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During high inflation, great customer experience isn’t just a competitive differentiator—it’s a matter of survival

By Hyther Nizam, President – MEA, Zoho Corp.

High Inflation is on almost everyone’s mind right now. Around the globe, the supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been compounded by the war in Ukraine and tight labour markets in some countries. Nigeria is no exception. In September, the country’s inflation rate hit a 17-year high, accelerating for the eighth straight month to 20.77% from 20.52% in the prior month.

Both businesses and their customers are being adversely affected by this inflation. Businesses have been compelled to raise the price of products and services as operating expenses have increased. But they do so at the risk of revenue as clients either forego a purchase or opt for a less expensive alternative.

For businesses to survive in this environment, offering a great customer experience (CX) could be the difference between losing revenue and retaining a client. In fact, research shows that as inflation rises, companies can expect to see inflated demand for great customer experiences. So, far from cutting back on investments in customer experience to reduce price increases, companies should ensure that it remains a major focus.

 CX goes beyond being just a competitive advantage

Research by Gartner (2021) shows that 89% of companies compete primarily on customer experience. That is considerably higher than the two-thirds which did so in 2018. Also, as many as 80% of customers will switch brands after a negative experience.

That means, in a world that provides customers limitless options even amidst high inflation, the experience an organisation provides has to be exceptional to not just earn customer loyalty but to also elevate the perceived brand value. This will help brands retain customers even when they increase the price of their product or service.

 What makes for an exceptional CX?

Customer experience extends beyond browsing a website and then paying for goods or a service. It encompasses the totality of their experience with a company, from marketing to the purchase process, billing, and after-sales service. A good CX tool will ensure that these experiences are personalised, meaningful, timely, and engaging. Most importantly, it will ensure consistency by providing different customer-facing teams contextual information that will help them engage with the customers in a meaningful way.

Organisations need to break down silos, and ensure that different departments have visibility into various customer-facing initiatives. For example, if the social media marketing team is promoting a holiday sale campaign, there is a good chance that customers may be adding items to their cart and waiting for the sale day to make the purchase. This would increase the cart abandonment rate and the relevant teams should have that information, which can be achieved through a unified marketing platform. Similarly, having an insight into which customers have open support tickets or pending payments will enable salespeople to narrow the list of clients they want to upsell.

As we gear up for testing times, the cost of customer acquisition is likely to shoot up even as more and more customers  rely on brands they trust. Businesses need to turn their focus on customer retention by providing exceptional CX on all touchpoints. One key aspect that businesses should consider is to understand that the way to provide great CX is through great EX (employee experience). They should ensure that the customer-facing teams are equipped with a robust software platform that is unified and powered by AI so that employees can do their job more effectively and efficiently.

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