Leveraging the cloud to boost customer experience

Clare Hopping

Friday 3 March 2017

The cloud is a key enabler when it comes to improving the processes and competitiveness of your organisation. It’s also a way to vastly improve the customer experience and ensure it grows at the same pace as your target audience’s expectations.

Harnessing the cloud can not only lead to new audiences, but improved customer experiences as well. Examples include embracing new channels to improve audience targeting, aiding the effective running of loyalty schemes, and boosting website load speeds to help customers along their purchasing journey.

Customers want to be involved in experiences that relate to their lives, and the scalability and flexibility of the cloud lends itself perfectly to this. The key is determining which parts of your business to transform, rather than moving everything to the cloud in one hit.

Relevancy using data analysis

Personalising the customer experience is vital in our digital world. Customers want to be presented with offers and services that are relevant to them. And with most companies already possessing information about their customers, it’s an essential marketing tool that only needs a nudge from the cloud to transform customer relationships.

Although 86 per cent of businesses personalise their customer communications, most barely scratch the surface by using basic data in their emails – such as first names and locations – rather than digging deeper into their customers’ attitudes and preferences.

The cloud allows businesses to analyse exactly what a customer wants by using data collected throughout the customer journey. The power of the cloud means hundreds of thousands of data points can be analysed at once. And when paired with machine learning, it’s a tool that should be a core weapon in your marketing arsenal.

This isn’t just a tool for online experiences. Barneys New York, for example, successfully connected both its online shopping and in-store experience. When a customer walks into the store, beacon technology identifies the items they’ve viewed on the mobile app and directs the customer to their in-store location.

“The customer experience in this store runs parallel in importance to the design, product and historic location,” says Daniella Vitale, COO at Barneys New York. “We want the customer to feel as though anything is possible when they walk into the store. With the seamless integration of technology, our incredible staff and a deep appreciation of our customer, we really do feel that everything is possible.”

On-demand scalability

A report by Forrester revealed that 73 per cent of customers believe valuing their time is the most important thing a business can do. Reacting to their demands as quickly as possible is therefore crucial for loyalty.

Because the cloud can scale according to demand, it’s perfect for industries that experience seasonality. Retailers, for example, might require extra capacity during Christmas to power more transactions, more data and keep track of stock and logistical operations, while project-based industries may need extra processing power if a large-scale job lands at short notice.

Hosting applications in the cloud means customers don’t need to wait for a business to pick up processing slack by acquiring a new server – the resource can simply switch on in the background and there’s zero interruption to service.

This means organisations can not only make experiences happen faster, but they can adapt to changing demands quicker, thus lowering costs as you will only pay for extra capacity when you need it.

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group (CRHG) is a prime example. The company moved to the cloud to ensure its customers could always get in contact with a customer service representative. Using the cloud allowed the group to add new sites for its contact centre when required, meaning customers could always talk to a representative – no matter where they were calling from.

“We didn’t have flexibility,” says John Zurn, senior director of reservations and customer care at CRHG. “And we didn’t have even the notion of anything but phone calls. We could pick up the phone, and that was about it – we didn’t know who we were talking to, really. And we didn’t know if they were calling back or if the call was their first [or if they were a loyalty member of any status]. And we couldn’t transfer them easily to the regional centres.”

This solution also allows for personalisation, and customers can be instantly directed to a customer service representative who has relevant information about them so they can resolve the issue faster. Do be aware, however, that when customer data is involved, it’s important to regularly review your business’s cloud security measures.

Turning customers into loyal brand advocates

Ensuring customers receive a personalised, timely service can turn them into loyal brand advocates, always returning to your organisation rather than drifting to your competitors.

The cloud enables this by providing better insights into what your target audience wants to know thanks to high-powered business analytics, plus the scalability and flexibility to offer a rapidly adapting strategy for attracting, winning and maintaining customers.

Forrester predicts cross-channel retail sales will account for $1.8 trillion by 2018, but getting that cross-channel experience right means personalising every single part of the customer’s journey and instantly responding to their needs.

“Customers will reward companies that anticipate their individual needs and punish those that have to relearn basic information at each touchpoint,” says Fiona Adler, a customer experience consultant at Forrester.

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