5 minute read 18 Nov 2020
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Three ways companies can be more customer-obsessed using tech

By Savi Thethi

EY Americas Consulting Services Technology Transformation Leader

Avid problem solver. Passionate about helping clients reinvent their business leveraging next-generation technologies. Traveler. Fishing enthusiast.

5 minute read 18 Nov 2020

Brands need a loyal consumer base more than ever. So how can they become more obsessed with their customers?

In brief
  • Meeting customers’ changing expectations demands requires companies to rigorously design and prioritize customer experience.
  • Companies must create a culture that seeks to continuously improve customer experience.
  • Companies have the opportunity to leverage technologies to enhance not only their customer-facing applications and processes but also internal systems and tools.

A company’s relationship with its customers has never been more important, and businesses now have unprecedented channels for two-way communication, as well as for understanding what makes their customers loyal.

We have found that the most progressive businesses put humans – including customers – at the center of how they build and evolve their businesses. Radical customer-centricity involves mastering hyper-personalization, so customers feel individually known and their needs understood and anticipated by companies they buy from.

EY recent Tech Horizon research shows that meeting customers’ changing demands is the number-one reason why companies are transforming their businesses – 45% of respondents put the customer at the forefront of everything that they do. They have a customer centric mindset, built an end-to-end customer experience and critically see customer and profitability as being inextricably linked.

But to turn customers into brand ambassadors means giving them something to evangelize, and meeting customer expectations by continually reinventing their experience. To do this, demands a focus on culture, processes, and technologies.

Here are three ways to take customer relationships to the next level.

Transform culture: rewrite the customer experience

Customer experience should be every employee’s responsibility. This is tenet number one in a customer-centric culture – for 47% of customer-obsessed companies, even their technology departments are laser focused on customer experience.

“Typically, a customer-obsessed company is also an employee-obsessed company,” says Laurence Buchanan, EY EMEIA Customer & Growth Leader; CEO, EY-Seren Limited. “Even in highly automated customer-facing operations, humans make the difference. When they are engaged, and they believe in the company’s purpose they are there to add a human-touch when customers encounter complex problems that can’t be solved through automation. They add passion, humour and humility that you simply can’t build in a machine.”

For many customer-obsessed companies, external collaboration is part of their strategy: 81% of highly customer-focused companies have won significant customer contracts as a result of an innovation partnership.

Companies must have a mission and purpose that people believe in. If an employee is engaged in that higher purpose, they will typically go the extra mile for customers.

Transform processes: rewrite the customer experience

More than half of customer-obsessed companies are using Agile methodologies, with 67% of them streamlining management hierarchy and empowering leaders to make quick decisions, and 82% of them leveraging data and analytics to speed up their innovation and agility.

Organizations can take a further cue from tech development in their customer strategies. For example, feedback loops are typically used to refine MVPs and discover and deliver on the users’ needs. This is an instantaneous way to gather feedback on an app, but companies should survey their customers’ satisfaction after every interaction or transaction and centralize the feedback for rapid action.

Companies should work to build a feedback loop functionality into all their customer touchpoints: the more customer feedback, the more companies can optimize the experience.

“High-performing customer experiences allow you to get feedback faster, and you can then incorporate and keep moving off the back of it until you get to a better experience. In traditional approaches, it can take you years to implement something and then at that point, it might not look like what you were trying to implement, and the market may have changed, so what you have isn’t in demand anymore. You need that feedback loop,” says Jim Little, EY’s Americas Technology Strategy Lead.

Transformational technology: AI accelerates customer understanding and satisfaction

Technology is supercharging the customer experience. The global pandemic meant customers had to rely on technology to interact with organizations virtually – particularly in healthcare, where providers needed to transform their operational models  to effectively respond to changes in patient needs. In response, EY teams have helped health service providers in more than 80 countries worldwide to triage patients using automated FAQs, creating an informed citizen, and guiding them to the right support quickly, without overwhelming call centers.

AI, in particular, has supported enhanced digital engagement with customers. AI has been fueling customer obsession with sportswear brand Nike for some time – last year the brand launched Nike Fit, an AI-powered foot-scanning app function that measures customers’ feet to ensure they buy the right size and fit. This can contribute to an improved customer experience as customers get the right size first time, with fewer returns.1

Companies across the board know that investing in AI can create happier customers, with over 80% reporting that their tech investments drive customer loyalty. Among AI leaders, 93% also indicate that AI has a positive impact on brand recognition, compared to 63% of AI laggards.

Beatriz Sanz Saiz, EY Global Consulting Data and Analytics Leader, says that AI is at the heart of creating a superior customer experience. “Businesses need to build intelligence at scale,” she says. “With every customer interaction, companies learn more about the individual, and it builds collective intelligence. And this isn’t analysis for the sake of it, it really changes the operations. Modern companies change their processes and keep learning by the second. They need to build trusted intelligence at scale to be able to deploy the best customer experience possible.”

To start yielding customer satisfaction and loyalty gains, AI investment is a must.

Customer obsession breeds brand ambassadors

One company that understands customer obsession is Tesla: its laser focus on customers, throughout their buyer and user journey, has earned it a loyal (and often vocally so) customer base and a customer satisfaction rate of 90%.2

Companies like Tesla don’t accidentally create a cult following: they prioritize customer relationships through processes, technology and culture. Mediocre customer experiences create mediocre brand sentiment.

Being customer-obsessed can never just be a one-time investment: it requires a complete re-orchestration of how you operate, putting humans – employees, customers and communities – at the center.

This is new territory for most companies, so now is the time to re-evaluate technologies such as artificial intelligence and data analytics, processes including user personas and journey mapping, and applying human-centric design to customer-facing applications and processes but also to internal systems and tools. All of these can drive new and more meaningful ways of serving and interacting with customers. Which is exactly what customers are demanding.  

About the research

The analysis in this report draws on an extensive program of quantitative and qualitative research.

A survey of 570 C-suite and senior business leaders was conducted across 12 countries (US, Canada, Brazil, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Japan, China and India) and nine sectors (consumer products and retail; energy; health and life sciences; tech, media and telco; industrial; financial services; education; transportation and logistics; and hospitality). The 570 companies were split into two categories: 500 corporates and 70 start-ups. The data in this report refers to the 500 corporates only, unless otherwise stated. In addition, a number of in-depth interviews were conducted with leading digital transformation leaders.


Loyal and vocal customers are the holy grail for companies across all sectors. To win them takes an obsessive approach to customer experience that unites processes, technology and culture.

About this article

By Savi Thethi

EY Americas Consulting Services Technology Transformation Leader

Avid problem solver. Passionate about helping clients reinvent their business leveraging next-generation technologies. Traveler. Fishing enthusiast.