How Australian SMEs can leverage technology to improve the customer experience

Customer Experience, commonly referred to as ‘CX’ in the marketing world, has become another buzzword talked about everywhere by everyone. As a phrase, it has become familiar to CEOs but it’s value does not seem to have resonated with a lot of small to medium sized businesses in Australia – yet.


Customer Experience Explained

Harald Fanderl, a parter at McKinsey & Company, summed up Customer Experience in a podcast beautifully. “When we talk about customer experience, it’s actually about putting customer needs at the centre of what a company needs to do, and then ensuring along all the touchpoints and even more so along all the relevant customer journeys that the customers have a flawless experience,” he said.  

It is that simple. It is the marketing equivalent of the Seth Godin customer-led product design quote, “don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” Without naming names, let’s look at an example most readers will be familiar with. Recently, I had a reason to contact my cable television (not naming names) provider to change my package. I sent an email to their helpline requesting a callback. I received a reply saying to ring the general enquiry line. I rang, I spoke to someone, I was redirected, I was put on hold. I spoke to someone new, I was sent an email with instructions to approve the expansion, I had to re-verify my payment details, I had to re-enter my customer details. It didn’t work. On the phone I go again, rang again, spoke to someone – spoke to three someones in fact - before they tried to troubleshoot the issue with me over the phone. Still no luck.

Now this went on for some days and in that process – as an existing, loyal for 10 years, paying customer – I had over 30 touchpoints with the brand. How did I feel at the end of it? Frustrated. If they were providing a flawless customer experience how could it have gone? How could they have better utilized technology to ensure I walked away as a happy customer?


How Much Does Customer Experience Really Matter?

In my own instance, I can’t change to an alternative cable television provider because this particular company has a firm monopoly on the Australian market (still not naming names). However, how likely am I to recommend that brand or talk about the brand favourably to someone else? Not very. This is why it matters – because it impacts customer loyalty and customer loyalty affects your bottom line.

The Tempkin Group found that 86% of customers who received what they consider a great customer experience were likely to repurchase from the same company. They’re pretty good odds for repeat business, and when you combine this with findings from ThinkJar Research identifying that 55% of customers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience, you’re on a beeline for better profitability.

These beliefs about the impact of Customer Experience on profitability were consolidated by Deloitte, who believe that customer experience differentiation leads to stronger financial performance.


I’m An Australian SME CEO – Where Do I Go From Here?  

Digital technology is at the centre of the customer experience nowadays. What is good for CEOs is that as digital has become more essential for successful businesses, access to leading technologies has become cheaper, faster and easier. There is only so much man power in any business, and we lean on technology to support every other aspect of operations – accounting, finance, manufacturing, delivery, communications – so it is time we adopted that approach with Customer Experience.

If you are ready to invest in your Customer Experience, here is where to start.

Step One: Understand Your Customer   

Gaining access to critical customer information is easier now than it ever has been before. There are access points for customer information about behaviors, interests, personalities, finances, decision making processes, lifestyles and demographics on almost any platform people use. This information is like GOLD for your business. It should underpin every marketing decision and Customer Experience decision. Make the most of technologies like the Facebook Pixel to track social behaviour and Google Analytics Tags to track website interactions and learn as much as you can about your customers purchasing behaviour and drivers on an individual level.

Step Two: Automate The experience

Now you know everything there is about your customer, it’s time to automate some actions and fulfil their needs, wants and desires. To start with, think about your communication strategy – is it responsive, is it customized? Use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to ensure you are up to scratch and depending on how much you invest, the AI communication tools can be highly personalized. Now think about providing a streamlined process for your sale journey or service journey – what can make it better for the customer? How much time do they want to spend on things? What will speed it up or slow it down? What do they value most about the process? Match your processes to their desires using automated communication, personalised suggestions and a process you know caters to their needs. Then think about going the extra mile to fulfil their needs before they know they are needs. If they purchased something from you on day X and you know that, on average, 200 days after day X they are likely to require a complimentary product, contact them at the best time using the best method (as you have identified from your extensive customer research) just before that moment hits. Take advantage of automated, digital technologies to actually provide a dream experience.

Step Three: Monitor And Adjust The Process

Just as technology is always evolving, so too is customer intelligence. You need to stay ahead of the curve by constantly re-evaluating how accurate the customer data you are gathering is, how often are the automated experiences being re-evaluated and adjusted against the customer data? How up-to-date is the technology you are using? Monitor the conversion rates and adjust your strategies accordingly. Creating an agile customer experience is perhaps the single most valuable thing you can do. Because if you don’t keep it agile and moving forward with customer expectations and intelligence, it will become stagnant and will no long add value. 


Lastly, think about this: Is customer experience part of your value chain?
It should be.