Understanding your customers’ digital experience

Singapore, June 13, 2016

Understanding your customers’ digital experience


Improved efficiency and cost savings aren’t the only benefits that organisations can reap from their digital transformation efforts. Done right, digitisation programmes enable many new and better ways of interacting with, retaining and attracting customers.

In fact, cutting-edge technologies are making it possible to create entirely new types of customer experiences for enterprises across a wide range of industries and geographies.

“To truly gain an understanding of customer experience, you must know that it encompasses every aspect of a company’s offerings – from the quality of its customer care to its reputation management, marketing, packaging, product and service features, ease of use, reliability, and beyond,” Bruce Jones – senior programming director for the Disney Institute – wrote earlier this year in the Harvard Business Review. “This distinction is more important than ever now, especially for organisations that want to continue to differentiate themselves from their competition.”

To do this, forward-thinking companies today are tapping into Big Data analytics for insights into new ways to compete and appeal to customers. The goal, Jones noted, is to gain a more holistic view of customers’ wants and needs.


Knowledge is key to personalisation

“Your knowledge of the customer must extend far beyond the boundaries of traditional service criteria,” he wrote. “Truly understanding their needs, wants and emotions and the industry stereotypes is the key to creating personalised interactions.”

And that level of understanding can lead to dramatic transformations in how organisations engage with their customers, even enabling whole new types of services that weren’t previously imaginable.

For example, better use of digital technologies can help hospitals and other health-related businesses improve their services to patients and customers. Many of these businesses already have large volumes of data – everything from medical records to financial reports – but aren’t always reaping the insights they could from this information.


Data an ‘underutilised asset’

“Data in general is an underutilised asset if it is not being leveraged to solve an organisation’s challenges and lead to meaningful insights,” JY Pook, an APAC executive with visual analytics firm Tableau, recently told Computer Weekly. “The same goes for the healthcare industry that can utilise data to reduce costs, enhance quality and improve the overall patient experience. This is especially crucial for Asia, as an ageing population, growing life expectancy and a larger middle class have increased the demands for healthcare in the region.”

Other technologies such as social media and near-field communication (NFC) can also help health organisations better serve their patients. In Singapore, for instance, Mount Elizabeth Hospital uses things like iPhone apps and Facebook to make it easier for patients to set up appointments, while the government’s InfoComm Development Authority envisions using NFC to let people buy medications with their phones.

Or look at air travel. Airports already rely on a large and complex network of technologies but new advances in digital are allowing them to transform their interactions with travelers in myriad ways.


Aim for ‘seamless’ and ‘future-ready’

Singapore’s Changi Airport is pursuing a range of transformation strategies with the goal of becoming – in the words of Changi Airport Group CIO and senior vice president of technology Steve Lee – ‘Future Ready, Yet Ever Ready’. With 148,000-some people, many of them tech-savvy and with mobile devices in hand, passing through its facility every day, the airport is working to make their experiences as fast, easy and “seamless” as possible.

Innovations introduced by the airport have included everything from self-service check-in for travelers to a tracking system to ensure that enough baggage trolleys are available wherever large numbers of passengers are arriving or departing. Self-service, Lee has noted, doesn’t mean reduced quality of service. Rather, by enabling travelers to quickly take care of simple but once-time-consuming tasks themselves, such systems free up employees to provide more valuable and personalised services to individual passengers.

Those are just the kinds of benefits envisioned by today’s digital transformation evangelists. By adopting new, digital ways of doing business, they say, enterprises can do much more than open up new sales channels and deliver new kinds of experiences for their customers: they can also provide these services at entirely new scales.


IoT brings new levels of experiences

Looking beyond today, the future belongs to sensors, connected devices and Internet of Things (IoT), which offer even more opportunity to understand user needs and to deliver better experiences.

The closer we move towards IoT and smart cities, the more everything becomes an element of such digital experiences. As ‘ordinary’ objects become ever-smarter, new levels of personalised customer experiences become possible with everything from parking meters and refrigerators to entire sports stadiums and other event venues.

Naturally, the workplace will evolve as well. All these ground-breaking applications will require a large-enough and adequately trained workforce for deployment, management and maintenance. This means training and education itself will need to be transformed for the digital world.

In Singapore, for instance, the economy is driven largely by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which employ about 70 per cent of the country’s workforce. Digital learning technologies will provide the most effective means of ensuring these employees stay up-to-date on the knowledge and skills needed for the future. As a recent article in The Business Times noted, digital platforms will make it possible to “connect SMEs to similar business owners for knowledge exchange, and offer access to member exclusive content by SME experts”.


Customer engagement as part-science, part-art

Whatever the industry, a business must remember that exceptional customer experience will always be part-science, part-art. Writing in CIO magazine earlier this year, executive David Gee described customer experience as an algorithm requiring many inputs... as well as constant monitoring and fine-tuning.

“Doing many things right make[s] a great customer experience,” Gee noted. “But getting the mix right is all part of this journey. It is not necessary that you have to be the very best in everything to have a great customer experience. But clearly when you raise the bar, any weaknesses are amplified.”

He added that avoiding such pitfalls requires commitment and leadership.