Companies around the world continue to focus on customer centricity, seeking to design, develop, and deliver orchestrated and connected customer experiences. These are experiences that lock onto customer needs, circumstances and preferences.

This requires companies to have a deep understanding of their customers — a task more easily said than done. The customer is continually changing. What matters today can differ substantially from what mattered yesterday.

Consider, as an example, consumer concern over environmental and societal practices. This has  escalated significantly during the pandemic. KPMG research has shown that two-thirds of customers are now seeking suppliers that demonstrate their practices have a positive environmental and societal impact.

Consequently, companies are having to understand how their customers, industry and competitors are responding to this need. As they strive to create shareholder value, firms are having to balance value with the environmental and social impact of how it is achieve

In the KPMG 2022 CEO Outlook, 74% of CEOs said that ESG and digital investment are inextricably linked and 62% said they were planning to invest at least 6% of revenues in programs that would help their organizations be more sustainable.

It used to be that a seismic global event occurred periodically but had far reaching consequences when it did. The rise of the internet in the 90s, 9/11, the boom and collapse of 2002, and the financial crisis of 2008, were all seismic events, and all had companies reevaluating their strategies. Companies used to reconsider their basic operating models infrequently, when they were forced to do so by big shifts in their environments. But in the last two years alone we have had a global pandemic restricting movement on an unimaginable scale, geopolitical events impacting raw materials and global supply chains, the growing number of unusual weather patterns, precipitating national disasters and intensifying the focus on ESG (environmental, social and governance), and the rapid disruptive adoption of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics. Now, companies are facing a period of economic turbulence as widescale inflation for many nations is driving a cost-ofliving crisis.

Few, if any, of these scenarios consistently appeared on the risk radar of global companies, yet all have had wide reaching consequences and occurred in very rapid succession in recent times.

Today any company that is not regularly evaluating its direction — as well as constantly adjusting to changing contexts — and then quickly making necessary operational changes is putting itself at a disadvantage.

Agility has become vital for organizations to adapt their business and operating model independent of their strategy based on rapidly changing market conditions. Leading firms focus on building and deploying the right capabilities in a connected manner whilst allowing for flexibility to support evolving strategies.

In the UAE, companies that are leading from a Customer Experience Excellence perspective have been agile enough to accelerate their digital transformation to maintain customer engagements during the pandemic, and to improve their physical shopping experience post-pandemic whilst adapting their internal policies to cater for last minute changes driven by constantly evolving health measures then, and providing the right loyalty programs and payments options now – such as Shop Now, Pay Later – that are positively impacting customers purchasing power in an inflationist context.

Highlighting the value of digitization in a changing world, the UAE’s non-grocery retail sector leads the customer experience excellence (CEE) sector rankings in 2022. With eight brands among the top 20, the sector has proved the value of accelerating digital transformation to improve engagement with customers during the pandemic. Meanwhile the increasing number of customers discovering the ease and convenience of online shopping during the pandemic has driven a higher adoption and penetration of e-commerce.

While shopping malls are an integral part of Middle Eastern culture and customers are returning to stores now that restrictions have been eased, those same customers are increasingly using their mobile devices in-store to both research and asses the products they intend to buy online. These changes in customer behavior provide an opportunity for brands to engage while also presenting a series of key challenges.

Chief among them is the need for brands to adapt their user experience and design in line with industry leading practices. Brands must also overcome any discrepancy between the expectations created by convenient digital frontends and the actual processing time in the backend, as well as improve their digital delivery capabilities to reduce time to market. As brands encourage customers to use digital channels, they must also reset their service capabilities from a customer perspective to strike the right balance of self-service capabilities (such as an AI chatbot), process automation and human support that is vital and truly differentiating in an increasingly digitized world.

In the UAE, Emirates retains its place at the top of the UAE CEE brand rankings in 2022. Our survey participants believe that in the past twelve months the airline has listened to its customers and delivered a reliable customer experience (CX) based on a legacy of excellent service and customer engagement. Leading in all six CEE pillars, Emirates continues to build a reputation for providing a well-executed end-to-end CX. The UAE airline received positive customer feedback for its ability to provide the right level of assistance before take-off - from ticketing via an easy-to-use app to support rescheduling due to Covid - and while in the air.

Businesses are striving to become future-ready, and in the top CX companies according to our rankings, nurturing and connecting capabilities has become an essential element of organization design, alongside the ability to orchestrate and reorchestrate customer journeys as customer needs and desired outcomes change.

For them, CX is not restricted to one team or department; it depends on collaborative,  interdepartmental, and cross-functional teamwork. Sales, marketing, service, product, and other operational teams align to deliver the unified experiences that customers want. It involves integrating and connecting key capabilities, including the customer service team systems, billing system, customer management system, and operations team with the analytics needed to effectively predict when and what kind of problems may occur to help ensure a seamless end-to-end experience.

CX is, by definition, a holistic concept. It represents a series of interactions underpinned by  crossfunctional teams, processes, and technology along a customer journey. Our research highlights that when these elements are aligned, connected, and informed by a clear understanding of the customer and marketplace, true orchestration occurs in the delivery of a meaningful CX which underpins higher performance. 

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Orchestrating the connected customer experience

UAE customer experience excellence report

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