The social context of service expectations and customer experience has undergone a fundamental change over the past two decades, says Andrea Rademeyer, Founder and CEO of Ask Afrika.
When the Ask Afrika Orange Index benchmark study was launched in 2001, the customer experience was the responsibility of call centers and agencies. The index, which today is South Africa’s largest and most benchmarked measure and benchmark of customer experience, focused primarily on banking and telecommunications companies in those early years, given that they had service budgets.
The index began measuring seven sectors and 26 companies in 2001. Two decades later, it measures 31 sectors and includes 200 companies.
“Twenty years ago, companies committed to adopting a new perspective on consumers, questioning the demographic nuances of age, gender, race, language and even urban versus rural, ”explains Rademeyer.
Over the years, research has directly contributed to the design of the service experience process. “It was incredibly exciting to design call centers to meet these needs,” reveals Rademeyer. “In fact, it was the corporate service environment that truly lived our new status as a Rainbow Nation. The company’s enthusiasm for embracing difference and giving it space in corporate structures was immense.
In many ways, service experts led where brand experts followed, she maintains, adding that this was an unprecedented period of collaboration between customer experience, IT and marketing – the everything with a singular objective of bringing all customers into the service network.
However, after the initial euphoria and subsequent eruption in customer demand, companies began to focus their resources on high-value customers and core models of customer experience.
“In an environment of escalating protests from city departments over the next two decades, businesses continued to raise the flag for customer experience and engagement. At the same time, customer expectations have also increased rapidly, ”recalls Rademeyer.
The closures over the past 18 months mean that we are again living in an era where companies were at the forefront of designing ways to continue to provide service to customers, while putting the needs of employees first.
“It has been fascinating to observe how far creative companies have become in order to bridge this gap, in many ways serving a newly digitized customer seemingly overnight,” says Rademeyer. “The customer experience now includes being informed about staff and product hygiene, which would have been unthinkable just 24 months ago.”
As customer experience ratings, as well as brand loyalty ratings, continue to drop, she says this is an indicator of a new customer who is easily irritated by external communication. “However, it could also be related to the fact that customers feel too energized by the information.”
What can we expect from the customer experience in the future? According to Rademeyer, the demand for product information and customer experience will increase dramatically in the future, but for different reasons.
“Covid has changed the societal awareness of information and communication in relation to human rights”, she explains. “Consumers have embraced the debates about health-related behaviors at an unprecedented level. “
She believes this will evolve into other aspects around quality of life, including even more debates about mental health, mobility patterns and family health, among others. In turn, this will have profound effects on how consumers consume scientific information and behavioral suggestions from employers or government, as well as product and contract information – the latter two of which both fall under the jurisdiction of the government. client experience.
“Increasingly, customer experience experts will need to innovate around techniques for communicating live product data and contracts in a customer-friendly manner,” says Rademeyer. “The customer experience will shift from platform mobility to content, which means the customer experience will be the tipping point of trust between customers and the business. “
Ultimately, she says, the brand’s promises will be less important than the fulfillment of the service. “The interesting opportunity is the collaboration between companies and the government, in order to ensure a better service to citizens. “
Another observation of the past two decades has been the change in customer comfort with digitization. “Twenty years ago, many customer segments were very uncomfortable with call centers. There has been a major change and digital channels now have preference over human interaction. “
This, she says, is a clear indicator that artificial intelligence is invited to dance. “This may be the time when our prediction that customer service will become a product becomes a reality. Some customer segments will be willing to pay for their preferred customer experience model. Retailers are leading the charge here. for example, for Checkers to run a completely hands-free branch as fast food has gone digital in the past 18 months. ”
Today, the Ask Afrika Orange index measures all channels. Banks and telecom operators have been sidelined by retailers who have become increasingly obsessed with the idea of “walking down the aisle” and carefully assessing the needs of their customers.
The most consistent service provider over the past two decades, according to Rademeyer, is Woolworths, where a culture of excellence extends to all aspects of the business.
“After measuring the customer experience over the past 20 years using the Ask Afrika Orange index, what has become very evident is that the customer experience continues to differentiate companies from their competitors,” concludes Rademeyer. .