When it comes to sustaining business growth, brand loyalty is key. In fact, it’s how most consumers make their buying decisions. Studies show that a customer’s experience with a particular brand is what drives their loyalty to it.
Research also shows us that most consumers are willing to switch brands based on experience and that the lifetime value of a consumer who enjoys an emotional connection to a brand can be 3X higher than that of one who doesn’t.
CEOs are under constant pressure to drive revenue growth and improve customer experience (CX). For many, that begins with optimizing front-end processes in order to “delight” customers with higher quality service and interaction.
To do so, many are turning to intelligent process automation (IPA) to digitally transform their operations using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and cognitive technologies designed to remove manual intervention from basic, routine processes to dramatically enhance their efficiency and productivity.
The result is the reduction — or elimination — of the time, costs, risks and errors inherent with human involvement. Instead, humans are replaced with machines that can mimic human learning, decision making and interaction on a much higher, more efficient level for better, more consistent outcomes.
Applying IPA to front-end operations often includes optimizing consumer touchpoints and communications in the form of chatbots designed to serve with greater speed, convenience and satisfaction. A satisfied customer is a loyal customer, right?
One stream of groundbreaking research, in particular, has been critical to our thinking at Sutherland.  This research — proven and supplemented by our own experience — reveals that:
A strategy of delighting customers simply doesn’t pay.
We find that companies spending up to 20% more to “delight” customers reap virtually zero revenue benefit.
Satisfaction alone doesn’t accurately predict brand loyalty.
It’s our experience that about the same number of customers who say they’re very satisfied with a brand are typically also considering leaving it.
Customers are more vocal about poor service interactions.
Customers who have good experiences with a brand typically tell far fewer people than those who have bad experiences.
The key to growing brand loyalty is to reduce customer effort.
Nearly all the customers who report having to exert a degree of effort when interacting with a brand say they are likely to leave it.
Should automation success really be measured by how we optimize individual customer touchpoints for better CX? Or should we think more holistically about what actually makes for good CX and its impact on brand loyalty?
Intelligent Process Automation Means Frictionless CX
Automation is all about making things easier for customers. It drives brand loyalty when it succeeds in reducing customer effort and enhances the connection they feel to it — not just by making operations more efficient. Since ease reduces effort, automation is all about brand loyalty as well.
Our own research suggests that focusing on improving interactions across customer journeys has a much greater impact on customer behavior than optimizing high-impact touchpoints alone.
For example, in an industry like electric utilities, we’ve found that investing in automation across all customer interactions with the brand — both front- and back-office — results in “customer satisfaction” and “willingness to recommend” scores that are double those of optimizing front-office touchpoints alone. And comparable outcomes hold true for many other industries as well.
The positive impact of intelligent process automation on brand loyalty is much greater when you focus on improving the customer journey across the enterprise, and not just optimizing those front-office touchpoints you might think would have the greatest effect on customers.
Customer relationships can begin forming even before a brand is chosen. Providing the best CX from the point of introduction through the sales process and maintaining the relationship past the point of purchase can reach beyond customer satisfaction. By doing so, companies can attain the much more beneficial result of making a customer feel valued — thereby motivating them to continue the relationship as a repeat customer.
IPA With a Human Touch That Grows CX
Brand loyalty is more about the relationship a customer has with a brand than how satisfied a customer feels with a particular service. After all, relationships are built — and experienced — by humans, not machines. In fact, research shows that nearly half of consumers find a chatbot pretending to be human disturbing. And most, perhaps unsurprisingly, say they’d rather interact with a human than a machine. That’s especially true when the machine proves unable to bring the customer closer to accomplishing the task at hand.
Exceptional customer service adds a human connective element that simply can’t be fully mimicked by technology. (At least not yet!) Granted, technology and machines can be seeded with as human an intellect (and heart) as possible. But machine learning still cannot capture and replicate the same degree of human empathy necessary to get the brand relationship right.
With all that artificial intelligence can do, there are still cases when human agents are required — particularly when it comes to solving more complex problems. And the ability to make customers feel like they’re genuinely understood (and cared for) goes further than process efficiency for driving consumer relationships.
Enabling and assisting human agents with IPA-driven tools that provide customer insights and easy access to data can be particularly effective in helping them resolve issues quickly and establish a relationship on the first point of contact.
What’s more, superior monitoring with cognitive analytics allows for identifying or predicting future issues so brands can be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to preventing incidents or even recognizing opportunities for additional customized offers.
Using AI, ML and other cognitive technologies — across all customer touchpoints — provides brands (and their call center operations) with up-to-date information and options for problem resolution. It also helps customer-facing agents build relationships that inspire confidence in ways that make customers want to demonstrate loyalty to a brand.
Intelligent Process Automation Brings Together a Variety of Cognitive Tech
IPA brings together simple, rules-based robotic process automation (RPA) with cognitive intelligence. An assortment of technologies are brought together to solve complex problems, improve interaction with people and better understand the world. The result is a technology-based digital workforce that performs hand-in-hand with humans.
At Sutherland, we offer solutions — both as a technology partner and a provider of consulting services — that not only help our customers intelligently automate your operations but also grow their understanding of how to translate those benefits into stronger customer relationships.
By discovering the right ways to apply cognitive technologies at each step in the transformation journey, businesses can innovate, strengthen a posture of ever-learning and deliver — at scale — more value to customers than ever before.
If you would like to learn more about applying the right cognitive tech toward automating the right operations for your business, let’s talk.
 “The Effortless Experience, Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty” Nick Toman, Group Vice President for Gartner, Matthew Dixon and Rick Delisi, Principle Executive Advisor for Gartner, 2013). https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/effortless-experience-explained