Start with yourself – Accenture Interactive’s David Fregonas

Accenture Interactive’s Middle East lead David Fregonas explains how brands can close the gap between expectation and reality for their customers

In 2019, every brand has been racing to master customer experience, and for good reason – a 2018 report by Temkin found that even “a moderate improvement in customer experience (CX) would impact the revenue of a typical $1bn company an average of $775m over three years”. For many businesses, it is one of the areas where they could unlock huge added revenue. However, it is often the area in which brands and their customers heartily disagree on the experience provided. Brands think they are delivering, and consumers think otherwise. But what can brands do to close this gap, where do they start and how do we take CX philosophy and apply it practically?

More than 10 years ago, a Bain study demonstrated that out of 362 companies surveyed, 80 per cent believed they were delivering superior customer experience. Yet, when their customers were surveyed, only 8 per cent of companies were deemed to be delivering a superior experience. Now, there can be no pretending that customer experience is the same beast it was then, when audiences would interact with brands across fewer and more linear touchpoints.

The proliferation of customer touchpoints has introduced new challenges. Namely, if a customer is exposed to a brand or company multiple times throughout the day, month or year, how do brands ensure that each of these touchpoints tells the right message, at the right time, to the right customer? In this time of hyper-personalisation, brands are tasked with understanding who their customer is more than ever before.

On a macro scale, brands must be prepared to overhaul data collection. Fearing the beast that is customer experience is a reliable way for a brand to bury its head in the sand. How else would more than 72 per cent of those 362 businesses surveyed have so grossly miscalculated their own customers’ experience, if not for at least a slight collective rejection of the data? Whilst those metrics sting initially, they provide a clear mandate to brands.

Interact with your audience to learn how better to engage them. Inquire as to what it is they enjoy about brand interactions. It could be something as small as the smell of freshly baked bread in your supermarket each morning. But how do we inspect the lifecycles of our clients’ customers and create brilliantly simple, fluid solutions? We slip off our shoes and step into their world. Viewing the customer experience as something we are, rather than something we provide, is the first hurdle to overcome. Solutions must be born of truly recognising and respecting the customer experience at each stage of maturity, in each demographic stratum. Broad-stroking the customer experience as identical to the brand experience is a sure-fire way for brands to overshoot what it is they believe they provide. At a time when 76 per cent of consumers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations, brands simply cannot afford not to know deeply who their customer is.

Whilst customer experience will be different dependent on market, suffice to say that while not everyone needs to be Netflix, Spotify or Amazon, it will still be the brands and agencies that assemble the correct teams, who communicate between departments, who interact with data and personalise the customer experience to the necessary point, that hold their own. There is no need to pretend that a toilet roll brand requires the same data-bred approach as an online retailer or social platform – but they do need to invest and respect the data that informs their approach, creating fluid experiences for customers from touchpoint one to touchpoint 200.

As an experience agency, our priority will always be to elevate and execute experiences that fundamentally resonate with our clients’ customers. By increasing our focus on customer experience, customers will engage with brands on deeper, opinion-altering or opinion-confirming levels. In a time when brands have the power of tools such as VR, AR and AI, whilst also still being able to create for the more traditional mediums, there has never been a time more urgent to secure the customer experience across each of these touchpoints.