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How COVID-19 has put customer experience on the front line of competitiveness

A pandemic mandate: prioritizing CX

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many differences between countries and also between global regions. This isn’t just in terms of governmental responses to the pandemic, but also just how local market conditions and challenges prompt different behaviours from businesses across different regions.

In this respect, Europe stands out for the competitive nature of its business environment—a direct result of the integration and fairness created by the single market.

Roadblock to over-reliance on government support

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, governments around the world were keen to provide support to domestic businesses, or even to prop up so-called ‘national champions’. However, one of the benefits of the single market is that free competition is supported and encouraged through prohibitions on state aid. Despite rising calls for these rules to be loosened, European governments have not been able to make these sorts of commitments, but have still provided a significant macro pan-European stimulus and aid package, totalling 750 billion euros.

State aid of course is only a small part of the picture. But the current pandemic and increased investments worldwide have just highlighted how different the regulatory environment has been across Europe for decades.

The knock-on effect of this regulatory environment is that European businesses face a specific challenge—how do you distinguish yourself in a market that prides itself on creating such a level playing field?

CX in the spotlight

One method is through marketing. But the other, and potentially much more powerful, differentiator is customer experience (CX). In the last 10 years the awareness of the power of CX to differentiate a business has wrought some huge changes—for instance some consumer businesses going through ‘onshoring’ or ‘reshoring’ contact centres to improve levels of delivery.

The value of investing in CX is perhaps best demonstrated by sectors like telecoms or energy. In most countries, these are markets where you are likely to have legacy, possibly even monopolistic, incumbents that have historically under-invested in the customer experience. They are now rapidly losing market share to, or being overtaken by, challengers whose business models are built with CX at their core.

This also leaves the monoliths with the challenge of reinventing and reinvesting, whilst dealing with decades of infrastructure and various false dawns in transforming.

How do you distinguish yourself in a market that prides itself on creating such a level playing field?

This picture is replicated, although perhaps not quite as dramatically, across most sectors. It is clear that investment in CX-led digital transformation is essential, not a nice to have.

However, despite the case for CX, particularly in Europe, in a pre-COVID-19 pandemic ServiceNow survey of C-suite executives in EMEA, only 36% of business leaders said digitising and integrating customer service and management workflows was a top priority within their organisations.

In fact, the research suggests that only 25% of EMEA-based organisations can be classed as ‘leaders’ in customer experience maturity.

I think it’s safe to say that the pandemic will have altered the calculation somewhat!

Changing the conversation

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid the necessity of CX investment bare.

Businesses that were already quite advanced in their digital transformation have had the flexibility required to respond to the crisis—making them much better placed to pivot rapidly.

One of the obvious examples was how some organisations were able to, virtually overnight, support companywide home working while still maintaining, or in some cases actually enhancing, the level of customer support they were able to provide.

For those companies not able to pivot in this way so quickly, the penny has now definitely dropped—and we are now seeing the pace of transformation accelerate across Europe.

It’s no longer a case of organisations dabbling with the potential of CX. Instead, we are seeing conversations elevate across the board. We are talking to more and more customers who want to put the Now Platform® right at the heart of their operation.

Organisations can see not only the business benefits of investing in CX, but also how the platform approach will enable them to do exactly what they want when it comes to creating great experiences for customers.

Flexible CX tools to make your business stand out

And of course the power of the Now Platform® means these benefits can be realised at lightning pace. We are supercharging CX with our fundamental CSM solution, self-service experiences, knowledge management, and even tools like SecOps to keep your customer service team secure wherever they are working.

At ServiceNow, we are unleashing the full creativity and innovation of the enterprise to create customer experiences that are meaningful and specific to every customer base.

The ServiceNow partner ecosystem is adding even more fuel to the fire—creating a host of tools and capabilities around customer service management to help organisations finely tune their CX offering.

This approach, ultimately, is the key. Making CX a differentiator only works if your experience is truly differentiated. There is no value in CX tools that box you in to what the tools will let you do.

You must have capabilities and flexibility to deliver the CX how you want to run the business. Not the platform or tools dictating to you the method of how you run it. Otherwise CX will remain just an opportunity—a lost one.

guide

Customer experience in the new normal

A Workflow Guide for EMEA business leaders