and social media content, your packaging and advertising, your customer service and corporate values. Even the music you play in your stores. The argument for embracing CX goes as follows: the way people experience your business through these touchpoints plays a major role in capturing their loyalty — and their money. Put simply: if people like your business, they will keep buying from you while recommending your goods or service to others.
There are some compelling statistics in favour of the CX argument. A survey carried out by Econsultancy on behalf of Digital Marketing Trends in 2018 revealed that 22% of the companies questioned ranked CX as the single most exciting marketing opportunity for 2019, placing it significantly ahead of content marketing (15%) and mobile marketing (13%). Research also reveals that 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience; while 73% of buyers identify CX as an important factor in their purchasing decisions. What’s more, the Temkin Group also established that investing in CX initiatives can potentially double revenue within 36 months.
Given the statistics, it’s not surprising that CX is having such a transformative impact on the global marketing landscape, including Africa’s. At the end of July, over 600 delegates representing more than 200 companies gathered in Cape Town for the Customer Experience Management (CEM) Africa Summit to map their way across ‘the new battleground for business’.
Among those attending was Mandisa Makubalo, founder and Managing Director of the Philippi-based CX consultancy, Unlimited Experiences SA. She agrees that thenew rush to put the customer first begs an obvious opening question: What happened to the old maxim that the customer is always right? “The answer is simple,” says Mandisa. “Very few businesses ever backed up their customer-first talk with customer-first action. As a result, customers have been left bleeding by poor service for too long. That, however, is changing fast, primarily because customers now hold the cards and businesses must operate on their terms.”
CX + CRM = perfect marriage
So, what does it take to become part of the CX movement? In terms of process, explains Mandisa, the journey starts with managing customer data effectively. “Arguably, data is the most valuable currency in the CX space, provided you understand how to use it properly — and strategically. These days, organisations in the private and public sector are paralysed by the volume of data they collect. The challenge lies in combining effective ways of capturing rich customer data across multiple channels with a clear vision of how you are going to use it to give your customers an unforgettable experience. In this sense, CX plus CRM adds up to the perfect marriage.”
Another rite of passage along the CX journey involves abandoning traditional organisational structures that are based around functions in favour of team-based structures that revolve around the emotions that customers invest your business. Experience demonstrates that traditional, function-based workplace structures simply throw up silos that alienate businesses from their customers.
As Mandisa emphasizes, however, processes and structures are only two steps along a much more complex journey. “Above all,” she says, “giving customers the right experience is a question of culture and mindset. It demands a total reinvention of the way that businesses relate to the people who are prepared to pay for their goods and services. It means embedding a customer-centric perspective into your organisation’s corporate DNA. It means getting out of your comfort zone and into the customer’s head space.”
The country’s CX community is relatively small, its profile is rising quickly — as the recent CX summit in Cape Town demonstrates. That said, the consensus is that South African businesses still have some way to go before they can match global CX heavyweights such as Amazon. But who is getting right?
“Table Mountain is certainly a great example of an organisation that understands how to connect with customers on an emotional, bucket list level. The fact that Allan Grey’s personalised marketing is so successful shows how mature, well established brands see the value in CX investment. And Capitec Bank is also a great case study in how to win customer loyalty by making an emotional connection.”