Customer Experience is Team Play

In the dig­i­tal age, cus­tomer expe­ri­ence has become a key focus of cor­po­rate strategy. European com­pa­nies need to remove their data silos.

The dig­i­tal age is the age of the empow­ered cus­tomer: Nev­er before have cus­tomers had such a high degree of trans­paren­cy regard­ing prod­ucts, prices, fea­tures and com­peti­tors. They can switch to a com­peti­tor with a mouse-click and instant­ly share their expe­ri­ence of a prod­uct or ser­vice with the rest of the world via social media. They can thus exert sub­stan­tial influ­ence on a company’s brand and rev­enue. Hence, the abil­i­ty to pro­vide a supe­ri­or cus­tomer expe­ri­ence and inno­v­a­tive ser­vices via all touch­points in a high­ly per­son­al­ized man­ner is not only a key com­pet­i­tive fac­tor, it is a neces­si­ty to sur­vive in the dig­i­tal age.

A holis­tic cus­tomer expe­ri­ence strat­e­gy, there­fore, has to be an inte­gral part of any suc­cess­ful dig­i­tal strat­e­gy today. And indeed, in almost 70% of the Euro­pean com­pa­nies, cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is addressed as a key strate­gic top­ic at the top man­age­ment lev­el. This is a key result of the sur­vey “Holis­tic Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence in the Dig­i­tal Age” that PAC con­duct­ed on behalf of Adobe. PAC sur­veyed 450 deci­sion-mak­ers of large com­pa­nies in man­u­fac­tur­ing, finan­cial ser­vices as well as retail & whole­sale in France, Ger­many and the UK.

How­ev­er, cross-func­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tion is insuf­fi­cient in most companies

It is crit­i­cal to under­stand, though, that cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is deter­mined not only by fron­tend oper­a­tions such as mar­ket­ing or cus­tomer care. The sur­vey results clear­ly reveal that cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is also strong­ly affect­ed by back­end func­tions such as billing & invoic­ing or prod­uct devel­op­ment and R&D. A great dig­i­tal buy­ing expe­ri­ence that is fol­lowed, e.g., by inflex­i­ble, old-style logis­tics, account­ing or ser­vice process­es will lead to high­ly frus­trat­ed customers.

How­ev­er, half of all the com­pa­nies PAC sur­veyed have no over­ar­ch­ing cus­tomer expe­ri­ence strat­e­gy that goes beyond mar­ket­ing and involves dif­fer­ent busi­ness units such as billing, ship­ping and cus­tomer service.

Even worse: In most com­pa­nies, fron­tend and back­end depart­ments don’t work hand in hand to pro­vide an out­stand­ing cus­tomer expe­ri­ence along the entire cus­tomer jour­ney. 65% have not appoint­ed a cen­tral func­tion that over­sees all cus­tomer touch­points and inte­grates the work of the var­i­ous depart­ments from mar­ket­ing and sales through the sup­ply chain all the way to cus­tomer care and after-sales services.

There is a strong need for cus­tomer data inte­gra­tion in Europe

We also observe that effec­tive cross-depart­men­tal col­lab­o­ra­tion to opti­mize the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is severe­ly lim­it­ed by data silos. Access to valu­able cus­tomer infor­ma­tion, e.g. the con­tact his­to­ry across touch­points or indi­vid­ual cus­tomer pref­er­ences and indi­vid­ual pro­files, is restrict­ed to select­ed depart­ments in most companies.

The major­i­ty of Euro­pean firms have a zoo of dif­fer­ent – and bad­ly inte­grat­ed — IT sys­tems in place that col­lect and ana­lyze cus­tomer data. This sit­u­a­tion pre­vents them from gain­ing a 360° view of their cus­tomers and lim­its the poten­tial to pro­vide a supe­ri­or cus­tomer expe­ri­ence across all touch­points. While the ana­lyt­ics tools of indi­vid­ual mar­ket­ing, CRM or cus­tomer ser­vice sys­tems might help to opti­mize indi­vid­ual process­es, they only pro­vide an iso­lat­ed (siloed) view on cus­tomer inter­ac­tion and are not well suit­ed for the devel­op­ment of an inte­grat­ed and holis­tic cus­tomer expe­ri­ence strategy.

Half of all respon­dents there­fore see a press­ing need to imple­ment one sin­gle IT sys­tem that inte­grates data from var­i­ous sources along the entire cus­tomer journey.

Wake-up call for Ger­man companies

The study presents a par­tic­u­lar­ly strong wake-up call for Ger­man com­pa­nies: Even tak­ing into account the fact that Ger­mans tend to be some­what self-crit­i­cal, they are clear­ly lag­ging behind in their dig­i­tal and cus­tomer expe­ri­ence abil­i­ties in almost all areas we sur­veyed. While Ger­man invest­ment plans sug­gest there is some catch­ing up going on, com­pa­nies in Ger­many still have some way to go to reach their com­peti­tors in the UK and France. Ger­man com­pa­nies need to act now if they do not want to lose ground in the increas­ing­ly com­pet­i­tive envi­ron­ment of the dig­i­tal age.

Over­all the results of the sur­vey reveal that most Euro­pean com­pa­nies are not yet par­tic­u­lar­ly well pre­pared for approach­ing cus­tomer expe­ri­ence in a holis­tic way – nei­ther from a strate­gic or orga­ni­za­tion­al nor from a tech­ni­cal perspective.

Orga­ni­za­tions across Ger­many, the UK and France have to work towards imple­ment­ing a ded­i­cat­ed orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture for coor­di­nat­ing all cus­tomer-relat­ed activ­i­ties. They have to bring togeth­er all parts of the orga­ni­za­tion to joint­ly work on the opti­miza­tion of the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. And they have to remove their data silos!