If businesses were put to a customer satisfaction test, only 12 percent of Australian organisations would pass in delivering outstanding customer experience — the benchmark needed to retain customer loyalty, according to the Optus Future of Business Report 2014.
The report showed that 95 percent of the time customers are likely to remain a customer after receiving an outstanding experience versus only 39 percent if they had a good experience.
While 45 percent of decision makers understand there is a clear link the impact customer experience can have on revenue and profits, only 7 percent of Australian businesses understand what customers really want from a business, which is to interact with friendly or polite staff, followed by having their needs met and to interact with knowledgeable staff.
Optus Business managing director John Paitaridis told ZDNet aligning customer experience and technology strategy is key to improving customer experience, as well as improving profit and revenue through acquiring and retaining customers, and growing repeat purchases.
"The organisation needs to map their business to customer needs. They need to ensure which channels customers are engaging them with, and then start to link that IT technology investment to those particular channels, and then they need to take a multichannel approach for that," he said.
"An example is with mobile. We're seeing the proliferation of mobile services in Australia where we're seeing almost 11 million smartphones capable of data, internet, and applications, that's manifesting change in the way consumers in Australia engage with enterprise and government.
"There needs to be conventional investment in your mobile platform, applications, and technology, and that needs to be as seamless as possible with your contact centre, your online, your retail, and your social."
The report also showed that bad news travels fast with 79 percent of survey customers admitting to acting after a bad experience, where nearly half (46 percent) told a friend, family member, or colleague, and another 28 percent called to make a complaint. Meanwhile, if customers had a good experience only 59 percent would actually share that experience with others.
Paitaridis said it's important to recognise that good is no longer good enough, and that businesses need to strive to create a "business your customers love".
"There needs to a realisation with organisation that the alignment of technology with a customer experience strategy and customer experience priorities will create an outcome," he said.
"It comes back to why customer experience is important. If organisations understand that good is not good enough and that getting to an outstanding customer experience is what drives loyalty and advocacy, it will ultimately drive retention, new business, and repeat business.
"Once you create that connection then you need to instil that into your organisation, and a number of its key initiatives and program. One ways is to align technology with your customer strategy and ensure you're taking a multichannel approach because there's no point having a great retail store experience if your online or mobile experience isn't also optimised and integrated in a seamless way."
But customer expectations are rising fast. The report showed in the next one to two years, 57 percent of customers expect to get quick results compared to the current 49 percent of customers.
Paitaridis said 48 percent of businesses believe the lack of alignment between departments within organisations is a major factor impeding on operations that are trying to deliver a better customer experience.
"There's a mandate for organisations to take customer experience seriously. We talk about them having to listen to their customers and define with the customers the ideal experience, and that needs to inform a customer experience vision and strategy," he said.
"The key point however is that it needs to have senior executive stakeholder support, right through to the managing director to the CEO and the board, and then you need a structured feedback program that is actionable.
"If you get that executive support at the top of the organisation, typically it will define for the rest of the organisation what the priority is, and the department visions will line up and the key functions will line up."
Reflecting on Optus' own customer service strategy, Paitaridis said the company has been able to drive its customer satisfaction numbers up, especially in the last 12 months where the telco has achieved a +5 net promoter score. This is despite the fact that Optus' customer numbers only grew by 1,000 net mobile customers in the three months to March 31, 2014, and that parent company SingTel is putting pressure on the company to boost its customer numbers.
"Our view is customer experience is the driver of loyalty, winning new business, and winning repeat business. We have a customer experience strategy, and it's well articulated and well communicated throughout our business. We have customer feedback programs, which are actionable. We are embracing the use of omnichannel, the use of technology," he said.
"We're empowering our people with tools and processes that they need to get on with their job. Our view is that it needs to be a customer centric strategy and if we can drive and deliver, improve customer satisfaction, which we have done in the last 12 months, then that will lead to the kind of growth we need."