5 minute read 12 Jan 2022

Companies must deliver smart, personalized experiences to maintain long-term customer trust following a shift in consumer expectations.

Waiter serving customer in cafe

How smart experiences can enhance customer trust

By Sungkyu Chang

Partner, Consulting, Ernst & Young Consulting Sdn Bhd

Passionate about empowering customers and transforming customer experiences across physical and digital channels. Husband and father to two children. Enjoys golfing all year round in Malaysia.

5 minute read 12 Jan 2022

Companies must deliver smart, personalized experiences to maintain long-term customer trust following a shift in consumer expectations.

In brief
  • Traditional ways of measuring customer experience (CX) are no longer sufficient in helping to build and retain customer trust.
  • Companies need a new customer-centric approach to measuring CX that offers rich, actionable insights in real time throughout the customer life cycle.
  • Investing in the right technologies and platforms, while putting people at the center of CX transformation programs, is key. 

The pandemic has changed how customers experience brands. As countries went into lockdown, there was a rapid transition to online shopping, where customers enjoyed greater convenience and personalized services. Presented with a plethora of new options online, customers are now more open to switching brands and channels. Further, the 2021 EY Future Consumer Index revealed that 64% of Asia-Pacific consumers are willing to share personal data for a tailored online experience. 

This marked shift in the dynamics between customers and brands will impact how brands can retain and build customer trust. According to Gartner, trust in a brand is a customer’s ability to feel secure in the belief that a company will consistently follow through on its stated intentions to customers and others, especially during difficult times.1 Brands that rely solely on their legacy and customers’ familiarity are discovering that this is no longer enough in sustaining a competitive edge. Organizations will need to continually earn and maintain customer trust.  

Customer experience is paramount

Building trust starts with delivering great customer experiences (CX). Leading brands recognize this and are constantly raising the bar and aiming to become “experience leaders”. To deliver winning CX, brands need to continuously provide highly differentiated and insight-driven engagement at each touchpoint throughout the customer journey. Customers desire experiences that are customized to meet their individual needs, yet sensitive to their levels of interest and responsive to their interactions.

Organizations recognize the value of CX and are making huge investments in this area, yet few have managed to deliver outstanding value and superior CX. There are five common challenges:

  • Lack of a unified view of customers across products and channels, affecting CX and sales
  • Lack of integration across channels, leading to inconsistent offers to customers
  • Inability to target individuals for personalized engagements as systems were designed for mass marketing
  • Inability to create value propositions that make sense to customers, preventing brands from offering relevant, value-adding products and services to meet their needs
  • Product performance reporting that is periodic and too slow for brands to react in time to meet customer expectations

These challenges underline the need for a fundamental shift toward listening to what customers value beyond mere communication of the brand story. 

A new way to measure CX 

Truly listening to customers will require a rethink of how CX is measured and used to inform actions. It is therefore imperative for brands to measure actual customer perceptions and behaviors beyond intentions.

Traditionally, CX is measured by surveys or direct feedback. In today’s fast-paced environment, these measurements are no longer sufficient as they are conducted at few touchpoints and infrequently. This results in sampling and response biases that may render results unactionable. In addition, most common CX measurement systems, such as customer satisfaction surveys and net promoter score, measure intentions that are disconnected from actual behaviors. While these measurements are good indicators, they do not sufficiently predict customer future value and actual customer behaviors. 

Traditional ways of measuring CX do not sufficiently predict customer future value and actual customer behaviors.

Organizations need a new way to measure CX and build empathy that reflects customer behaviors and motivations, while allowing for emotional connectivity. Fundamentally, the way they measure CX must shift in the following ways:

  • From being brand-centric (what brands think is important to know) to being customer-centric (what customers believe is important for brands to know)
  • From a measurement approach that is slow, retrospective and resource-intensive to a scalable measurement solution that is automated and always-on
  • From having inconsistent, scattered data and insights in functional silos to having consistent, transparent and unbiased measurements
  • From limited insights that are difficult to act upon to rich downstream insights derived from ambient customer data that are actionable at every step of the customer life cycle
  • From different “versions of truth” to a common framework and measurement approach that links to business growth

Take for example how the above principles are applied in winning a bank customer that purchases a new home and does extensive research online to select the best mortgage deal. The customer has been struggling with his finances since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When his bank offers a low-interest personal loan and a fixed deposit-linked mortgage, he accepts the personal loan and rejects the latter with a click in his mobile app. 

Soon after, he receives another offer: a pre-approved credit card that has discounts and a higher cash rebate at places where he usually shops. As he finds this to be enticing and relevant, he accepts the offer delightedly.

Behind the scenes, extensive analyses and information orchestration had been done to understand the customer’s payment and interactive behavior in real time. This allowed the bank to know his preferred way of being engaged, lifetime value and propensity to purchase a product. Using these insights, the bank then tailored offers to meet the customer’s underlying needs without asking him directly. In this scenario, rather than pursuing loan repayment, the bank chose to cross-sell other products to increase the customer value in the long term and the number of products held by the customer, which in turn, translates into customer stickiness.

Unlike traditional rule-based triggers that are often reactive and one-sided, this was real-time and proactive. Depending on how customers respond, organizations can leverage customers’ ambient data to personalize engagements based on their behaviors and emotions at a particular point in time.

To achieve the above, organizations need to invest in technologies and platforms that allow them to quantify experiences at every touchpoint in real time and provide deep, actionable insights. This entails an integrated delivery engine that incorporates and automates the learning of customer and business data, as well as an automated technology layer to orchestrate the entire customer journey, activate customer engagement and close the feedback loop. Organizations also need to develop a set of models that quantifies the impact of experience strategies based on the value delivered to customers and the business. Solutions like EY Smart Experience are designed to help organizations prioritize initiatives that will maximize the return on experience.

From experience to value to trust

Customers’ trust is generated from their emotional connection with brands. Emotional connection is not built from a single transaction or moment in time, but from an amalgamation of a customer’s total experiences with the brand. It is therefore imperative for brands to build authentic relationships with their customers to gain trust.

Brands must realize that transformational CX is not enabled only by technology and platforms. Putting humans at the center of CX transformation programs is critical. Organizations also need to enhance their own employee experiences and keep them engaged with a customer-centric brand identity and culture, in order to be better positioned to move from good to great “experience leaders”.

Summary

With the pandemic greatly changing how brands can build and retain customer trust, traditional ways of measuring CX are no longer sufficient. Organizations therefore need a new way to measure CX that is customer-centric and offers rich, actionable insights in real time at every step of the customer life cycle. This not only requires investment in the right technologies and platforms, but also putting people at the center of CX transformation programs.

About this article

By Sungkyu Chang

Partner, Consulting, Ernst & Young Consulting Sdn Bhd

Passionate about empowering customers and transforming customer experiences across physical and digital channels. Husband and father to two children. Enjoys golfing all year round in Malaysia.