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Experiences are even more important in a socially distant world. Manage them intelligently

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Experiences are even more important in a socially distant world. Manage them intelligently 1

By Rudeon Snell, Global Senior Director: Industries & Customer Advisory at SAP

It would be easy to conclude that the hype surrounding the Experience Economy is over, following the world-changing events of 2020. Physcial distancing has been mandated by governments across the globe, consumers are hunkering down in the safety of their homes, rarely venturing out and digitial engagement, along with touchless technologies, have exponentially increased. However, it can be argued that in fact, quite the opposite is true; that the Experience Economy, now, is more important than ever before. And here’s why. As companies try to connect with their consumers, employees and partners; as they try and meet the unmet and unarticulated needs of their stakeholders, the experiences they deliver, at this critical inflection point of our history, will be more important than ever to their long term success.

As a concept, the Experience Economy is not new. A 1998 article in Harvard Business Review titled ‘Welcome to the Experience Economy’ highlighted how leading companies understood that “the next competitive battleground lies in staging experiences.” Products and services were no longer seen as differentiators.

By 2017, McKinsey had declared ‘Experiences are king’ as their research confirmed how consumers had gradually shifted their expenditure from products to experiences. In their report, McKinsey found that personal consumption expenditure on experience-related services had grown 1.5 times faster than total personal consumption spending and nearly four times faster than expenditure on products.

Gartner even declared that 2019 would be the year that experience overtake product and price as the main competitive differentiators for brands and businesses. Positive, hyper-personalised experiences were now required to sweeten the deal for consumers.

Rise of Intelligent Experiences

In line with the rise of exponential technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and the Internet of Thing, the concept of the Experience Economy has also evolved over the past few years. Today, successful businesses manage their experiences as a core strategic business capability. They have seen how customers are willing to pay more for experencies. They understand that the value needle has shifted.

This new approach is powered by Intelligence. Intelligent Experience Management leverages the power of exponential technologies – AI, IoT, advanced analytics – to drive a more optimal customer, employee, product and brand experiences. This relentless focus on value delivery through enhanced experiences, is what will allow enterprises to win in today’s market.

And these exponential technologies powering differentiated business capabilities, are vital to the long term success of enterprises, because of the volume and nature of data that informs modern Experience Economy strategies. Traditionally, organisations relied heavily on operational data – revenue, inventory, suppliers, workforce – to make decisions, but today they need insights from a different type of data to augment the value their provide to their customers; they need experience data.

Experience data provides insights into the sentiment and emotional aspects that influence a customer, employee, partner or supplier decisions towards a brand. In short, operational data reveals what is happening in an organisation, and experience data reveals why and how it is happening.

An Intelligent Experience Management strategy would measure and track operational data and experience data and use AI in combination with other exponential technologies to construct and augment individualised profiles of customers, employees, brands or products. Predicitve or Prescriptive actions can then be taken in order to optimally drive outcomes that matter.

Put another way, instead of reacting to problems when they occur, increasing the ‘experience gap’, companies can now get ahead of the curve and address challenges before they have a lasting negative impact on the organisation.

Rudeon Snell

Rudeon Snell

The impact and advantage of this type of capability will be indispensable to organisations as they adapt to changing customer behaviour in the wake of the pandemic. While adoption of digital services has exponentially increased across the globe, the events of 2020 and the resulting shift in consumer behaviour, will put additional pressure on organisations to transform how they engage with customer and employees.

And nowhere is this shift as apparent as in the financial services sector.

Experience Economy transforming banks, insurers

Banks’ relationships with their customers have largely been built on the basis of compliance: often a box-ticking exercise that ensures the bank’s conduct is in line with a robust set of rules and standards and that the consumer adheres to a strict set of principles.

This dynamic prevailed until the emergence of the internet and other digital technologies that created new channels for customer engagement. According to a recent Qualtrics study, of all the time customers spent interacting with their bank, 47% of that time was via online channels, and less than a third of that time in person. The same study found that ‘Poor Service’ was the second-most important factor in consumers considering leaving their bank for a competitor.

The banking industry is extremely competitive. Most banks generally offer the same types of products and services. The real differentiation lies in the experience that customers have when interacting with the bank. And the cost of a poor experience I this industry has become increasingly significant:  a 2018 survey by Forrester Research found that, for every one-point decline in its customer experience score, a multi-channel bank loses $124-million in potential revenue.

Banks, competing with more agile fin-techs and a growing ecosystem of non-traditional financial services providers – including the powerful telco industry – have taken note of this and have been making significant investment into their Experience Economy strategies. By 2018, McKinsey found that three out of four of the world’s 50 largest banks were committed to some form of customer experience transformation.

Insurers are also taking note.

Insurance provider Allianz recently leveraged Qualtrics, the experience management platform, to collect experience data from customers in 22 countries. Using the platform to filter and priorities insights by location, and function, Allianz could empower their customer-facing teams with the certainty to know what action to take to deliver a seamless and positive experience at every step of each customers’ engagement with the company.

Allianz has also used the experience data to develop entirely new products to help protect businesses from emerging risks, improve its reputation for quality consultations and become integral business partners to its customers, building lasting loyalty.

Financial services companies that have not invested in transforming their customer and employee experiences will be left far behind their competitors in a post-2020 world. Leaving experience management to chance is a recipe for failure.

Instead, organisations should seek ways to improve their collection and processing of experience data and combine that with operational data to make informed decisions over the future of their companies.

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Deloitte: Middle East organizations need to rethink their workforce in the wake of COVID-19

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Deloitte: Middle East organizations need to rethink their workforce in the wake of COVID-19 2

Organizations in the Middle East have had to take immediate actions in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as shifting to remote and virtual work, implementing new ways of working and redirecting the workforce on critical activities. According to Deloitte’s 10th annual 2020 Middle East Human Capital Trends report, “The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward,” organizations now need to think about how to sustain these actions by embedding them into their organizational culture.

“COVID-19 has created a clarifying moment for work and the workforce. Organizations that expand their focus on worker well-being, from programs adjacent to work to designing well-being into the work itself, will help their workers not only feel their best but perform at their best. Doing so will strengthen the tie between well-being and organizational outcomes, drive meaningful work, and foster a greater sense of belonging overall,” said Ghassan Turqieh, Consulting Partner, Human Capital, Deloitte Middle East.

According to the Deloitte report, many organizations in the Middle East made quick arrangements to engage with employees in the wake of the pandemic through frequent communications, multiple webinars where senior leaders addressed employee concerns, virtual employee events, manager check-ins, periodic calls and other targeted interactions with the workforce.

The report also discussed how UAE and KSA governments have reexamined work policies and practices, amended regulations and introduced COVID-19 initiatives to support companies and the workforce in the public and private sectors. Flexible and remote working, team-building and engagement activities, well-ness programs, recognition awards and modern workspaces are among the many things that are now adding to the employee experience.

Key findings from the Deloitte global report include:

  • Only 17% of respondents are making significant investments in reskilling to support their AI strategy with only 12% using AI primarily to replace workers;
  • 27% of respondents have clear policies and practices to manage the ethical challenges resulting from the future of work despite 85% of respondents saying the future of work raises ethical challenges;
  • Three-quarters of leaders are expecting to source new skills and capabilities through reskilling, but only 45% are rewarding workers for the development of new skills; and
  • Only 45% of respondents are prepared or very prepared to take advantage of the alternative workforce to access key capabilities despite gig workers being likely to comprise 43% of the U.S. workforce this year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Worker well-being is a top priority today, and similarly to the rest of the world, companies in the Middle East are focusing their efforts to redesign work around well-being by understanding workforce well-being needs,” said Rania Abu Shukur, Director, Human Capital, Consulting, Deloitte Middle East.

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One in five insurance customers saw an improvement in customer service over lockdown, research shows

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SAS research reveals that insurers improved their customer experience during lockdown

One in five insurance customers noted an improvement in their customer experience over lockdown, according to research conducted by SAS, the leader in analytics. This far outweighed the 11% of customers who felt it had deteriorated over the same period.

This is positive news for insurers during such challenging times, with 59% of customers also saying that they would pay more to buy or use products and services from any company that provided them with a good customer experience over lockdown.

The improvement in customer experience also coincides with a rise in the number of digital customers. Since the pandemic started, the number of insurance customers using a digital service or app has grown by 10%. Three-fifths (60%) of new users plan to continue using these digital services moving forward.

However, while the number of digital users grew over lockdown, half of the insurance customer base has not yet chosen to move to digital insurance apps or services.

Paul Ridge, Head of Insurance at SAS UK & Ireland, said:

“It’s impressive that there was a net improvement in customer experience during lockdown, despite the challenges the industry was facing with a transition to remote working and increased claims for things like cancelled holidays. While many were forced to wait on customer help lines for long periods, part of the improvement may be explained by even a small (10%) increase in the number of digital users.

“However, it’s clear that a huge number of customers are still yet to make the move online. It’s vital that insurers provide the most accurate, timely and relevant offerings to customers, and this is best achieved by having additional insight into online customer journeys so they can understand them better. Using analytics and AI, insurers can seize this opportunity to digitalise their customer experience and offer a more personalised approach.”

Meanwhile, for insurers that fail to offer a consistently satisfactory customer experience, the price could be severe. A third (33%) of customers claimed that they would ditch a company after just one poor experience. This number jumps to 90% for between one and five poor examples of customer service.

For more insight into how other industries across EMEA performed during lockdown, download the full report: Experience 2030: Has COVID-19 created a new kind of customer? 

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The power of superstar firms amid the pandemic: should regulators intervene?

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The power of superstar firms amid the pandemic: should regulators intervene? 4

By Professor Anton Korinek, Darden School of Business and Research Associate at the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute. Gosia Glinska, associate director of research impact, Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Darden School of Business

Recent news that Apple hit a market cap of USD2 trillion highlights an extraordinary success story: A once struggling computer-maker on the verge of bankruptcy innovates its way to becoming the most valuable publicly traded company in the United States.

Apple’s 13-figure valuation is indicative of a larger trend that is not entirely benign — the rise of a handful of superstar firms that dominate the economy. Over the past three decades, advances in information technology, mainly the Internet, have supercharged the superstar phenomenon, allowing a small number of entrepreneurs and firms to serve a large market and reap outsize rewards. And COVID-19 has greatly accelerated the phenomenon by pushing us all into a more virtual world.

Apple — along with Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Netflix — is a case in point. The combined market value of those six companies exceeds USD7 trillion, which accounts for more than a quarter of the entire S&P 500 index. Even amid the pandemic’s economic wreckage, these megacompanies continue to prosper. The combined share price for Apple and its five peers was up more than 43 percent this year, while the rest of the companies in the S&P 500 collectively lost about 4 percent.[1]

Superstar firms can be found in almost every sector of the economy, including tech, management, finance, sports and the music industry. They command increasing market power, which has consequences for technological, social and economic progress. It is, therefore, critical to understand how their advantages arose in the first place.

THE FORCES BEHIND THE SUPERSTAR PHENOMENON

The “economics of superstars” was first studied by the late University of Chicago economist Sherwin Rosen. Forty years ago, Rosen argued that certain new technologies would significantly enhance the productivity of talented workers, enabling superstars in any industry to greatly expand the scope of their market, while reducing market opportunities for everyone else.[2] Digital innovations, including advances in the collection, processing and transmission of information, is what Rosen envisioned would lead to the superstar phenomenon.

Digital technologies are information goods, which are different from the traditional, physical goods in the economy. What it means is that fundamentally different economic considerations apply. Unlike physical goods — a loaf of bread or a car — information goods have two key properties: They are non-rival and excludable. Non-rival means that something can be used without being used up. Excludability means that an owner of digital innovation can prevent others from using it, by protecting it with patents, for example. These two fundamental properties of information goods are what give rise to the superstar phenomenon.

In a working paper I co-authored with Professor Ding Xuan Ng at Johns Hopkins University[3], we described superstars as arising from digital innovations that require upfront fixed costs that allow firms to reduce the marginal costs of serving additional customers.[4] For example, once an online travel agency has programmed its website at a fixed cost, it can easily displace thousands of traditional travel agents without much additional effort, scaling at near-zero cost.

Because a firm can exclude others from using its digital innovation, it automatically gains market power. The innovator then uses that power to charge a mark-up and earn a monopoly rent — basically, a price superstars charge in excess of what it costs them to provide the good — which we call the ‘superstar profit share’.

THE POLICYMAKER’S DILEMMA

In a vibrant free market economy, businesses compete for customers by innovating and improving their offerings while keeping prices low; otherwise, they are displaced by more innovative rivals entering the market. Unfortunately, the increasing monopolization of the economy by technology superstars is weakening the competitive environment around the world.

Monopoly power is the main inefficiency from the emergence of superstar firms, because superstars can exclude others from using the innovation that they have developed.

So, what policy measures can be employed to mitigate the inefficiencies arising from the superstar phenomenon?

We do have antitrust policies designed to promote competition and hence economic efficiency. Authorities could take a drastic measure and break up monopolies. Or they could tax all those excess profits megacompanies make.

Another policy to consider involves giving consumers control rights over their data. Right now, only companies have that data, and they are selling it. If you free it up and don’t allow them to sell it anymore, it reduces their monopoly profits. And if you give consumers more freedom over their data, they could, for example, share it with the latest start-up and create a more competitive landscape.

However, such policy remedies can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they reduce monopoly rents. On the other hand, they can also reduce innovation.

Innovation requires investments in R&D, which represent a significant sunk cost that only large firms can afford. Government regulations can easily backfire, discouraging large firms from making long-term R&D investments.

What, then, is the best policy intervention? Professor Ding Xuan Ng and I believe that basic research should be public. Digital innovations should be financed by public investments and should be provided as free public goods to all. This would make the superstar phenomenon disappear, and the effects of digital innovation would simply show up as productivity increases.[5]

We live in a brave new world that is increasingly based on information. Because the information economy is different from the traditional economy, antitrust policy should be revamped to reflect that. Instead of worrying about the economy being eaten up by these gigantic monopolies, policymakers need to focus on the question ‘What specific actions can we pursue to make the economy more competitive and efficient?’

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