Technology Investments Leading Growth of Online Customer Experience, but People are Still King

Retail

The increasing importance of “customer experience” is undoubtable nowadays as customers are becoming more connected, and influence each other to a greater extent, while they appear to be more fickle and willing to drop a brand for a better looking one. The Budapest Business Journal discusses the impact of CX with experts from DEVELOR International and EY Hungary.

In today’s world, when so much information is at our fingertips and communication has never been more rapid, the expectations of customers related to how services should treat them and what experiences they should have when using those services have been rising ever higher.  

“The trend is solid and stable. As customers are highly connected – and year by year more so –, they influence each other far more than traditional marketing. Customer Experience is ‘the’ marketing today,” Zsolt Pozvai, Global CEO at DEVELOR International, tells the BBJ. Simply repackaging former efforts won’t keep customers happy and loyal; rather a completely new mindset is needed in the most involved industries, such as banking, insurance, telecom, hospitality and retail, he says.

Zsolt Pozvai

In this tight-knit and fast-paced race to keep clients, companies need to be extra alert, as customers will now more easily abandon brands in favor of better looking ones.  

“It’s clear that consumers around the world are increasingly fickle,” Ákos Demeter, partner at EY Hungary, says. “They are more willing than ever to drop their brands of choice in favor of something different. This change is challenging companies to evolve to the point where globally only 5% of retailers think their customers remain loyal, according to our latest survey,” he adds.

CX Differentiates

Businesses do seem to recognize this trend and the need to address the matter. Pozvai notes that, according to DEVELOR’s annual customer experience survey, recently 80% of Hungarian companies claimed they wanted to be the industry leaders of customer experience and this is one of the top three priorities in the strategy of 86%.

“We might state that the C-suite has realized the importance of the topic, and on strategic level they act upon it. The real differentiator is what extent they are able to implement it in the daily operation of the front-office, when clients meet the representatives of an organization. Here we observe huge gaps, which proves that the devil is in the execution: the problem is not in the strategy and concepts but on the level of actions. Many companies don’t walk the talk,” Pozvai insists.

Demeter also notes that an increasing number of large corporations nowadays take customer experience as a primary tool for their future differentiation.  

“However many companies are at a very early stage of implementation. Over the last two years, there has been a significant acceleration in this process,” Demeter underlines. He adds that the focus on customer experience is more visible in fields performing online activities. In terms of sectors, telecommunications and media are in the lead, while retail, banking and energy sectors are lagging behind.  

“Right now, the focus is on end-to-end digital channels, and assisted sales is going to be the next wave,” Demeter says.

Lately, companies in Hungary have been heavily investing in technology in order to improve in the field and become better able to offer an improved customer experience.  

Two-speed Hungary

“In Hungary, such efforts work at two different speeds. Companies that primarily operate online use advanced technology to improve customer experience, even to an extent where they monitor their customers, collect and analyze data then make personalized offers in order to improve their customer experience,” Demeter notes.

“Meanwhile, companies that primarily function in the physical world, rather use mass targeting and customer service. In fact, customer experience based – even personalized – customer service has gained attention over the last two years,” Demeter adds.

Pozvai also stresses this angle: “In the last several years, huge investments have been made in the technology, improving the multi-channel servicing, the mobile services, chatbots were implemented,” he says, tagging such as important steps. However he notes that “it would be high time to return to those who can make real connection to customers: the people.”

With the advent of a new era focusing on a customer first approach, executives have started realizing that even if customer intimacy and customer centeredness is obvious in their corporate culture and is acknowledged by their employees, still the employees’ behavior and attitude can be insufficient to reach high levels of customer experience. According to Develor’s national survey, customers regularly meet salespeople and customer service staff who are literally not engaged to their employer, an experience that negatively influences the customers’ opinion about both the company and service in 68% of cases.

“People engage with people. Employee engagement has become the crucial factor in customer loyalty. This is a hot topic for many companies worldwide, just as in Hungary. The majority of companies regularly measure the engagement, and then make actions; still the general engagement level has been shrinking for a while,” Pozvai says. He adds that employee satisfaction does not equal employee engagement, and this is a significant difference that many decision makers and HR executive do not understand or fail to realize.  

“The new relax room, the gym and the foosball table will influence satisfaction, just like a salary increase, but not engagement. The major engagement drivers are autonomy, the feeling of progress and personal growth, the connection to others,” Pozvai pinpoints the differences. He believes that employees have to feel that their work has a greater purpose than the work itself.  

“The management’s responsibility is creating an engaging environment where people feel passionate and committed toward the work. So, if we want to make customers loyal, we should start with the employees. Based on my experience there is still a lot to do on this field, from training managers how to engage staff to internal projects to boost the factors on organizational level,” Pozvai notes.

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