Do the companies you deal with on a day-to-day basis care about you?

Your answers may range from “no, they just want my money”, or “yes, I really feel like BrandX wants to keep me as a customer” and everything in between.

We pose the question because customer experience is a big talking point at the Huawei MEA Joint-Services Summit currently underway in Cape Town.

A focus on customer experience is key to the success of a modern business according to Vice President of Digital and Customer Experience at Forrester, Qaalfa Dibeehi.

And Dibeehi made this point in relation to telcos, the lessons he spoke of during his keynote are relevant to all forms of business.

The VP defines customer experience as how customers perceive their interactions with an organisation but warns that this not how customers use services but how they imagine they use them.

For example, a person rushing to work might not stop at the best coffee shop because it’s busy but they may go there at the weekend when its quieter. The perceived interaction is negative because there are too many customers and the person is in a rush but at another time the same person may enjoy a leisurely coffee at the same shop. Understanding the customer perception is key.

The customer’s perception of a business is based on effectiveness (do customers get value from the experience with your business), ease (can the customer get value without difficulty) and the emotion (do customers feel engaged by the experience).

Rather than make brash claims that customer-experience-focussed businesses are more successful, Dibeehi shows how mobile operator Sky, which is extremely focussed on customer experience exhibited a growth rate of 3.94% over TalkTalk, which is lagging behind in customer experience with a growth rate of 0.42%.

But Dibeehi warns that seeking to just retain customers through better service is not the point of customer experience because it doesn’t breed loyalty. “The trick is to better understand the customers life and how your business fits into their life,” Dibeehi explains.

By his account, business should start at the customer and work backwards to find what services need to be put in place to reach those customers. For example looking at emerging technologies such as location technologies, wearables, face and body scanning among others, that can improve the experience of the customer is key to success in a customer-centric business.

“You need to recognise who your customers are and what they need”, says Dibeehi.

Doing this requires consultants, agencies who can help design customer aligned touch points (websites, apps, online stores) and most importantly using technology service providers to build a customer experience that runs behind the scenes.

For businesses, focussing on an improved customer experience is the key to success moving forward and more importantly, getting customers happy, willing and excited to use your business will lead to customer loyalty.

“This is a big opportunity, if you start working on this now you have the chance to take the lead and if you lead you can breed loyalty,” Dibeehi says.

“But if you don’t take action now and come second (in customer experience) you will have nothing to offer customers that they can’t get from the leader”.