The human paradox is an interesting phenomenon brands need to consider when developing their CX and marketing strategies, according to Accenture Song global lead for customer, sales and service, Dr Edwin Van der Ouderaa.
One example is the desire to be more sustainable against the backdrop of inflation. “Customers want to do better for the environment. But in many cases, they’re also looking to cut their expenses as the cost of living increases. That makes it hard to make choices that align with their initial values,” Van der Ouderaa told CMO.
While many of the inconsistent human behaviours we see today might not be new, they’re increasingly considered normal, and even good. Accenture’s new research showed 69 per cent of consumers globally admit to behaving inconsistently and think paradoxical behaviours are both human and acceptable.
“This puts the onus on brands to really step up and understand customers’ needs and wants in real-time,” Van der Ouderaa said.
In order to do this, data is critical to helping brands with this insight piece. “Brands able to leverage data to understand paradoxical behaviours and deliver the right experience and service for their customers will come out far stronger than those who don’t,” he said.
Rethinking customer service
As consumer needs change, the dynamics of engagement become more complicated, ever-changing and multi-dimensional. For Accenture, marketing needs to evolve customer-centric strategies from relying on consumption habits towards what the consulting giant calls ‘life-centricity’. This is about enabling a more holistic view of consumers.
“Life-centricity involves broader consideration of the humanity of the consumer, their shifting modes and the unpredictable life forces that come into play along the way,” Van der Ouderaa explained. “Making it easy for consumers by understanding external life forces and what customers are facing ultimately reduces the fragmentation and complexity tax that often befalls the customer.”
Key in this mix is reframing customer service as a value creator, rather than a cost centre, and part of the overall customer experience. Accenture’s research found companies viewing customer service as a value centre, rather than as a cost centre, achieve three and a half times more revenue growth.
“Service needs to be infused into the customer experience from the very beginning, and at every point – this is what we call end-to-endless customer service,” Van der Ouderaa said. “Shifting this mindset delivers greater opportunities to deliver greater value to customers and drive greater ROI.
“Service should not just be an afterthought, or a problem solver, but rather a proactive driver of growth and value. This value includes the many data insights it can capture along the way.”
For Van der Ouderaa, the best way to bring service into the experience is by maximising its value with indispensable, relevant and strategic advice on how customers can get the most from their purchases.
“Customers value proactive service, but for the most part, they’re not receiving that support,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to shift to a predictive service model and deliver greater value.
“Again, the success of this predictive ability boils down to the quality and timeliness of data.”
This is because understanding the customer and what they need to accomplish with the product or service is critical. “Data is also key to understanding – and later, anticipating – the challenges and issues they may face in order to course correct for those either via product innovation or otherwise to avoid such issues in the future,” Van der Ouderaa continued.
“By using AI [artificial intelligence] to leverage the customer insights customer services teams gather every day, organisations can better understand what customers are experiencing and what they need for success.”
B2B customers are also increasingly looking to have more B2C-style service experiences, but not at the expense of financial value.
“For businesses, this means placing less of a focus on completing transactions and more emphasis on becoming a trusted advisor and advocate for customers’ success,” Van der Ouderaa said.
Where to from here: Navigating the new and near term
Customers have one powerful message to companies: My life is changing faster than ever, according to Van der Ouderaa. He argued we’re entering a crisis of relevance, with 64 per cent of consumers wanting companies to respond faster to meet their changing needs. What’s more, 88 per cent of executives think their customers are changing faster than their business can keep up.
Again, the Accenture Song customer leader brings its back to life-centricity as a growth opportunity for marketers to create greater value and relevance for their customer.
“Businesses that achieve life-centricity have successfully bridged the experiential interplay between customers’ ever-changing lives and the external forces that influence them daily. They are best positioned to thrive in the future, form new connections, and create relevant brands, products, or services,” he said.
To get there, Van der Ouderaa’s advice for marketers and organisations is to focus on how to adapt to where a product or service fits in with people’s lives at any point in time. “The companies that shift their models to take into account the unpredictable life forces that come into play along the way will be best positioned to thrive in the future,” he said.
In the near term, Van der Ouderaa encourages marketers to do three things: Move away from static segmentation models in favour of deeper insights underpinning behaviour by taking a holistic, dynamic view of who customers are and what motivates them.
“Abandon a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to products or services and focus on flexible options, in-line with the paradoxical nature of human decision-making,” he said.
Make it easy for consumers to ‘do the right thing’ as they weigh ideal values against the pressures and practicalities of everyday life, by understanding external life forces and what customers are facing. And finally, consider trust.
“If you’re generating information about customers’ usage and billing, for example, you’re compiling predictive data that’s imperceptible to customers,” Van der Ouderaa added. “When service works in the background to enhance your business while making your customers’ lives easier, they feel the benefits of a better product experience and their trust in your business grows.”
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