Authored by: Sumash Singh, Senior Director, Data Centre Solutions, South Asia, Dell Technologies
Over the last decade, consumers began seizing control of their decision-making journey by changing the way they research and buy products. They actively pull information that they find helpful vis-à-vis passively responding to a marketing push, leading organisations to reinvent the steps involved in a customer’s journey.
Singapore businesses recognise this and are honing in on customer experience (CX). A 2021 study by software firm Zendesk found that 77% of local companies say their organisation prioritises CX more than they did a year ago. In fact, business models were re-worked to leverage digital customer data to fully understand and manage consumer preferences as well as develop a strong competitive differentiation. A new commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Dell Technologies found that 44% of Singapore businesses are doing data modelling to predict changing customer demands during the pandemic.
The traditional “inside out” approach of developing offerings based on internal assessment is beginning to be replaced by an “outside-in” approach of generating insights based on data around customer behaviour to drive an intuitive and predictive CX strategy. For example, local businesses like DBS Bank are harnessing predictive data analytics to anticipate the queries that customers may have, be it about failed card transactions or having their card retained in an ATM. Thereafter, DBS uses this data to determine the most efficient way of solving these issues, whether by assisting the customer via SMS, email or chatbot. Through the enormous amount of data that retailers are privy to about customers, they can offer targeted, personalised offerings to influence buying decisions and improve customer experiences.
Yet despite the growing thrust on CX in Singapore, organisational leaders still grapple with fundamental challenges that interfere with extracting value from customer data to deliver an effective customer experience:
Too much information: With businesses in Singapore going omnichannel, the number of customer touchpoints has increased considerably. Wading through the sea of data generated each day and analysing their potential is not an easy task – the Forrester Consulting study found that 89% of Singapore businesses are experiencing barriers to capturing, analysing and acting on data. Moreover, the emergence of new hardware and software development, coupled with evolving media channels as well as devices, makes the data management process even more complex.
Identifying well-defined data sets: Most organisations deal with primarily two types of data: transactional data and unstructured data. The volume of transactional data may fluctuate, a case in point is the retail industry, that experiences high volumes during the festive season and a slowdown during non-festive periods.
In contrast, unstructured data is the information that companies accumulate over a long period and is used to obtain customer response towards products and data. Information created by consumers is by its nature unstructured, as customers interact with consumer brands as part of their customer experience. It is a larger pool of data that is analysed for insights on customer trends and is factored in when deriving products as developing strategies. This clear differentiation in data types can lead to data loopholes and hamper scalability needs in the future.
Fragmented technology infrastructure: To manage the increasing flow of information and data, we have seen organisations engage quick fixes through patching or adding new computing options to their legacy systems. This ad-hoc approach creates data silos with data stored not in complete sync with the new environment which may hamper data visibility for accurate decision making.
Accessibility of information: A consolidated view of the customer is the key element that helps in standardising services to customers and ensuring a more positive CX. A 360-degree dashboard reflecting the customer engagement across touchpoints is a necessity for all the teams to work cohesively. To achieve an integrated single view of systems, the dissolution of data silos and operational coordination are critical. While on-premise storage solutions may have been effective, moving to the next stage of evolution needs real-time insights that require some degree of cloud adoption.
Designing a data storage strategy to drive exceptional CX
A well-planned CX strategy thrives on personalisation, which requires a significant amount of data. In the new data era, as business leaders look to sharpen their customer-centricity, they need to be wary of not getting lost in this data deluge and to source only relevant information as well as safely manage it. To realise the true potential of the data at hand, the visibility of the source, defining the purpose of the data, creating robust data protection measures and developing elastic storage capability is critical to having a strong foundational infrastructure that is truly scalable.
Equally, organisations must plan to adopt a well-tailored cloud approach as they fully build out their CX strategy. Businesses in Asia-Pacific are flocking to cloud services as the changes brought about by COVID-19 have forced companies to prioritise speed and customer experience over cost savings and efficiency. Singapore is no exception, with 86% of organisations here stating that their reliance on cloud has increased, according to ManageEngine’s 2021 Digital Readiness Survey.
But amidst the rush to the cloud, assessing end objectives is important before businesses decide to go for either a hybrid cloud strategy building on the existing legacy systems, or a complete shift to cloud. A key consideration for many organisations will be the nature of data – while the transactional data resides on a public cloud that is flexible and scalable on-demand; sensitive data should be kept in private clouds or on-premise locations.
Cloud technologies bring more accessibility, which is essential for ensuring superior customer experience. It also helps overcome location-based restrictions that employees may face while serving customers. Information about a customer’s interactions in the past act as guiding principles for personalised services. The ability to retrieve and update customer information across touchpoints in real-time fuels the CX strategy. The flexibility and scalability of a cloud strategy can help limit application outages and latency issues during seasons of high traffic.
In the years to come, forward-looking organisations will continue to appreciate that customer data comes with immense responsibility. They will increasingly take cognisance of the nature of the data they collect and establish strong data governance policies to comply with regulatory requirements. A safe, accessible harbour for data has the potential to unlock immense potential for businesses with machine learning and artificial intelligence to build predictive models that can take CX to the next phase.