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By 29 July 2019 | Categories: feature articles

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Experian South Africa’s recent Innovation Summit, held in Sandton, brought together international experts and senior executives to discuss why investment in technology and analytics is essential if businesses are to rise to the challenge of meeting rising customer expectations.

“We continue to live through a period of significant economic and political uncertainty and that is putting extra pressure on organisations to make efficient and effective decisions. Acquiring a more sophisticated view of our customers’ behaviour and the markets we serve is critical, if we are going to survive and thrive in these unpredictable times,” explained Mark Wells, Chief Customer Officer at Experian SA.

Key to obtaining that more sophisticated view of course, is data. Remo Lenisa, the CEO of Experian, explained that the convergence of Experian, Compuscan and Scoresharp has enabled the company to do just that, while becoming a big data insights company. He noted that top of mind for customers is of course, security, and data protection.

You can get them, but can you keep them? 

Equally as pressing for businesses is retaining their customers, which is both a concern and a challenge. 

“Customers no longer expect but demand a seamless end-to-end customer journey when they are dealing with organisations of all shapes and sizes, across all platforms. The secret to keeping up with their demand lies in harnessing the potential of data-driven technology,” stressed Wells.

Furthermore, he expanded that offering a frictionless and fluid customer journey is vital for any business that is serious about keeping their customers happy in a fast-paced digital world.  This is borne out by research done by Forrester Consulting at the behest of Experian. It found that most customers (51%) are so fed-up with slow sign-up processes that many will simply abandon their application altogether.

At the same time, 74% of businesses said that improving customer experience is a critical or high priority, but 28% admitted they are not sure they offer a friction-free service to customers. And yet, the research found that just 35% are using automation to help them make accurate decisions about new customers, which can radically speed up processes by removing the need for human involvement.

Silver linings and solutions

“The good news is that the solution is there to solve this problem. It all starts with the data,” adds Wells. “By combining access to traditional and non-traditional credit data with complementary data science and machine learning tools, organisations can now access even smarter insights to understand their market and make faster, more accurate decisions, even if a customer’s circumstances change during a time of financial uncertainty.”

He continued that organisations need to access the widest possible data universe encompassing internal and external data sources, traditional, non-traditional, structured and unstructured, current and historic data. Furthermore, he asserted, they need to use data science, machine learning and on-demand analytics to reveal new and unique data attributes and patterns of consum`er behaviour over time.

Wells enthused that through Experian’s technology, organisations now have the ability to build a complete and accurate view of their customers, drawing on a number of different data sources, providing a more granular and predictive insight into affordability and financial behaviour.

“By doing all this, it’s possible to widen their prospect pools by identifying new, underserved markets and customer segments without changing overall risk appetite. It also removes the costs, risks and complexity of building an integrated in-house data and analytics ecosystem,” he elaborated.

The human touch

It’s not just about data though. No less important is having the human touch and understanding the needs and fears of people. Julie Doleman, the MD of Global Expansion shared her perspective on what all businesses, irrespective of their industry can do to improve their customer relations and thus their chances of retaining customers. 

She pointed out that whether in emerging markets or mature markets, there are four key things that are incredibly important to the consumer. The first of these is financial inclusion, giving everyone who needs it access to affordable money and credit. The second is debt, which is on the rise and can be debilitating. The third and fourth common factors are frustration and fear, with people feeling frustrated at being denied credit, and fear around how they are going to pay their bills, and how they are going to sustain their day to day life.

“Those four basic problems that we see around the world are all of our problems to solve,” she stressed. As to how to solve those problems, the simple answer is to innovate better.  

Innovation is not enough

Bust just ‘doing better’ may not be sufficient. “When we think about innovating we think about doing so on behalf of consumers. The problem is we think we know what our customers need, so we start to build and innovate, but a huge part of innovation is listening, of getting out in front of consumers. We have to do a better job of listening. I don’t care what you do in your day job. At the end of the line is a consumer trying to achieve something very personal,” she stressed.

To find out what that is, she encouraged business leaders to ask themselves what keeps my customers up at night? Or, put another way, what is their chief concern or pain point? Addressing that, she noted, is what should drive innovation in one’s business.

She also encouraged drilling down to defining your personal commitment as to what action you are going to take to address customers’ pain points and putting both on small cards that are on one’s desk and visible throughout the day. 

Even as there is work to be done on understanding one’s customers, the good news is that there is already a strong awareness of the importance emerging technologies play in gaining and keeping customers. According to the aforementioned Forrester research, 82% of businesses surveyed indicated that they know how important data, analytics and AI are to their prospects, while 71% plan to invest in advanced analytics and automation as a priority in the next 12 months.

“It’s encouraging that so many businesses have identified investment in new technologies in the coming year, because it will enable them to identify the right customers and serve them far more effectively,” concluded Wells.

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