The digitalization and digital transformation of many areas of life has led to a major change in customer needs and expectations. Amazon, Google, Apple and Co. have built a world in which service has a completely new standard and this is changing customers.
No matter where we look, we notice that people are more and more focused on their smartphones, when you’re without a battery, you feel like half your life is switched off, and you’re used to having everything instantly available. Customers have changed with technology and companies are lagging. The gap between the trendsetters and the companies lagging is widening more and more. In general terms, digital transformation has triggered many trends in customer expectations, creating new customer expectations that companies now have to address or fall by the wayside.
Customer expectations rising steadily
Large corporations have always succeeded in raising customer expectations. Companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have exemplified how to use service, design, and technology to meet the needs of their customers. We have developed new standards, systematically analyzed customer needs, and found ways to satisfy them with less effort or higher quality.
We’ve all recently become accustomed to receiving orders placed online the same day or the next, to self-service pick-up points or checkouts, to having information always at hand, and to simplify our lives with technology. Increasingly, we are also becoming accustomed to technology doing some work for us through automation and creating a whole new sense of service and quality culture.
This new focus on the customer experience, i.e. how customers perceive something in the company, is exemplified by the large corporations, but expectations are generally rising, which puts many smaller companies under pressure. After all, smaller companies find it difficult to keep up with these changes and are unable to keep up with the corporations.
New opportunities for SMEs
Despite the limited possibilities of SMEs and the complex systems of large companies, smaller companies can also make a name for themselves. This new quality awareness on the part of customers also leads to smaller companies being able to stand out with only a few tools and few resources. Tools must be used specifically to meet the expected service standard. Setting up an ERP system, connecting it with the CRM system and thus sending personalized quotations is no longer a major challenge. Such technical innovations are also easy to implement for SMEs.
It is always important to place the customer at the center of consideration. This focus on customer expectations helps to rethink business models or services. It is also important to mention here: No matter which task is to be mastered, usually there are already technologies which help to convert these. Therefore, it is usually the biggest problem to start or to adapt to the company culture.
Customer experience as a new success factor
Customer expectations and the customer experience are the new battlefields when it comes to differentiating oneself from the competition. Gartner confirmed in a survey that 89 percent of companies already believe that the biggest challenge for companies will be the customer experience. It’s about providing the best service and building the best customer experience.
One example of customer experience is the search for information. Customers want to get information wherever, whenever, and how they want to access it. A good customer experience is built when the customer gets it fulfilled and the expectations can be met.
For this, it is important to understand the customer expectations and to reflect them in a strategy. Design thinking and other models help not to lose this focus. This usually requires new organizational structures, business models, and technologies and must be implemented accordingly. These fundamental changes of companies with the help of technology are then also called digital transformation.
Technology boosts efficiency and improves the customer experience
Technology, of course, has triggered the change, but it is also the solution to the problems. Technologies such as CRM, ERP, online shops, mobile apps, and much more can also lead to finding new ways to satisfy customer needs. So it’s no wonder that many CEO surveys are about building multiple channels and implementing a unified Omnichannel strategy, for example. For many managers, new forms of communication are already standard, but it often fails because of the implementation of risk appetite.
However, technology cannot only be used to create new customer experiences and expand service. Also, through the mapping of processes and structures with digital systems, efficiency increases can be achieved, and thus also money can be saved. Especially this increase in efficiency and reduction of costs can make it interesting for companies. Correctly implemented, however, the customer experience can also be fundamentally improved at the same time.
The goal of digital transformation is to place customer needs at the center of considerations and to use the technology that is necessary to implement this as efficiently as possible.