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Written by Hyther Nizam, President MEA, Zoho Corp

Over the past decade, software solutions have transformed from being mere systems of records to systems of activities, and then to systems of automation that enabled us to scale new productivity levels. Today, they have evolved into systems of intelligence that bring together useful information and tools from various places to build contextual awareness, helping us be more effective at what we do.

This evolution of IT systems over the years has empowered businesses to improve the quality of customer experience (CX) and noticeably boosted the response time of even large organisations. The question now is: What can the next step for CX be? At Zoho, we believe that the next step for CX software is to become ‘systems of experiences’. A system of experiences differs from existing systems in the following ways:

It’s based on experiences, beyond actions or engagement.
Most contemporary business systems are organized functionally and optimized for functional goals like getting more calls, closing more deals, receiving better customer satisfaction ratings or net promoter scores. While the numbers matter, the qualitative aspects are equally important, like whether customers are being successful, whether they are feeling positive about their experiences, and whether they will come back or bring their friends. These are emotions associated directly with their overall experiences with the brand.

A system of experiences must transcend internal functions to ensure a customer’s experience is smooth throughout their lifecycle with the brand. The system must be thought through backwards from the end-customer experience rather than defining goals and then trying to design a matching CX strategy.

It’s organized cross-functionally, not as functional islands.
When a customer looks at a promotional message, goes to your online store, and has a question, she chats with someone from your organisation. The customer has essentially come into contact with three functions here, but she does not know that nor does she need to know. In this case, the service agent must be able to automatically pull up information like where the customer came from, how they got there, and what their history of experiences has been with the brand.

They must also be able to look up retail availability of a stock-keeping unit or even add a retail associate to that chat. Regardless of functional alignments internally, everyone needs to come together to make the customer successful. And the software must make this possible by making the employee experience cross-functional and friction-free.

It prioritizes all stakeholders, including the customers.
Every CX platform has a strong focus on the customer. That is its de facto purpose. However, not all customers are external to the organisation. In a cross-functional setting, team interdependence is a given. Many functions are also dependent on the ecosystem around the organisation — vendors, distribution network, gig/temporary staff. But they can’t all use the same interface nor does everyone need the exact same set of features within the CX platform.

When so many stakeholders contribute in their own ways to the end-customer’s experience, the software platform that powers everything must make each person more productive through personalization, and also add a multiplier effect by making contextual, timely collaboration possible. A system of experiences addresses every stakeholder in a meaningful manner, and not just the customer.

It’s flexible enough to power the “now”,  the “next”, and beyond.
In the experience economy, a customer’s expectation from CX platforms can be redefined by brands in an unrelated industry altogether. For instance, consumer applications like social media are forcing enterprise software to simplify themselves, and the typical e-commerce buying experience has set the expectation for how simple even a large business procurement process can be.

Given that expectations are fluid, it’s essential for the system of experiences to be flexible enough to adapt to such social and cultural context. If there’s anything that 2020 has taught us, it is that our plans are mostly linear and an exponential disturbance can bring down even organisations with established business processes. The value of flexibility and extensibility can certainly not be overstated in this context.

If you examine your current system through these lenses, you will be able to see how well your primary CX enablers (people, processes, technology, context) are aligned to form a ‘system of experiences’ for the end-users. The shift to an experience economy, however, is not a one-off job that simply modernizes your CX systems with a quick upgrade. It’s rather a thoughtful transition that happens over the years when an organisation continually strives to deliver a consistently delightful experience, be it reactive, proactive, or predictive.

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