The customer is more at the heart of organizations than ever. There is a substantial difference between occasionally providing products or services to customers and building a loyal customer relationship. Organizations are facing an increasingly competitive market in which customers have ever-higher expectations. It is, therefore, essential that they design their customer experience (CX) to be as optimal as possible. A distinctive CX potentially increases customer loyalty, whereby satisfied customers tend to return, become 'promoters', and make repeat purchases.
Customer needs are constantly changing
"Optimizing the customer experience is very important because customers are constantly making choices based on how they are served and the feeling they have towards a company", says Bryan Bos, senior consultant Enterprise Solutions at KPMG. "A distinctive customer experience creates loyalty, repeat purchases and word-of-mouth. It mixes both efficient and smooth processes and an experience that is company-specific and personal to the customer. According to the KPMG Customer Experience Excellence (CEE)-survey. Personalization and Integrity – including cybersecurity and ESG commitments – are seen as the key drivers of an excellent customer experience. In addition to these two drivers, the influence of Expectations is also increasing significantly. Companies striving to be competitive and future-proof must constantly evaluate their direction, adapt to the changing landscape, and innovate to continuously improve their customer experiences."
While in the past companies adjusted their practices only when forced to do so by disruptive events, today companies evolve by adopting emerging technologies and turning change into opportunity. "But that is only one component", Bos stresses. "Customer expectations are also increasingly changing. For example, ten years ago it was quite normal to send an email to a service desk and you would receive a message back within five working days. That was acceptable back then. Currently, speed and convenience play more of a role in customer loyalty. Customers prefer quick responses, a low barrier to get in touch with an organization, and consistent interaction at every touch point. Technology plays a key role in ensuring this connected customer experience. To deploy technology successfully, organizations need to know, 'What does the customer do? What does your customer want?'. Innovating and staying connected with customers can help organizations increase and retain customer loyalty."
CRM as the basis for a distinctive CX
More and more large organizations, such as hospitals, health insurers and banking institutions, are realizing the significance of what a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can add. According to Bos: "One of the challenges in implementing new systems in this sector is the fear of change and public perception. Hospitals and healthcare institutions are under great pressure because of the annual increases in healthcare premiums. It is difficult to explain the necessity of investing in new systems when people may wonder why investments are not being made in additional beds, for example. However, a solid CRM, such as Salesforce, can help streamline the patient journey. This allows healthcare professionals to spend less time on administrative tasks and focus on their priorities, such as giving time and attention to a patient."
"The financial sector also faces similar challenges, such as meeting KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements", Bos continues. "Due to stricter laws and regulations, it is sometimes difficult for large banks and financial institutions to manage their customer data. A CRM such as Salesforce can help by providing support in setting up a solid KYC process. Customer experience is the key to retaining customers or patients. This is not a specific trend, but rather a shift in the mindset of organizations."
Comprehensive, secure customer data
The customer-centric approach is improving because appropriate data is used in a ‘human-centric’ way. "This is why it is advised to integrate everything into one CRM system", Bos asserts. "Such a system, such as Salesforce Customer 360, enables a complete, shared view of customers' history, interests and activities, which can be used to address their needs and create a better customer experience. This CRM platform can be linked to other systems such as ERP, e-commerce and content management systems (CMSs), bringing sales, marketing and service together." Using an integrated system also makes it easy to find and use information. According to Bos: "For instance, customers get personalized offers and products based on individual preferences; or a different supporting image to their search is displayed. Such details can contribute to a distinctive customer experience."
In today's dynamic market, organizations want to handle customer queries quickly and effectively. However, nowadays organizations often face staff shortages, which can make it challenging to answer customer queries quickly and handle processes efficiently. Automating processes and merging data into one central system are important steps to tackle this problem. Breaking through data silos within the organization (between sales, marketing and service departments, for example) to create a 360-degree view of the customer plays a key role in this. As Bos explains: "A CRM system, such as Salesforce, acts as a central data platform and connects front-, mid- and back-office business processes to support end-to-end customer experiences. Automating common tasks contributes to efficiency, making it a game-changer for a consistent and distinctive customer experience."
CX trends for 2024 and beyond
The above trends will most likely develop further in the coming years. In any case, one thing is beyond doubt: customer satisfaction requires a personalized approach using advanced data analytics. Data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms are increasingly being used to understand customer needs and expectations. Tailor-made product recommendations and personalized marketing campaigns are becoming the norm. In addition, customers are increasingly expecting a consistent experience across all touch points, both in-store and online. By combining technology with a people-centric approach and expertise, organizations can enable their teams to provide seamless interactions across all channels and help the business grow.
For example, voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant will become more intelligent, and visual searches based on AI and computer vision will become more popular. Companies are already adapting their platforms to integrate these new search methods. In addition, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies will be used for new, unique customer experiences, such as virtual fitting sessions and showrooms. These technologies make it possible to connect the physical and digital worlds.
Finally, customers are becoming increasingly aware of the social and environmental impact of their purchases. Companies should integrate ethical and sustainable practices into their customer experience strategies. Transparency, ethical sourcing, environmental awareness and social initiatives are key pillars for trust and competitive advantage.
Customer-centric strategies and technology
By mapping the customer journey, organizations can identify different interaction points and understand where optimizations are needed. This helps to create a consistent and seamless experience throughout the customer journey. KPMG helps organizations develop and implement customer-centric strategies that align with their business objectives. KPMG is an end-to-end partner for clients, from mapping – and optimizing – customer journeys to translating them into underlying processes and enabling CRM systems. In this way, KPMG supports organizations in selecting and implementing the right technologies to improve CX. This includes the use of CRM systems – such as Salesforce, for example – data analysis platforms and automation tools. By collecting and analyzing data, organizations can identify trends, predict customer behaviour and deliver personalized experiences. Automating processes, making the best use of existing technology and leveraging customer data for actionable insights can potentially lead to cost savings and help organizations seize new opportunities.
KPMG as implementation partner
A CRM system, such as Salesforce, could potentially provide the basis for a distinctive CX. "An advantage of working with Salesforce as a CRM system is the global expertise available through KPMG", Bos emphasizes. "Should specific expertise be required, we can draw on an extensive network of KPMG experts from other countries who can help improve CX processes”. In addition, he adds: “ But support and acceptance from the organization are also indispensable here. Successfully optimizing CX requires involvement and acceptance from the entire organization. KPMG supports change management, creating a culture of customer centricity and training employees to think and act in a customer-centric manner. For example, we can help organizations set up feedback mechanisms to ensure continuous improvement."