In the new digital age, customers hold all the power and businesses around the world are sitting up and paying attention.
Delegates heard that companies that fail to innovate, delight customers and reward loyal customers are doomed to fail in future. The balance of power has changed thanks to digital technology and social media, said experts, and companies are scrambling to change their business models and become ‘customer centric’.
Henning du Preez, a forum participant and disruptive innovation evangelist said that 52% of Fortune 500 companies had disappeared over the past 15 years, while disruptive and innovative companies were thriving, thanks to the value they could deliver.
According to Deon Scheepers, Genesys senior manager of operations, Africa, international companies are going to great lengths to innovate and improve the customer experience.
“Companies are experimenting with augmented and virtual reality to help customers use their products, or to demonstrate the product in use in a particular environment,” Scheepers said. “Many companies are using artificial intelligence and chatbots to support customer self-service and improve contact centre service. Most are reaching out to their customers through new channels, such as mobile apps and social media. And advanced contact centre technology is being used to help agents understand who each caller is, their history with the company, and who within the company is best to resolve their problem quickly.”
According to Scheepers, as digital innovation floods the market, the pace of change is picking up and businesses have to keep pace.
Prof. Adre Schreuder, another forum participant and CEO of Consulta Research, also emphasized how critical customers are to ensuring a successful business. Using the example of a crowded restaurant right next door to an empty one, Prof. Schreuder noted that having many customers is perceived as a sign of quality, so companies should go to great lengths to keep them loyal. “Today, your customers are part of your product,” he said.
Prof. Schreuder also said that customers who consistently enjoyed an excellent experience were more engaged with the brand, purchased up to 90% more frequently from the brand, and spent up to 300% more with the brand each year. “Retaining loyal customers is better for a company’s bottom line than cutting operating costs,” he concluded.