The Future of Customer Experience
We reached out to banks in the region to discuss their customer-centric marketing strategies, in particular to our region
Nine times out of ten, customer experience (CX) is the only thing differentiating companies from one another, so it isn’t surprising that CX has claimed the number one status in the priority list for business and technology leaders in 2015 (Forrester). Customer experience is how customers feel as they engage with a company or brand over time, and as technology, consumer behavior, and business models change and evolve, customer experience is forecast to become even more important and an integral part of successful business strategies. While business success once depended solely on delivering reliable and high quality products or services to the market, this is no longer the case. Today’s consumers and in particular millennials are more informed, selective, and expect a tailored and personalized experience that aligns with their personal values. They also want to be able to access products and services from any location at any time. Businesses must therefore focus on the customer experience in their product/ service design and business model in order to differentiate themselves and not lose their customers or market share. Customer Experience Management is becoming a top strategic priority for CEOS in the MENA region, according to Deloitte, and although leading businesses have traditionally invested heavily in both physical and functional customer experiences, investments in emotional experiences are still lacking. High quality products and services are integral, yet to truly stand out, businesses will need to build and overlay their existing customer journey with an emotional one by adding a genuine human facet to their brand while focusing on honesty and relevance.
To survive the future, however, businesses will need to adapt to an ever-changing customer base, respond to shifts in business-consumer dynamics, as well as embrace trends and technological advances in our constantly evolving digital landscape.
Marketing for Millennials
According to Forbes, the millennial generation is the largest in history, representing $600 billion in spending opportunity. In addition to representing a growing portion of consumer spend, millennials are also setting the new customer experience standards and shaping the investments for the future of many industries. Being a demographic that was raised on the Internet, millennials are tech-savvy, independent, socially connected and have high expectations, attributes that businesses and financial institutions should take advantage of to attract millennials to their products and services. Knowing that millennials are the ‘Internet generation’, brick and mortar businesses such as retailers and banks must have an online presence and invest in digitalization and digital marketing or risk being at a competitive disadvantage.
On the mobile front, millennials represent the heaviest mobile users, spending hours on desktop and mobile internet platforms shopping, browsing and using social media platforms and apps. By implementing social media communication strategies, ensuring mobile friendly versions of their websites and investing in mobilefocused technologies, brands can drive more traffic to their sites and increase interest in their products and services. Omnichannel, in particular, is a critical part of corporate strategy, and retailers and financial institutions must develop a customer experience that gives customers access to a seamless and personalized service across every possible touchpoint. Although traditional channels are still important, digitization is more quickly adopted in certain areas versus others, and customers are spending less time in shops and banks and increasingly using the internet and mobile platforms as their most frequent way of interacting with banks and retailers.
Self-service and Artificial Intelligence
By 2020, 85% of business relationships will be managed by the customer without any human interaction, according to research and advisory firm Gartner. Today’s modern customers expect to have access to efficient and speedy self-service options which they can use to find answers to their questions and accomplish tasks themselves. By making customer service more accessible, through online self-service tools and AI technologies such as automated assistants, brands will not only retain their loyal customers but also improve their overall brand recognition.
Thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, companies no longer have to depend on human assistants to provide customer support and tackle customer pain points. With the assistance of non-human digital assistants, more time can be spent on building customer relationships and solving tough problems while more resources and capacity are freed to focus on growth. Another major strength of AI lies in its capability to collect large capacities of data at a very high speed, recognize patterns, and learn from them. By collecting information about consumers’ activities and buying patterns, for example, AI can offer real-time, highly personalized recommendations to customers, according to their tastes and preferences.
Although AI has been around for a while, brands have only recently started adopting it for consumer services. Examples include budget airline easyjet which uses AI to analyze large amounts of consumer data, food brand Knorr who used cognitive technology to interact naturally with consumers and deliver tailored recipes in their recent campaign ‘Love at First Taste’, and Skype which plugged into machine learning to deliver voice recognition and real-time translation. While AI is rapidly catching on and becoming the next big thing, businesses must ensure they strike the right balance between people-power and technology to ensure they are always offering high-quality and personalized experiences.
Data Driven Personalization
When asked about his predictions for CX in 2016, Victor Milligan (CMO at Forrester Research) stated ‘Analytics is becoming a key competitive weapon. It’s not about making big data bigger but making it more useful and able to anticipate and deliver super experiences to customers.’ Businesses that make use of customer analytics are showing a 126% profit improvement over their competitors that don’t, according to research by Mckinsey, and as businesses become more and more data-driven, leveraging customer experience analytics will be crucial for providing a seamless and personalized customer experience and obtaining competitive advantage.
Today, retailers know exactly where their customers are located, their actions on the site, their past purchases and even their next online stop, thanks to easily traceable consumer behavior data. The abundant data harnessed is used by businesses to tailor their offerings and marketing messages, evolve and develop strategies, create algorithm-based customer experiences and maintain and foster stronger customer relationships. By combining business processes and customer information (including external data) on one platform, however, businesses can understand their customers and their intents, and act in real-time on taking their experiences to the next level. If leveraged effectively, predictive analytics and data enable the businesses to deliver excellent customer experience by expecting rather than simply responding to customers’ needs.
Data should also be used to create individually tailored and contextualized experiences, as personalization of customers’ digital experiences is particularly critical to a brand’s future success. Consumers not only expect firms to contextually understand who they are, but they also expect them to respond to their needs and anticipate them. To differentiate, businesses need to be effective at using different data streams to recognize and respond to the needs of their consumers, from big data for overall trends to microdata for looking at a particular group or account’s behavior and their use of a product or service.
From a marketing perspective, what is being done to engage millennials, as they become an increasingly large share of your customer base? What channels/ strategies do you use? Millennials represent a growing portion of the consumer spend and hence are setting the new customer experience standards, shaping the investments for the future of many industries including banking and finance. They are digitally savvy, socially connected as well as vocal, have high expectations and want quick and flexible access to services and goods.
Effortless and enriching customer experience being at the center of our corporate culture, our digital strategies are geared towards satisfying the expectations of this trendsetter segment, allowing us to simultaneously educate more traditional customer segments about the convenience of digital channels. While supporting the shift to digital, we carefully balance our digital customer servicing channels
with traditional brick and mortar as well as contact center touchpoints to allow all customers to choose how they interact with our company.
We’ve also invested in the leading mobile wallet platform in the region, Beam Wallet, as we know that mobile is going to be, if not already is, the preferred channel for transactions as well as servicing. Beam speaks to these uber connected individuals leveraging technology, payments and a loyalty scheme together in a mobile app that allows for payment through the Beam app via a beacon or payment terminal in retail outlets for goods and services. It’s all about choice, convenience and an excellent customer experience, this is what we stand for.
Are you developing an omni – channel and seamless customer experience? How do you consider physical and digital execution for a holistic customercentric experience? Our main goal is to create an effortless and enriching experience for our customers due to our branchless nature, and to be present at all possible relevant customer touchpoints when and where our customers prefer or need to interact with us. Examples of this are our presence at Carrefour where customers can apply for our Najm credit card offering 4% cashback at Carrefour, or our omnichannel servicing capabilities. We let our customers choose which channels they interact with us during every phase of the customer’s life cycle. From application to servicing, from new requests to complaint resolution, we offer many channels for them to use. Traditional channels are still important and digitization is more quickly adopted in certain areas versus others. To give you an example, we are one of only three financial institutions that allow customers to complete the entire Easy Payment Plan (EPP) process online in a just a few clicks. The overall effect was a 40 percent shift in EPP being
converted online versus via contact center channel. While adoption for this digital service has been amazingly quick, the shift to the online channel for application is much slower as most customers prefer to deal directly with a sales agent.
Do you map customer journeys? May you share any insights on behaviors from brick-and-mortar to online? Understanding how customers behave is only one part of the equation, the other is understanding where the behavior happens and seeing if there is an opportunity to improve the journey by merging offline and online interactions. This starts at the point of exposure to our products. We marry offline and online milestones along any particular journey and constantly evaluate which channels are being used. We then adapt aspects of the journey to save the customer time or improve their overall experience. For example, if a potential customer sees an advertisement inside Carrefour for one of our cashback credit cards, their application journey can start physically in the store via a Direct Sales Agent or through an SMS short code for a lead call via our Telesales Agents or digitally with an online application, as they receive an instant link to our online application form.
In our online application journey, customers can choose a completely digital experience from completing the application, to online document submission, omitting the need to interact with anyone physically to become a card member. It is all about convenience for the customer, the journey should suit their needs in any scenario.
What’s the power of mobile in the consumer’s journey? Are you able to share stats on the amount of transactions conducted on mobile? Mobile is a pervasive part of our lives, and we aim to shift our services predominantly towards mobile channels
to give our customers full self-service capability at their preferred time. We also think of the mobile experience during all phases of the customer lifecycle – from having an optimized website to having features like interactive SMS, mobile pin activation and a dedicated app, Mynajm, where they have a complete 360 view of their account. Moving forward, we are expanding into deeper integration within social media and mobile channels (i.e. Whatsapp for customer servicing).
However, mobile is not only about customer facing channels, but can be used to improve the customer experience in a holistic manner. All of our sales agents in the field are equipped with mobile devices that are linked to our cloudbased customer relationship management system, allowing them to instantly update their interactions with customers in a continuous feedback loop to improve the overall level of service they experience. We know what actions a particular prospective or current customer have taken and the status. This allows us to have more intelligent interactions and the ability to know our customer and anticipate the need can only happen when you enable an integrated mobile experience at all touchpoints with customers.
Have you developed lead generation and/or conversion based marketing strategies? How do you consider pervasive analytics, real-time marketing and advanced multichannel integration in your strategy? Our vision is to move from mass or segmented marketing to one-to-one marketing. We look at being able to micro segment our customers as an essential tool in creating positive experiences. We leverage the power of analytics and use data-driven insights to deliver a more personalized digital experience to both our prospects and customers alike. We strive to deliver relevant messages based on data compiled for each of our customers at the right time, via their preferred channel. This is a continuous process that gets refined with every transaction they make. We want to know what motivates them and give them the types of offers and information that is relevant to their lives.
Extensive use of multivariate testing and advanced segmentation allows us to further optimize this finely tuned digital experience. Early on in our business, we invested in building strong data warehouse capabilities. This now forms a central repository of rich granular data collected from users across all our touch points and gives us the ability to use analytics to scale up and accelerate.
Our expertise in behavioral analytics and statistical modeling naturally extends to support our lead generation activity. We are able to identify potential customers based on their behavioral patterns, both on and offline, deliver sustained relevant messages through channels that they prefer and convert them to loyal customers and passionate advocates.
What percentage of customers are active users of digital channels? How has their behavior changed as they adopted digital channels? We have seen customers readily adopt our digital channels. Our mobile app adoption rate is at about 60 percent, with 20 to 25 percent of customer interactions initiated via this channel. Customers prefer the digital channels and we see that with increases in usage steadily reducing their reliance on traditional sales and customer service channels. We expect to see more customers preferring self-service and on-the-go access to their accounts.
On the social media side our growth rate was around 20 percent last year, with the average for local finance companies at about 12-15 percent. Our engagement rates have also increased by 25 percent as we have initiated detailed targeting and created rich, relevant content at the right time and following trends. Through automation, we have further improved our customer service levels on social media, reducing turnaround time and response rates for customers. We also use social listening tools to actively seek out customers and help them.
However, a segment of our customers prefer traditional channels when it comes to servicing. This is why continuing to invest in our customer contact center has been one of our priorities. Najm contact center follows international standards and we continuously improve systems used which results in time savings for the customer without sacrificing quality of service. Our latest investment was in upgrading our Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems which allows customers who use their registered mobile number to be instantly recognized by our system without the hassle of entering credit card details.
As a testament, our call centre has been awarded numerous accolades for service excellence. Regardless of the channel type a customer chooses, the experience with Najm will be consistent and access to information is quick and convenient and with customer service always a top priority.
“We look at being able to micro segment our customers as an essential tool in creating positive experiences.”
RASOOL HUJAIR Chief Executive Officer NAJM - UAE