The Age of Experience: How Asian brands are delivering seamless customer experience

Sitecore’s Asia vice-president Nick Boyle dives deep into customer experience following a recent conference on the topic in Singapore

Technology tipped us from the ‘Information Age’ into the ‘Experience Age’. Not only do customers want better interactions with brands – they expect it. 

But what exactly do they want, and how are organisations best able to deliver it? That’s what Graham Brown set out to learn in a panel discussion he led at the Sitecore Experience 2019 event in Singapore on August 30. 

 

Graham, a podcast host and founder of Pitch Media, took the stage with other business leaders, including: 

  • Tom Voirol, Asia chief experience design officer, Ogilvy
  • Belinda Widgery, Asia channel and device marketing lead, Microsoft
  • Harish Agarwal, senior vice-president – and head of customer experience and segments, Prudential 

Graham opened the discussion with a personal story. To get to the conference that morning, he had booked a $27 Grab car over a cheaper, standard taxi. Why? For a seamless Grab experience. Namely, a cashless transaction and driver with a dependable GPS. For that, he gladly opened his wallet.

“I’ll pay more for somebody to take frustrations away,” Graham said. “And that’s how customers think. They’re not looking for you to wow them. They’re just looking for you to do the common things uncommonly well.”

For seamless CX, go for small wins

Graham kicked off the panel discussion by referencing Forrester’s hot-off-the-press Singapore Customer Experience Index 2019 which analysed CX for 16 brands in four areas: airlines, government, banks and insurance.

 

Referring to last year’s ratings as “abysmal”, Voirol said Singapore’s 2019 index ratings were remarkably flat. “We’re not seeing improvements,” he said. “What we are seeing is companies investing in customer experience, but we’re not necessarily seeing the returns.”

He believes that’s because most organisations take a big splash approach to CX. And he said it’s common for companies to make a short but intense customer experience push followed by a half-hearted maintenance period. Five years on, a new marketing director kills the old CX platform, and the whole process starts anew.  

Don’t do this, Voirol advised.  

Instead, go for small wins and strive to continuously improve your CX. He advocated putting a team in place that cares about this issue “every day, all day” – one with the time and data to continuously improve it. 

 

Who’s doing this well? Look no further than Facebook. New version rollouts were deeply unpopular with users, so now Facebook made small but frequent changes, which users barely notice. This underscores Brown’s belief that good customer experience is often invisible. People don’t think about it. They just enjoy it. 

As for customer experience data, Voirol prefers qualitative over quantitative research, although he’s not a fan of focus groups anymore. They don’t provide unvarnished truth the way social media does – where people think they’re not being observed, except by 2.5 billion other people. He favoured easy ways for customers to give qualitative feedback and, using companies like Sitecore, to gather meaningful demographic data. 

C-suite alignment first, employee empowerment second  

Agarwal chimed in, wholeheartedly agreeing that customer experience is best approached with small incremental changes. But he advocated for aligning your C-suite first. Otherwise, your team ends up doing too many things and missing the focus. He cited Prudential’s new customer service centre at Marina One as an example whereby small changes could make a difference.

“We put a massive Prudential sign on top of the customer service centre,” he said. “I felt nobody can miss that. Then we realised from our ‘voice of customer’ studies that people are finding it hard to get to our customer care center from the MRT and when they get there, they are missing it because the sign was so high up. They were looking at eye level. So one small change and we saw the difference in the feedback we were getting.” 

Brown agreed that small steps could make a big impact, especially when employees were empowered to act. Agarwal then shared a personal anecdote about a SIM card he purchased from a company called GiffGaff on a recent trip to the United Kingdom. He bought a SIM card with 25GB of data. After his trip, he wrote to the company to tell them he had only used 5GB of the 25GB card and asked if he could get a refund on the balance.

“They gave me back the entire £30 that I paid for the SIM card,” he said. “They did not need to do that, but now they have a guy talking about them at every conference he goes to. And word of mouth is probably the most powerful tool that ever existed in marketing. That’s how you know that CX creates long-term value for the organisation.”

Consumer voices trump statistics 

Switching gears, Brown recalled the battles once waged between online and retail sellers. Customers were frustrated with ‘online only’ pricing, and brands were upset about the practice of ‘showrooming’ – or physically interacting with a product in a store, but purchasing it from an online seller at home.  

Widgery said online was an important part of a consumer tech customer’s journey. She said Microsoft consumer research showed 70% to 80% of people started their buying journeys online, with 61% then purchasing consumer tech goods in retail stores. She noted that the latter number has actually been increasing over the last few years in Asia. As such, she said it was vital that online and in-store retail CX teams worked together to deliver a seamless and intuitive journey for the consumer. 

 

She heavily relied on an internal weekly report called ‘Word on the Street’. It captured anecdotal consumer feedback from across the region. She said the voice of the consumer could often be more powerful than many statistics. She used it to locate and understand every possible touchpoint to help ensure a seamless customer journey.

To help buyers navigate the purchase of a modern laptop and simplify their choice, Microsoft is working with their retail partners to place a ‘help me choose’ widget on the company’s website. This will direct consumers to products that match their tech, lifestyle and usage needs. The tool will recommend a few laptops that match the consumer’s needs and if they would like to see the physical product, they can save a shopping pass in their mobile wallet directly from the retailer’s website. 

The next time you’re anywhere near that store, it will ping up on your mobile device saying it’s available to see in this store – why don’t you go in and have a look? Then you walk into the store and we’ll help you find your way to the saved laptop. And if you like, you can also engage with a physical person who can provide a demonstration and help you answer any remaining questions you may have.

This is the way Microsoft will help its consumers navigate a complex buying journey, ensuring that they buy a device that’s right for them and without losing anyone along the way. 

Is your organisation committed to finding ways to ensure a seamless customer experience? Is it a big change or a baby step? And are they listening to what customers really want? Contact us to let us show you how Sitecore can help. 

Boyle of Sitecore

Nick Boyle is the Asia vice-president at Sitecore. You can find him on LinkedIn. If you missed out on Sitecore Experience 2019 Asia, you can relive it via Experience Online and read blog posts on how to take your business to the next level as well as watching on-demand videos from the event.

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