Three data-driven steps for building powerful customer experiences

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The uncertainty of the past year has tested organisations’ ability to respond to change — and many have come up short. More than three in four business leaders say that their organisations need to react faster, according to research by Fujitsu. But the continuing uncertainty and rapid pace of change are overwhelming, so where should they start? The customer, of course, comes first.

Customer experience is the priority

When, how and why customers interact with brands have all changed over the past year, and to survive, businesses need to change alongside them. To recognise and exploit new opportunities in this and any future crisis, organisations will have to captivate their customers online and in person, by creating “phygital” ( a mix of digital and physical) experiences across different customer channels.

The answer lies in data. In fact, Fujitsu’s research finds three in four businesses say data will be key for survival in 2021. Taking decisive, data-driven action at an increased speed is now critical to delivering a great customer experience (CX) – and doing so means organisations now need to unlock data insight in near real-time. 

For Danish retailer Coop, data is shaping the future of the whole organisation. “Instead of thinking of ourselves as a 156-year-old brick-and-mortar company, we think of ourselves as a data company,” says Morten Christiansen, the company’s Chief Information Officer. “What we have is our data. In a digital future, it is all about using that data to become more relevant for our customers.”

Here are three ways in which organisations can use their data to create a great CX.

1. Right data, right place, right time

As a user logs into their banking app, they are welcomed with their name, account balance and recommendations about products they might need, such as a credit card or a loan. It may not sound revolutionary, but this is an example that other industries should consider modelling.

To gain real-time access to this data and create personalised recommendations, businesses need to democratise and decentralise their data. They also need tools to analyse it and feed insights back to consumers as well as employees and systems to help them serve customers more effectively.

There are many tools that can help, and almost all of them are cloud-enabled. “Modern enterprise data estates are becoming more decentralised,” says Jason Rees, Vice President, Technology Solutions and Cloud Engineering for UK, Israel, The Netherlands and BeLux at Oracle. “So businesses need to freely stream and govern their data across clouds.”

But this does not mean that all the data needs to be moved to the cloud from the start. For organisations that have acquired large amounts of data over the years, such as those in the public sector or in the financial services industry, it might be easier to go straight to the source. 

“Rather than moving all this data around to exploit it, organisations can first analyse the data close to, or in, the source system — where possible — to get value from it quickly,” explains Rees. For instance, a retailer might struggle to move all its historically accumulated customer data quickly, safely, and inexpensively to the cloud. The same applies to historically accumulated financial or operations data, which the organisation might use for enterprise resource planning. In both examples, the data could be analysed in the source system, and only the insights required moved to a centralised data source, where they can inform further decisions. “This way, complexity can be reduced, data security improved, and data consistently maintained,” Rees adds.

2. Prepare your people and infrastructure 

Organisations need to create the right environment, digitally and culturally, for data insights to be shared and acted on. 

Tap into modern platforms to exploit data 

Old back-end technology is a major barrier to effective data use. Organisations will need to expand their adoption of modern application environments and architectures that can replace their existing legacy ones, or facilitate use of data remaining in existing systems, similar to the example above. In fact, 75 per cent of organisations say that modernising applications is essential to staying competitive, according to Fujitsu’s research.

For Coop, this has been a vital initiative. “Instead of supporting a big back-end machine, we need to focus on interacting in real-time with our customers, which is a completely different ballgame,” says Christiansen. “Changing our IT backbone to be able to handle that is a big initiative for us — we are running a huge SAP program and all kinds of other initiatives to be able to support that journey.”

But Christiansen cautions that organisations should remember to strike a balance between long-term investment and short-term plans. “You never know what the customer uptake will be, so you have to experiment, and therefore cannot focus on the backend alone,” he says. “Yes, you have to renew your legacy, but in parallel you need to experiment.” The two are inextricably linked – by modernising legacy systems, organisations can free up resources, financial or talent, for experimentation, allowing them to invest less on keeping the lights on and more on moving the business forward.