A close customer relationship helps Xiaomi and other businesses not just with design features or short-term customer needs, but longer-term technology investment priorities too. More than a third of survey respondents reported customer input to be fully integrated into such decision-making, and the integration of customer input in technology investment decisions has grown more over the past five years than in any other area, with 84% of respondents saying that it has increased “significantly” or “somewhat”.
At AXA Insurance in Singapore, former chief customer officer Leo Costes says that the company has made significant investments in technology in recent years, in support of its goal of becoming more customer-centric.
“What I’ve learned is that the work of getting closer to the customer is really a transformation journey. In the past, the insurance industry has not been known for being close to the customer and the customer hasn’t been part of the full product development lifecycle,” he says. “These are things that we are trying to change and technology is a vital part of that.”
The traditional insurance journey for customers has typically been slow and heavily paper-based, but they are actively looking for more digital ways of interacting with providers, more convenience and more personalised pricing. In order not to lose them to newer fintech providers who have focused on these things from the start, insurance companies need to change. And a big obstacle to change for many is the legacy IT systems on which they run.
At AXA Insurance, says Mr Costes, the focus has been on moving away from inflexible, siloed back-end systems towards a more modern, agile architecture based on microservices—components of code that represent different touchpoints in customer journeys. These microservices can be combined with each other to quickly and efficiently build new digital services and expand the scope of existing ones. Application programming interfaces, meanwhile, enable these microservices to communicate with each other and with the back-end systems of both those belonging to AXA Insurance and those belonging to key partners.
UK-based banking service Monese, meanwhile, has integrated a “translation as a service” platform from Lisbon-based tech start-up Unbabel with its own customer support platform, so that it can handle enquiries from customers in a range of different languages.
That’s important, explains Monese ’s CEO Norris Koppel, because when he launched the mobile banking service in 2015, it was with the initial aim of helping newcomers to the UK access banking facilities. This is something that many high-street banks made difficult for visiting students and those who live and work abroad without established UK addresses.
So far, over 1m people have signed up to Monese. The service is available in 12 languages and 60% of users don’t use the app in English. When they have questions or issues, they want to interact with Monese in their own languages, so incoming customer communications, in the form of emails or chat messages, first pass through Unbabel’s platform, which translates them and passes them on to a Monese customer agent. Their response, meanwhile, also passes through this platform on the way back to the customer, so they receive the response in their own language.
“It’s a really important aspect of our mission to provide customers with ‘banking without borders’ and we find that it makes them incredibly loyal to us,” says Mr Koppel.
Technology investments in pursuit of increasingly more sophisticated customer experiences look set to continue. In fact, more than four out of five respondents (83%) agree that businesses that are not including customers in innovation processes will fall behind, with 50% strongly agreeing that this is the case. Technological leaders tend to be customer-centric leaders, too. The survey shows a strong correlation between how well an organisation believes it has adapted to various recent technology trends, compared with its industry peers, and its preparedness for greater customer-centricity.