Competition is only growing more fierce, and customers expect a seamless digital experience that grows and evolves with their preferences. Improving the customer experience is a crucial step many organizations need to take to earn consumers’ trust and stand out from the crowd. 

Shifting from a perspective where customer engagement is merely one more cog in the machine to one where experience is a central focus requires an all-hands-on-deck approach that yields impressive ROI. In research conducted by Forrester, they note that experience-driven businesses (EDBs) saw “…1.6x to 1.9x higher YoY growth in customer retention, repeat purchase rates, average order values, and customer lifetime value than other companies.” 

When you also consider Gartner’s findings that “…drivers of disloyalty hinge on the amount of effort customers must use to resolve a service issue,” it quickly becomes clear how necessary it is to take a second look at the customer experiences they provide.

Enter automation

Unless you’ve been clinging to banking the old-school way, you will have likely noticed the increase in automated digital banking services that complement and sometimes even supplant traditional banking services. From apps to web portals, signing up for new services, completing transactions, and getting answers to questions are now a click or a chat away. This level of automation is designed to make it so easy for the end-user to engage with the bank that they rarely need to call in for support. This has the benefit of happier, more satisfied customers. Employee experience is also impacted positively as room is cleared to help customers with complex issues that automation alone can’t solve.

The idea that customer experience impacts employee experience, and vice versa, is not limited to one application or even one industry. Take a look at industrial manufacturing, for example, where the decision to invest in IoT devices such as sensors to monitor crucial stages of production at a factory can proactively alert overseers to issues like upcoming maintenance or equipment failure. Getting ahead of issues helps keep operations running smoothly behind the scenes and ensures that the customer experiences no bumps on the road to receiving their product, with the added benefit of increasing their trust with you as an organization.

Automation doesn’t stop with IoT devices. Business process automation can also play an indirect part in customer experience. An organization that relies on patched together support systems employees need to navigate to solve issues is at the mercy of a negative impact on customer experience when steps are missed. Automating workflows to get rid of complex spreadsheets with multiple contributors or escalating email chains, for example, allows employees to spend their time on more critical tasks.

Where do you begin with customer experience automation?

Successfully automating the customer journey requires balancing the simplicity of the goal — to make customer experiences as frictionless as possible — with the complexity it often needs to make that vision come to life. Try to bypass the complexity with a quick fix or a patched-in resource, and you’re likely to miss your goal altogether.

Start by mapping the experience with design and subject matter experts. Plan out how to facilitate seamless handovers between modalities (e.g., from a mobile phone or a chat interface to a desktop application, etc.) so customers are not required to repeat their vital information across multiple touchpoints. Once the journey is mapped from a holistic viewpoint, it will be apparent what level of automation is needed to apply to what channels.

Improving and automating customer experience requires a lot from the backend of a company’s technology. In most organizations, the knowledge and data around customer-specific experiences that employees need is fragmented across different core systems — from CRM to manufacturing, ERP systems, etc. In some cases, homegrown systems with very specific technologies are being used. To create a top-notch customer experience, organizations need to create a backend for the frontend. Essentially, this is a layer that sits in between the technology on the backend and the user on the frontend that harmonizes all of that data to present it to the user more completely and concisely.

Fortunately, this is one area where Mendix shines. As a platform, Mendix has extensive backend technology for developers to connect to their core systems while creating one experience for the end-user — whether they are a customer or an employee assisting a customer. By helping organizations leverage existing core technology like most already do for cloud infrastructure, they can bypass creating heavy-lifting technology from scratch and take advantage of what hyper-scalers are putting into software, like chatbots that can handle multiple languages and so on. 

Mendix offers the Atlas UI framework, which comes with an out-of-the-box design system that enables developers to create consistent and great-looking experiences quickly – experiences that can be easily reused in other apps or components across all the channels and touchpoints in a customer experience journey.

Take, for example, our native mobile capabilities, which leverage React Native to allow creators to build for Android and Apple devices without additional specialized team knowledge.Organizations that were previously limited to web and mobile-responsive sites can now extend the experiences they offer along with full native mobile capabilities, progressive web apps (PWA), augmented reality, conversational chatbots, voice interfaces, and more. 

The beauty of a platform like Mendix also lies in the ease-of-build for organizations looking to create an app landscape with a single-point-of-truth data hub. Companies can use the development team they already have in place, as well as citizen developers from the business end, to create everything they need from mobile apps to machine learning initiatives with no additional unique skill sets required. 

To illustrate this point, a large, highly ranked university in the Netherlands was looking to take all the bits and pieces students needed to access on a day-to-day basis at school and simplify everything, giving students a better experience. Instead of sending them to one platform to check their schedule and another to email a professor or look up transportation schedules, this university wanted to create a mobile app where students could access all that information and more in one spot. Without needing to hire an additional specialized development team, they were able to create exactly what they needed on the Mendix platform. Today, thousands of students, teachers, and administrative staff use this app on a daily basis. 

Related reading: NC State University: An Engine of Economic Growth 

The future of automated customer engagement: Intelligent automation

As technology progresses, we are already beginning to see companies move from using automation as we know it today to incorporating intelligent automation into systems.

Intelligent automation brings technology like artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), or machine learning (ML) into processes and customer experience journeys, allowing for the augmenting of human decision-making that is often required in static workflows. Intelligent automation is opening the door for innovative recommendations and solutions that can only be derived from working with vast quantities of data that are typically too large for humans to comprehend. This, in turn, leads to outcomes like even smoother customer experiences, reduced costs, and improved productivity.

One step, one app, at a time

Despite a profusion of technology advances and updated best practices, a large swath of enterprises is failing to take advantage of automating their customer experiences, leaving the playing field wide open for others to come in and take advantage. Though it may require an organization-wide effort to rethink customer engagement, there has never been a better time where that effort is so likely to pay off so well.