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As connected customers, we all want more from the companies (and the lines of business within them) that we interact with: more consistency, more continuity, and more personalisation.

And that’s placing one business function – above all others – at the heart of our decisions to buy, recommend, and be loyal… IT.

We know all this, because we’ve quizzed over 7,000 consumers and business buyers worldwide about their expectations of sales, service, and marketing interactions. Here’s the picture we revealed for the UK, and what it means for today’s – and tomorrow’s – IT teams…

Why IT is essential to UK customer satisfaction

Both consumers and business buyers agree – evolving technology has changed their expectations, and placed them firmly in the driving seat.

Indeed, 52% of UK consumers and 82% of UK business buyers say they feel significantly more empowered than they did just five years ago.

They now expect consistency across departments, throughout their buying journeys.

  • 68% of UK consumers and 71% of UK business buyers agree they expect a consistent experience across every interaction.

They also expect information about them to drive smarter selling, more relevant marketing, and faster, savvier service.

What’s more, they prize innovation highly when deciding where to spend their money. More than one in two UK consumers and nearly three in four UK business buyers rate a company’s powers of innovation as absolutely critical or very important to their purchasing decisions.

Fulfilling these expectations depends on moving towards smarter, seamlessly connected systems and operations. The kind that ensure Service data informs Sales conversations, Sales data informs Marketing campaigns, and customers enjoy consistent, personalised experiences, whether they drop you an email, open a live chat box, explore your FAQs, or give you a call.

In short, it depends on IT.

The dual role IT must play

IT has a crucial, dual role to play in enabling the kind of experiences connected customers now expect.

IT leaders are uniquely placed to spearhead the drive towards breaking down data siloes, and enabling the simple sharing of customer information between functions and locations.

But it’s not just about connecting employees. It’s about ensuring you can connect with customers through the channels they actually use. And increasingly that means looking beyond face-to-face, phone and email.

Of the UK buyers we surveyed, 54% said knowledge bases are an absolutely critical or very important channel, while:

  • 48% said the same of online communities
  • 43% said the same of social media 
  • 48% said the same of in-app mobile support 

The high price of failing connected customers

When IT fails to enable the consistent, omnichannel experience today’s customers are looking for, the business as a whole is likely to suffer.

70% of UK consumers say they’re likely to switch brands if a company provides then with inconsistent levels of service – i.e. if when they ring a different department, it feels like they’ve rung a different business.

Business buyers are even less forgiving, with 77% saying this kind of experience would likely end their loyalty.

The figures are similarly striking when it comes to the impact of inconsistent experiences between channels – 71% of all UK respondents agree a lack of consistency is likely to drive them to look elsewhere.

Why there’s no time for IT to rest on its laurels

Even as you read this, new technologies are taking root in the popular consciousness, and building expectations of tomorrow’s customer experiences.

For example, 68% of UK consumers say they’ll expect companies to provide products and services that are connected to the internet by 2020. By the same year, one in two expect AI to have a hand in automatically recommending or purchasing products based on their preferences.

And it’s not just futuristic buying experiences that IT has to deliver. It’s futuristic ways of working. 61% of UK employees agree that, in under four years’ time, technology will have drastically changed the way they work.

It’s time to switch on to the connected customer

Here in the UK, the modern customer expects organisations to act like a friend – remembering who they are from one interaction to the next, talking to them through their favourite channels, anticipating their needs, and adjusting their behaviour to match their expectations.

More than any other department, IT has the power, and the responsibility, to make this vision a reality – by connecting employees with employees through seamless data sharing, employees with customers through old and new channels, and even customers with customers, through online communities. 

What’s more, now is the time to start; technology is continuing to evolve at an astonishing pace, and UK customer demands will do the same.

What’s the global story? Read the full State of the Connected Customer report to discover how customer expectations are shifting worldwide. You’ll also learn how the connected lives of Baby Boomers and Millennials differ, and discover our six key takeaways for ongoing success in the age of the connected customer.