New research indicates less than half of Australian businesses place extreme importance on having a comprehensive customer experience management (CEM) program in place.
The Dynamic markets: Missing customer expectations? research, commissioned by Avaya, showed that consumer expectations are high and are changing rapidly, however Australian companies' efforts to respond to their demands are not nearly close enough.
For instance, 68 percent of Australian consumers expect businesses to treat each customer as 'unique' by automatically delivering communications tailored to individual preferences, however only 45 percent of businesses are delivering this service.
Also, 93 percent of customers expect businesses to offer automatic notification by systems of potential problems, such as later orders, to proactive solutions can be offered, but only 42 percent of businesses are doing this.
At the same time, 78 percent want businesses to link in real time all their threads of communication across different channels whether its web, phone, or social media but only 41 percent of organisations are succeeding in this.
The top three obstacles that businesses said that are impeding on their ability to provide superior customer service and a relevant CEM program are inflexible business processes, technology limitations, and poor cross departmental collaboration.
From the C-level respondents, 48 percent pointed their finger at inflexible business processes compared to those in less senior positions. Meanwhile a combination of IT professionals, C-level executives, those in sales and finance, as well as those in marketing, PR, communications, and customer service all agreed that technology was a limiting their company's ability to create a personalised experience for their customers.
Recently appointed Avaya Australia managing director, Tony Simonsen, said the role of IT is changing, and it is important for businesses to understand how it can play a role in helping them create a deeper relationship with their customers.
"IT becomes a service provider that supports that business and customer relationship, and what I'm seeing is many of the IT practices — when they are getting it right — are playing a role in high collaboration performance," he said.
"The tight linkage between the technology group and the business group was very visible, and what the survey is showing is that tight relationship isn't there, it means there's a role for IT to educate the business and to be an advocate and coach."
Simonsen also noted that there is an intrinsic link between customer satisfaction and the financial performance of a company, saying it'd cost a business four times more to acquire a customer than to maintain an existing one.
But as far as Simonsen is concerned, Australian companies fair pretty well compared to the rest of the world.
"The survey tells us we're certainly one of the mature markets. If you want to rate us against, for example, the US, Canada, and Singapore, we're actually ahead. Interestingly, China and Mexico are just ahead of us. But overall I think we're doing quite well and I think as a country we have been relatively innovative in around the things we are doing to improve customer experience overall," he said, drawing on Westpac, one of Avaya Australia's customers, as an example.
Westpac was recently awarded the World's Best Contact Centre 2013 by ContactCenterWorld, the global association for contact centre best practices and networking.
"[Westpac] was very focused around the ability to turn their contact centre into a revenue generating opportunity because customers were telling them that was what they wanted them to do," Simonsen said.
"They wanted the contact to not just be about here is who were are and this is what we do, but it was more like 'what can you do for me', and please how to do that proactively. The proactive outreach through multichannels is absolutely all about how add to the customer experience and also how to create revenue opportunities.
"That was one example of how they focused on customer satisfaction and retention, but also focused on how it could help grow their business and it was significant," he said.