A winning customer-centric strategy relies on your network management

27 July 2020 | Chris Rezentes, Director, Product Management (Network), CenturyLink Asia Pacific

Do you ever recall a time that you walked into a store or restaurant and were blown away by the incredible service and attention to detail? Or more recently, at a time of restricted movement and many shops being closed, have you experienced the services of a vendor that has gone out of their way to help resolve an issue or deliver a product? Often, it could be the smallest business with the simplest of trimmings that uses customer service as their competitive differentiator. Conversely, the larger and glossier organizations may provide the ambience and Instagram-worthy brand image, but fail on looking after their customers. Which one would you rather continue supporting?

The use cases I have illustrated are obviously B2C but ring true for B2B customers, especially in a digital marketplace. Businesses are people too and customer experience – or CX as we refer to it in the IT industry – is the new brand. Companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of delivering experiences that make them stand out from the competition and establish brand loyalty, while customers contribute to an organization’s reputation and success. Armed with access to a plethora of information at their fingertips, customers are more informed than ever, reviews and other customers’ experiences form an important basis of any research they do or purchase they make, wrestling brand control away from businesses. Today’s customers expect to have their questions answered promptly, creating a need for businesses to make themselves available for customer inquiries at any time, from anywhere – onsite, remote, or virtual. 

Customer experiences a major differentiator for digital businesses 

Organizations are progressively leveraging transformative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), augmented reality, voice recognition, predictive analytics, and chatbots to reshape how they connect with customers. Customer interactions have gone far beyond feedback forms and online surveys; people now prefer an omnichannel experience enabled by Application Program Interfaces (APIs). In recent years, APIs have enabled connected and engaging client experiences, tracking user behavior across channels and devices and provide a multitude of options for customer interactions – including voice recognition and chatbots, mentioned earlier. Disruptive technologies therefore continue to expand an organization’s capabilities to process and analyze data, provide instant troubleshooting support, and act upon requests in a more speedy and efficient manner, enabling better decisions and superior CX.  

There are several big brands that have placed CX innovation at the center of their success stories. Singapore’s DBS1 is an outstanding example of a customer-centric organization deploying intelligent technologies, such as voice biometrics to verify identities and managing customer journeys in real-time, towards managing new expectations and delivering value-added services. The organization’s focus on a customer-centric strategy is also on equipping employees with the necessary future-ready skills. Pizza Hut2 is another big brand that has been lauded for its CX transformation; the company built an in-house customer experience team to act on data and personalize communication to customers and simplified engagement and transactions via its digital delivery service. Other notable examples include workplace communications tool, Slack3  which relies on customer feedback to fine-tune its service and Netflix4, a company which describes itself as ‘customer obsessed’, using AI for creating personalized tactics to engage viewers.

However, the question for digital businesses today is how do you ensure a high level of personalized service and engagement when traditional sales and marketing methods have transferred online? This is particularly pertinent in the B2B space, where products and services are often of higher value and longer lifecycles than consumer goods. In an era when every customer interaction, impression, and review matters, how can an organization create experiences that truly “wow” their customers and generate positive impressions in the marketplace?

Network transformation enables customer-centric strategies  

Innovative methods of connecting with customers is certainly heading in the right direction when it comes to transforming CX, particularly with organizations investing in disruptive technologies. Enhancing CX is an earnest goal for any IT department, but improvements can only be achieved by first addressing the basics. Operational efficiencies differ across industries, but certain improvements remain the same across the board. Modern IT departments are now considered major contributors to creating new revenue streams, reducing on-premise costs, and improving bottom-line; as such, workloads are shifting to the cloud and more processes are being automated. In order to enable business and customer applications without the issues of latency, businesses have had to rethink their network strategy to support their high-bandwidth needs.

A trend that continues to drive change in how networks are configured is the year-on-year growth in Internet traffic, the majority of which is in Asia5. More recently, workplace changes, social distancing measures and homebased learning in the midst of COVID-19 has impacted data consumption and internet usage, causing traffic spikes globally as the use of collaboration tools, such as video conferencing, surged6. Such disruptions can severely impact the customer experience and organizations across many sectors are urgently having to adapt digital strategies and launch new services and applications in much shorter timeframes to drive positive CX7.  

One way of managing is through software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs), that keep pace with the growing needs of a digital business. Recent research from analyst firm Ovum has revealed businesses saw 47% improvement in network uptime and 38% better threat response, among other benefits of SD-WAN deployment8. Throughout pandemic-led disruptions, SD-WAN has helped enterprises handle the upsurge in network demand and quickly mobilize employees to work from home, enabling multiple and secure broadband and cloud connections for business continuity. This ease of deployment and levels of agility and scale can only be possible due to the very definition of the technology, being software-defined. 

Hear from IT Leaders on how you can assess your managed SD-WAN measures and pick the right technology partner today.

Let’s explore some of the benefits SD-WAN brings to CX:

  • Providing the bandwidth and connectivity to successfully connect with customers even while working remotely.
  • Intelligent, application-aware routing independent of the underlying network structure. This helps prioritize critical applications, including customer portals and collaboration tools.
  • Supporting a number of CRM tools and applications such as cloud-based contact centers. 
  • Supplies data and analytics of customer behaviors and requirements to improve and personalize provision of services.
CenturyLink’s SD-WAN self-service customer portal is designed with CX design principles in mind. We understand the importance of a seamless user experience when navigating the portal or making changes – such as to application / routing police or opening tickets for troubleshooting. Dashboard views provide enterprises greater visibility and control with application monitoring and analytics. Furthermore, customers can leverage real-time API access to their profiles on our customer portal to extra necessary data for their own use. A good example is an enterprise customer which has numerous business units, each requiring their own data points for things such as usage reports or billing histories.  
Customer Portal: Get the insights on your network health via the CenturyLink SD-WAN dashboard
Although management and control are centralized, enterprises will still face the choice of DIY or managed SD-WAN solutions to ensure successful integration and deployment – not forgetting to get the best out of their network towards their CX objectives. Managed SD-WAN services help customers streamline deployments and make the best decisions for their unique business – and choosing the right partner is essential.

Improving customer experience 

A decade ago, most employers would have been extremely hesitant over the idea of employees regularly working from home. One major concern most employers had for working remotely was a loss of productivity, but this has now been proved otherwise. Work has been forever changed due to COVID-19 and forward-thinking employers will plan technology strategically to ensure that remote working can continue with uninterrupted customer experience.

As organizations move rapidly to transform their networks, the distributed workforce of today will continue to be a dominant factor in broader digital business goals. Transformation of any kind is multi-faceted and understanding the right stakeholders is an important part of this process. Without a doubt, setting the foundation for a customer-centric organization begins with how you enable their experience with your organization. Before you transform your customer experience strategy, take a deep dive into your network infrastructure and make sure your organization is ready to deliver on your objectives.   

Need substantial results from a modern network? Navigate SD-WAN with confidence now. 

1 Press release, ‘DBS creates Customer Centre of the future’, DBS, 2 May 2019.  
2 Chanice Henry, ‘Pizza Hut on how customer feedback can spark exciting product innovation’, 3 Sep. 2020, CX Network.
3 Blake Morgan, ‘Building Thoughtful Customer Experiences at Slack’, Nov.12, 2019, Forbes.
4 Anthony Smith, ‘How To Create a Customer-Obsessed Company Like Netflix’, Dec. 12, 2017, Forbes.
5 World Internet Usage and Population Statistics 2020 Q1 Estimates, Internet World Stats.
6 Artur Bergman, ‘How COVID-19 is affecting internet performance’, Apr. 8, 2020, Fastly.
7 Laura Slade, ‘The Agents of Transformation Report 2020: COVID-19 Special Edition’, 26 May, 2020, AppDynamics, part of Cisco.  
Infographic, ‘4 ways SD-WAN boosts digital business’, Aug. 2019, CenturyLink and Ovum. 

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