So, what is CX — and why does it matter so much to the new-age customer?

“Today’s customers need a very good reason to give you their money and it is high time business got out there to understand how customers perceive and experience their brands. Not just at the point of purchase, but holistically. It means embedding a customer-centric perspective into your organisation’s corporate DNA.” Mandisa Makubalo, Founder and Managing Director, Unlimited Experiences SA

In simpler times, one of the basic rules of business stated that persuading customers to give you their money simply involved offering them the right product at the right price. But in these turbulent times, when the very fundamentals of business are challenged every day, product and price are no longer enough to satisfy the expectations of an increasingly sophisticated and demanding customer base. So, if you take the old school ‘take it or leave it’ approach to customer relations, there’s a very high risk that customers will leave it.

Emotional touchpoints

All this helps to explain the growing importance of Customer Experience — more commonly known as CX. Briefly, CX is about how your customers perceive the way your business treats them on a personal, emotional and sensory level through a series of touchpoints that go well beyond just product and price. Examples include your advertising and social media content, your packaging and advertising, your customer service and corporate values. Even the music you play in your stores. The argument for embracing CX goes as follows: the way people experience your business through these touchpoints plays a major role in capturing their loyalty — and their money. Put simply: if people like your business, they will keep buying from you while recommending your goods or service to others.

There are some compelling statistics in favour of the CX argument. A survey carried out by Econsultancy on behalf of Digital Marketing Trends in 2018 revealed that 22% of the companies questioned ranked CX as the single most exciting marketing opportunity for 2019, placing it significantly ahead of content marketing (15%) and mobile marketing (13%). Research also reveals that 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience; while 73% of buyers identify CX as an important factor in their purchasing decisions. What’s more, the Temkin Group also established that investing in CX initiatives can potentially double revenue within 36 months.

Transformative impact

Given the statistics, it’s not surprising that CX is having such a transformative impact on the global marketing landscape, including Africa’s. At the end of July, over 600 delegates represented more than 200 companies gathered in Cape Town for the Customer Experience Management (CEM) Africa Summit to map their way across ‘the new battleground for business’.

Among those who attended was Mandisa Makubalo, founder and Managing Director of the Cape Town-based CX consultancy, Unlimited Experiences SA. She agrees that the new rush to put the customer first begs an obvious opening question: What happened to the old maxim that the customer is always right? “The answer is simple,” says Mandisa. “Very few businesses ever backed up their customer-first talk with customer-first action. As a result, customers have been left bleeding by poor service for too long. That, however, is changing fast, primarily because customers now hold the cards and businesses must operate on their terms.”

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