Adobe’s Simon Dale argues that brands need to invest in leveraging real-time data and digitising engagement processes to unlock better customer experiences.

As COVID-19 lockdown restriction eases, a semblance of normality is slowly returning to countries around the world. However, global uncertainty has made its mark, causing consumer decision making to become less rational and more susceptible to external pressure and emotional turbulence.

Customer experience (CX) has quickly moved from a competitive differentiator to a business imperative. Consumers now come to expect highly personalised experiences, and companies need to close the gaps between the experiences they expect.

This has presented a unique challenge for businesses as they are no longer able to refer to past experiences to direct CX strategies for today. Without past models to fall back on, how exactly can we make sure that we are providing the right kind of experience that can address the uncertainty, anxiety, and fear that customers are feeling in current times?

Know and respond to customers in real-time

The pandemic is keeping consumers at home, and their interactions with businesses have changed as they look at brands, products, and services through new lenses. It is now crucial for brands to adapt their strategies to the needs of these consumers to make timely connections and deliver the most relevant real-time experience that they need at that moment.

Adobe’s 2020 Digital Trends report found that 57% of APAC organisations are set to increase their investments in CX-related technology. With the furious pace of innovations moving across the year, organisations can consider adopting and utilising modern technology such as artificial learning (AI) and machine learning (ML) to predict what your customer wants and understand their behaviour.

These technologies can help to aggregate and analyse the flood of customer data from multiple channels and platforms, and in turn interpret the data to generate insights that the business can act on. Businesses can take advantage of the data they have – and form alliances with complementary partners – to help optimise the customer journey and respond appropriately to the customer needs through various touchpoints.

Effective customer engagement in your hands

Consumers today are exposed to an ongoing feed of content and experiences across digital channels and technology platforms. Our APAC Marketer Outlook Survey revealed that email, social networks, TV advertisements, and texts/calls are the most common communication mediums, and brands are starting to revisit their digital strategies in view of COVID-19.

Regardless of medium, every single touchpoint will add up to a big impact on the overall experience. Customers expect the brands they interact with to respond to the issues they are facing with empathy and share their perspective, so they are assured that you continue to be aligned with their values.

As a result, brands need to reduce the time it takes to create and deliver content, from months and weeks to minutes – even milliseconds – to stay relevant and maintain business resilience. Interactions need to make the consumer feel that the brands that they are engaging with resonate with their current needs and personal situation, through empathetic and authentic ways of communications.

With the pandemic bringing the travel and tourism industry to a halt, creating significant turbulence in the sector, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is a great example of an organisation that has responded quickly to the rapidly evolving tourism landscape. STB remained focused on maintaining customer’s trust by embracing data-driven decisions and rethinking the delivery of different experiences to the consumers in the new norm, as it prepares for Singapore’s borders to reopen to visitors.

One of the initiatives include the Smart Itinerary Planner where visitors to Singapore simply need to indicate their interest and travel dates, and the tool will be able to generate an itinerary with the best that Singapore has to offer, while optimising travel routes and time schedules. 

Not only did STB seek to provide exceptional experience by stitching together first-party data with third-party data gathered from other ecosystem partners and platforms, it also paved the way for quick recovery that could set the stage for the future of travel.

Empowered employees make for better customer experience

Customer experience has changed dramatically in the past few months. While digital technology remains a vital force in meeting customer’s needs, the human element of interacting is proving to be more critical than ever as well.

Expecting employees to react and adapt to unforeseen changes intuitively is a risky assumption for brands to make. Businesses need to balance automation with the right dose of empathy and ensure that employees are well-trained and equipped to respond in a flexible way to meet customers’ need for human connections during these times.

Not only that, businesses need to make sure that they equip their employees with the right kind of technology that will cater to customers accordingly too: 58% of respondents to the Adobe APAC Marketer Outlook Survey have reported that their customers want improved digital alternatives and interactions.

It is important to invest in reskilling employees to prepare them for the new wave of technology and to empower them with digital skills to stay agile while also understanding how to make use of data to enhance the customer experience.

According to Forrester whitepaper “Digital Document Processes in 2020 – A Spotlight on APAC”, 65% of respondents also reported a lack of adequate technology and tools to impact employee’s productivity, creating a major disruption to the daily operations.

With customers avoiding in-person interactions and relying more on their digital devices these days, there is now a common understanding that digital documents processes and workstreams play a key role in enabling business continuity. Businesses and technology leaders in APAC must future-proof their organisations by reassessing their business continuity plans to include digitalised business systems such as digital document processes or electronic signatures.

As the world navigates around the effects of COVID-19, the rapid change upon brands are inevitable. Through investments in the strategies mentioned, brands can steer themselves against the rocky waters of today to enter a “safe harbour” post-pandemic. And, if another storm approaches, they will be anchored securely, prepared to withstand the winds of change.