In the first article of the series, we introduced the concept of Professional Services 2.0 and explored how digital is transforming traditional business models, enabling professional services businesses to adapt in this new digital age, increase the opportunities for profit and ultimately grow. This article will introduce the next-generation customer experience for professional services and take you through the ways that you can transform your business to win and retain more customers and gain a significant competitive advantage
We are living in an era of constant change, where our "old normal" has been disrupted by COVID-19 and all the health, economic and cultural challenges it brought, changing ways of living and working. Trying to adapt in this ever-changing nature of today's world, customers' behaviour and expectations are shifting towards digital. Customers now expect to get all the benefits of the physical business world and even more through digital or hybrid digital/physical models. This very change in customer behaviour is one of the main forces driving the digital transformation of the professional services sector.
To win and retain customers as well as gain a significant competitive advantage, professional services businesses need to respond to this change as quickly as possible, aiming to provide an excellent customer experience through digital or hybrid channels. Traditionally, professional services focus less on customer experience and more on the actual service they offer. However, this comes in contrast to the seamless experiences consumers get in their personal lives from brands like Netflix, Uber and Amazon. Today's customers expect to buy, access and use services on-demand, require personalised experiences and easy access to knowledge through sophisticated digital platforms.
A survey conducted by Cognizant and Econsultancy found that 73% of marketers agree that customer experience is seen as "integral to commercial success" within their business. However, only 54% of them agree that they have the technology required to provide a seamless customer experience.
One of the main barriers of improving the customer experience of professional services organisations is the use of legacy technology and infrastructure, that most of the time are disconnected from the other systems and processes, creating organisational silos and causing problems in accessing data. Legacy technology platforms and systems could be hard to use and do not provide the functionality needed to provide an end-to-end customer experience.
Transforming your customer experience to offer the digital or hybrid services of the future that match your customers' expectations in the digital age requires the deployment of design-led platforms that allow a 360° customer view, personalisation and automation.
A seamless customer experience requires a sophisticated digital platform and data capturing system, allowing your customers to receive relevant information, offers and services at the time they need them. To achieve these, your teams need to have a holistic view of the digital customer journey and understand their behaviour and expectations. What services do your customers need right now? How do they want to access and use them?
Digital platforms that capture real-time customer data and analytics enable effective personalisation. Knowing not only your customers' name but also their needs, desires and problems you will be able to predict their intent in the early stages, understand what service is best for them and what representative is best to solve their issues. You will also be able to provide them with personalised digital journeys through your digital platform, showing relevant content and services at the right time.
Treating your customers as unique individuals will differentiate your organisation from your competitors, increase customer loyalty that drives cross-selling and recurring revenue and ultimately transform to a Professional Services 2.0 business.
As digital interactions are now the new normal, experience design is one of the most critical aspects of your platform that defines how customers perceive your brand. To provide enjoyable digital journeys and experiences that customers will want to return to, professional services businesses need to invest in the front-end experience. Choosing a partner that is proficient in design-led platforms and digital experiences design is of great importance, to ensure you will deploy a world-class digital platform, designed to delight your customers in every step of their journey and increase conversions.
To decrease the friction of the multiple devices, channels, touchpoints and marketing messages, user-experience experts leverage customer-centric design strategies, including customer personas and user stories. Leading with these strategies, they create consistent experiences that match your customers needs and even go beyond their expectations, differentiating your organisation from your competitors.
Digital platforms allow professional services businesses to transform the very nature of their service offerings as well as the way customers experience this service. Moving the focus from what service is convenient for your organisation to what your customers want and how they want it, is very crucial.
Future scoping for changing consumer demands and behaviour, changes in technology and having access to a rich pool of customer data can shape new services or significantly improve existing ones. To succeed in these, businesses need to be digital to the core, using digital platforms to deliver next-generation services and experiences.
These platforms can work as online marketplaces where customers choose the services or people they need quick and easy. Professional services customers can also use services on-demand, at their convenience, either working from home or the office. They can have easy access to knowledge or directly contact a business representative without picking the phone or scheduling a zoom call, all through a single digital platform with seamless customer experience.
Using digital platforms, professional services businesses have the potential to launch a new digital service that meets their customers’ needs and expectations or transform an existing manual and time-consuming service offering and turn it into a digital process, saving time and money as well as providing a brilliant customer experience!
Without adopting and successfully implementing the right culture, your customer experience is unlikely to be transformed and improved. You need to place your customers at the heart of your business and align the whole organisation around them. Not only your customer-facing teams need to be motivated to offer the best experience possible, but also your back-end teams need to be empowered with customer-centric processes and technologies to help the business provide a seamless end-to-end customer experience. These require a culture of co-operation with multidisciplinary teams united around the same customer-centric goals.
Business leaders need to be able to communicate their vision to digitally transform the customer experience with the whole organisation, showing an understanding of what needs to be done, providing guidance and expecting the challenges that their teams could face while being in the transformation progresses. CEOs in particular, are responsible to ensure that everyone across the board and the business is pulling in the same direction.
Future scoping is also very important if the transformation of customer experience is to succeed. C-level executives and their teams need to have the customer of tomorrow in mind, anticipating changes in the environment and proactively transform to match customers' future demands, shaping an agile, flexible and people-centric culture.
At Calls9, we help start-ups and established professional services businesses digitally transform to reduce inefficiencies and accelerate growth. We design and build digital platforms that improve the customer experience and empower your teams to do their best work.
We have designed a process that helps you quickly see how your organisation can use digital to transform by understanding:
At the end of the process, you will have a clear digital transformation strategy built around your specific needs and designed to help you improve your business, disrupt your market or enter a new one.
We then use this strategy to kick-start a programme of digital transformation.
Paul Smith is the former Global Chairman of Eversheds Sutherland, a successful author and legal innovator. With 30 years of experience in the professional services sector, he provides thought leadership, unique guidance and inspires innovation
Chara Kalemaki covers the latest industry insights, technology trends and digital strategy. Her passion for helping businesses understand the opportunities digital transformation brings to the professional services sector flows through the expert insights she provides.