Top 10 customer experience APAC trends
Customer Relationship Management APAC
Last year’s report from Bain & Company1 on customer experience tools and trends showed that executives in Asia-Pacific have much stronger conviction in a future that blends human and digital elements compared to their North American and European counterparts. This conviction in technology such as biological sensors and nanoscale biotechnology, plus the belief that consumers will delegate tasks and decisions to bots, stands these professionals apart from the rest of the world, and gives us an insight to the diverse ways that consumers and companies operate in the APAC region.
Here we examine the top ten customer experience trends impacting the APAC region.
- Less customer; more experience.
We’ve heard a lot about the customer at the heart of the organisation, the empty chair at the boardroom table, and customer obsession. These are the concepts that drive CX strategy and practices. There is a shift, however, in APAC companies, to focus more specifically on the experience. This is a focus that Bain 1 has labelled episode management, and Forrester refers to as EDBs – experience driven business.
This involves looking at each transaction in its entirety and all of its touchpoints. For example, the total interactions needed for returning an unwanted item, from making the decision to return, to the moment when the consumer receives their refund.
Sun Bank, a Taiwanese financial services company, has achieved outstanding results with their online lending platform and also their chatbot financial advice service. The E. Sun Bank president, Joseph NC Huang quotes Bill Gates when describing their approach: “Banking is necessary, but banks are not.” Consumers are looking for the banking service, rather than being interested in the business model or structure: the bank. E. Sun Bank are providing services in a way that consumers find easy, efficient and enjoyable to use. The financial advice chatbot is integrated with Line (a Japanese app) and Facebook messenger and the usage and frequency of both platforms increased by 1,850% once the chatbot service was launched.
Putting the customer journey at the very heart of the company’s decisions and marketing is making a huge difference to CX success across APAC. Alfred Bonilla, Customer Experience Evangelist, SAP explores how customer experience redefines how your business adds value.
Tune in here >>> Experience Matters: The Customer Centric Intelligent Enterprise
In her session, Kristi Mansfield, Director of CX Strategy and Transformation, Oracle examines why a consumer expects your company to anticipate, allow them to navigate easily, personalize, and make their interactions natural.
Tune in here >>> Delivering Business Transformation in the Experience Economy
- The new omnichannel approach - Phygital
The omnichannel approach allows consumers to seamlessly move between different platforms or devices while interacting with a company or brand, maintaining the same level of service, information and ability to conclude transactions. A number of APAC countries such as Singapore, Japan, Australia and China been recognised as global leaders in Omnichannel. The ‘phygital’ trend (providing digitally-enhanced offline experiences) is growing in prominene in this region.
In China, branches of KFC are now targeting consumers with personalised offers serviced through smart screens that combine facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence. Consumers can order and pay using the screens, mobile payment or facial recognition (which also requires a code from the mobile phone). This more than just taking the company communications to an omnichannel level; this is taking the entire brand experience to a flow between digital and physical interactions.
Paul Waddy, Head of Operations with Showpo, an award-winning Australian e-tailer, spoke about delivering a seamless and competitive omnichannel environment at CX Network Live APAC 2019. Showpo are one of the launch customers for a new omnireturns service, SEKO, which aims to drastically improve the process of returning goods purchased online. View the session below to find out the advantages of the next generation of omnichannel CX across APAC.
- The mobile priority
Omnichannel is an essential strategy, but mobile as a priority within the omnichannel mix is a principal approach in the APAC region. Analysis from Tech Research Asia shows that 90% of consumers use their smartphones as part of the shopping process. Just over 80% of customers, while in store, use their smartphones to research the products they want to purchase.
ShopBack is a cashback and reward program based in Singapore that launched in 2014. In 2016 they extended their service to include a mobile app and within 24 hours of launching the app was ranked as one of the top free apps in Singapore. In 2018 mobile app traffic was five times higher than traffic on desktop. While high quality service is essential across all channels, the mobile channel should be prioritised in this market where mobile usage is consistently high across all parts of the purchase funnel.
- The world of personalisation
Compared to marketing executives in North America and Europe, executives in APAC are laser focused on making experiences as personalised and relevant as possible, according to a report from Adobe and Econsultancy. Personalisation is a major customer engagement strategy throughout APAC combining multiple data sets to provide a meaningful and tailored journeys for consumers.
In its journey to provide personalised services and marketing to both its B2C and B2B consumers, telco company Spark New Zealand has found strong data analysis is the answer to that challenge. Lena Jenkins, Data Powered Customer Engagement Lead at Spark New Zealand says: “You can’t deliver personalised services unless they are powered by data.”
At CX Network Live APAC 2019, General Senior Channel Development Manager at ANZ, Matt Butler presented on ‘the science of understanding customer experiences’, sharing his learnings from ANZ’s customer feedback tool and which data to focus on to make a difference.
Also, Rod Moynihan, Director, A/NZ at Zendesk and Robert Glennon, Group Director Customer Experience, MyRepublic explored how MyRepublic realigned their people, processes and systems to create a seamless experience for their customers - all the way from initial strategy to everyday success.
- Artificial Intelligence, applied
Most are aware of the benefits AI can bring to customer relationship management strategies. The next question many are facing in APAC is: How to implement, execute and manage that role in the best way possible with the right balance? At a roundtable meeting held by Econsultancy in Hong Kong, participants agreed that chatbots will not replace customer service staff, but that they have indeed secured a position in the customer service workflow. The critical decision is about where the handover should take place, from chatbot to human representative.
This perspective was supported in another discussion hosted by Genesys. The session concluded that ‘sometimes customers just want to hear a human voice’. Genesys’ Strategic Director – Digital & Innovation James Walford explored this topic in more depth at CXN Live: APAC , in the session: ‘Chatbots and AI: leveraging emerging technologies for the customer journey’.
- How tech is balanced with talent in APAC
The power of the workforce remains a key differentiator in the CX mix, even as technology pervades deeper into businesses. Executives in the APAC region understand this power and continue to prioritise crafting a highly skilled, highly valued workforce as part of customer engagement strategies. In comparison to marketers in North America, marketers in APAC are two times more likely to invest in digital education and skills. In APAC 34 per cent of marketers prioritised investing in digital education and skills, versus 25 per cent in Europe and just 16 per cent in North America.
Paula Parkes, Senior Director of Enterprise Marketing in APAC for Adobe comments, “Significant investment in digital skills and training is directly linked with high business performance. While investment in technology is crucial, organizations must also invest in the skills and education to ensure their employees are capable of using these new tools to create outstanding customer experiences.”
In addition to training, APAC organisations understand the importance of employee engagement and its influence upon consumer experience. Volkswagen Australia regularly produce a CX podcast for employees to share best practices and new concepts. The podcast drives employee engagement by championing a customer-centric culture and prioritising the employees within that culture. Jason also spoke at CXN Live: APAC about CX and digital transformation within organisations.
- Flexibility vs. complexity
APAC organisations, on average, enjoy the advantage of not being encumbered by complex, rigid legacy systems. While Western companies battle with established silos, clunky IT architecture and stiff operating models and processes, organisations in APAC have learnt from these lessons and are creating modular and flexible organisations. This more responsive structure is an ideal environment for establishing customer focused strategies and practices. A key building block being assembling data sources from across the organisation to create a single-view of the customer – which reduces points of friction for the user.
In China this type of frictionless thinking is alive and well in the retail sector, with fully automated stores opening. These retailers have taken the online shopping experience and translated it onto the high street without the usual restrictions attached to bricks and mortar store.
JD.com is a Chinese e-commerce company that was the first to open a fully, automated, unmanned store, swiftly followed by Alibaba and Amazon. In addition, following several years of piloting drone deliveries across China, JD.com were the first company to make a drone delivery in Indonesia. Unencumbered by an existing logistics and distribution structure, JD.com are able to design the most effective network possible, using alternative technologies and systems, always with the aim of delighting their customers.
- Allowing pioneering consumers to lead
The Experian Digital Consumer Insights report, focused on the Asia Pacific region, found that APAC consumers have high propensity towards using biometrics solutions and to sharing personal data for both government and commercial organisations. Individuals in Asia Pacific are accustomed to giving and sharing their personal information with government bodies. This cultural tendency is now an advantage for commercial businesses who can design products, services and marketing campaigns that match their consumer’s habits.
Citi, a financial services company, implemented voice biometric authentication across Asia Pacific and hit one million users within just ten months. Anand Selva, Head of Asia Pacific Consumer Banking for Citi said, “We are making banking easier for our clients by leveraging digitization and innovation, which helps deliver a remarkable client experience.” Certainly the rate of adoption indicates an appetite for new technologies and new ways of interacting with brands that companies can use to their advantage.
- Being first with the technology
According to Bain & Company, emerging markets, specifically in APAC, are the leaders for CX tool adoption. With less legacy infrastructure restricting their options, companies can select, implement and experiment with customer centric technology in a way that their established market peers are unable to. There is a trend towards adopting tools that anticipate consumer needs and automate simple decisions, as well as implementing tools that improve company’s internal workflows and performance.
In Singapore, AI is being used to crunch huge amounts of medical data and provide consumers with a more efficient and personalised service. The first test took place at National University Hospital with a system that used facial recognition to identify the patient then collated and summarised their medical history ready for their appointment, allowing health professionals to spend more quality time on diagnosis rather than analysis.
Smart contracts, backed by blockchain technology, are a way for organisations to securely provide quicker, more accurate service to consumers. In Australia smart legal contracts are being encouraged through the country’s first cross-industry, large-scale, digital platform backed by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), IBM and Herbert Smith Freehills, a London-based law firm. This piece of infrastructure will allow companies to exchange data and authenticate contracts with more speed and accuracy than previous processes allowed.
Working with new technology, on the back-end as well as the front-end of an organisation, can have a huge impact on customer relationship management. Joseph Sullivan, APJ Sales Solutions Specialist Leader with Informatica recently gave insight on how to give your business the edge and provide an intelligent customer service through advanced use of tools and data at CXN Live:APAC.
10. Focused AR & VR experiences
Rather than being cast off as a gimmick or marketing tactic, AR and VR initiatives must add value to the consumer’s experience and deliver results. According to a report from Quadient, companies in APAC are focusing their augmented and virtual reality efforts into three very specific areas: emotional resonance, information accessibility and immersive hypothetical experiences. Just as the application of AI is being channelled into very specific touchpoints that make a measurable difference to CX, so AR & VR are being applied according to a considered and systematic strategy.
The Capgemini report, Augmented and Virtual Reality in Operations, stated that companies in China lead the global VR implementation trend, with 51% of deploying companies declaring they are at implementation stage. Tmall, the bricks & mortar extension of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has an integrated VR solution that allows its brands to create a VR version of their store that is incorporated into the Tmall site. This speaks specifically to the desire to provide consumers with a hypothetical experience – the chance to browse brands in a virtual mall prior to purchasing.
By concentrating on very specific outcomes for a CX strategy, APAC companies are really delivering cutting edge products, services and marketing messages that resonate with consumers.
In the same report by Quadient, referring solely to APAC businesses, research suggests that “customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020.” As APAC organisations harness their advantages versus their Western counterparts and continue to innovate and stretch their strategies and practices within CX these ten trends will form the foundation of the new CX wave across the region