Web 2.0 and spectacular innovations in mobile technologies have opened-up a world of opportunities for companies and their brands to interact with a diversity of customers, regardless of where in the world they may be.
While technology - including social media platforms - for bridging the geographical divide should be in the arsenal of all companies that want to thrive in this increasingly-connected world, it must not be at the expense of an authentic customer ethos. So says Hilton Veldsman, Client Service Director at leading digital agency, NATIVE. "With all the fanfare around the power of using new technologies and social media for marketing brands, some marketers are losing the plot. It's become all about the technology when it should all be about the customer. "
"Companies are placing so much emphasis on media platforms for communicating with their audiences that they are neglecting other important touch-points with their customers. What is the point of a fantastic advert or a great online campaign if it's incongruent with the experience customers get when dealing with company personnel?
"Certainly, there is no question that the smart use of technology is intrinsic to effective marketing nowadays, but it can be impersonal. Companies which are totally "touchless" to customers risk becoming out of touch. Nothing can replace excellent customer understanding and personalised service - even with the latest technologies, and the most comprehensive market knowledge."
Veldsman says the customer should always be at the core of all manner of businesses. Customer centricity is about placing the customer at the centre of it all and ensuring that excellence, relevance and efficiency is delivered at every touch-point - from the front desk, to the shop floor, to delivery personnel, to management.
In today's highly commoditised world, the ability to stand-out from the competition depends on the ability to differentiate on customer experience. And, a quality customer experience, one that differentiates one business from another, is achieved through customer-centricity. That is because exceptional service is the natural by-product of a customer-centric approach.
"Of course," says Veldsman, "simply trying to focus on creating quality client experiences does not mean companies are getting it right. A lot of companies pay lip service to being client-centric. To ensure that their client-centric attitude is being felt where it matters, companies should be monitoring customer perceptions and satisfaction in measurable ways."
NATIVE has a keen understanding of the digital terrain and a well developed digital marketing competency. But, Veldsman explains that achieving tangible results and transforming clients' products and services into meaningful digital platforms and campaigns is only possible with close collaboration and a thorough understanding of their business.
As no two businesses are the same, there is no standard response for dealing with or treating customers. Responses are tailored with a keen emphasis on customer needs and through "tribes" - groups of dedicated resources who are focused on a specific client or clients.
These teams undergo experiential training to develop the interpersonal, psychological, social, emotional skills required for dealing appropriately and meaningfully with the customers they service. This ensures that they are able to empathetically understand the experience of being a client and enhance the quality of that experience.
The company constantly tracks client perceptions and experiences through regular client surveys. The results of these surveys are measured against key performance indicators, and client satisfaction metrics are treated as a financial scorecard.
"Being innately-tuned to customers needs ensures greater agility in responding quickly and appropriately to changes in the scope of our engagements with them. It makes us more productive and efficient, and able to achieve results but importantly ensures that our customers' rate us as exceptional. ," he concludes.