How Positive Customer Experiences Deliver a Competitive Advantage for Networking Vendors

Dan Adam, CIO, Extreme Networks
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Dan Adam, CIO, Extreme Networks

Consumers are faced with thousands of product and service choices every day-which gives them the power over which companies succeed in the marketplace. Now more than ever, companies are responsible for acknowledging, understanding and delivering on their customers’ needs. A 2014 study conducted by a leading analyst firm revealed that 89 percent of businesses are expected to primarily compete over customer experience in the upcoming years. Organizations that take customer experience seriously will stand out from the noise, and secure customer loyalty. Our brand reputations are in the hands of our customers, which is why it has become necessary to place their needs at the core of our business models. Customer intimacy is job one. Know your customer and what will make them successful.

Understandably, many companies find it difficult when deciding whether their products or services are more important. The answer is a combination of both. Offering products and services that meet customer preferences and changing needs will demonstrate that we exist to optimize the customer experience. Customers are savvy and have the power to choose between competing companies, which all offer varying levels of customer service from poor to excellent. A study conducted by Echo Research found that 70 percent of U.S. consumers are willing to pay more for a product or service to ensure a superior customer experience.

  ‚ÄčA CIO of a digital, global enterprise will be expected to deliver seamless wireless connectivity to users everywhere and at any time   

From a technology vendor’s perspective, the goal is to build a consistent, high-quality customer experience that meets or surpasses the standard that has been set in terms of what the company wants to deliver; because when executed correctly, customer experience will be a point of differentiation from competitors. Companies that focus on maximizing satisfaction, with regard to the entire customer journey have the potential to increase customer satisfaction by 20 percent, (Mckinsey, 2014).A company will ultimately face challenges if it fails to prioritize the customer experience, as a superior customer experience becomes a unique and valued offering. It is time to consider how the customer experience could be helping you to build stronger customer relationships, and ultimately achieve market excellence.

As the marketplace becomes increasingly congested with more technology vendors that offer the same services and use the identical buzzwords, it’s important to stand out through other means. Your competitors will claim that they too offer top-notch customer support and service, but if you achieve a 100 percent in-sourced technical support center with 24-hour service available seven days a week, you will hold a market advantage.

As the CIO of a company that provides wired and wireless connectivity to venues ranging from college campuses, to hospitals, to football stadiums that seat tens of thousands, it’s more important than ever that customers have 24/7 access to technical support staff. These technologies cannot fail during an operation, class or a live concert. In order to set ourselves apart from our competitors, we prioritize customer service. If a wired or wireless network is down, our customers need immediate assistance, which is what they should be getting. If they are handed a service ticket with an empty-promise of a call back in 3-4 hours, they will take their business elsewhere. That is why in a complex and dynamically changing business and technological environment, finding a balance and establishing foundational services and platforms are critical in enabling business success. This should happen while driving high-quality customer experiences, in a secure manner with a focus on protecting, but not obstructing.

Leveraging the newest technology to deliver products and customer portals that stand out from the crowd is a good starting point. This may seem like an obvious solution, but it is something that many companies have not yet recognized. Offering online technical support and community forums may not sound like a unique solution, but despite becoming absolutely necessary, many large companies don’t provide customers easy access to customer service. This requires effective customer portals for product and service information that is easily searched and answers the customer questions. In this digital age, customers will ask for help through tweets or a Facebook post. We need to be prepared to accommodate all forms of personalized communications and experiences tailored to each individual customer, which ultimately helps to reinforce relationships and increase the level of trust. It is imperative to build a full infrastructure ranging from portals, applications, mobile, cloud, CRM, social, and community platforms which will allow customers to experience a certain level of freedom to do what they need to do in a secure environment.

This full infrastructure can be viewed as a 3-layer model. The top layer is the customer’s access device, and today mobility is a critical and growing technology component. It is all about making services and content available on the networks edge on any device, from anywhere, at any time in a secure manner. The middle layer is the web, portals and apps that exist in the cloud, on-prem, cross-platform, and consist of multiple new technologies. This is also where unified communication–telepresence and collaboration can exist. The bottom layer is networking, wireless, security, data center, virtualization, and unified computing systems. This bottom layer is the backbone that supports the customer experience through web, portals and apps that ultimately deliver what the customer experiences from their device. To gain that competitive advantage, enable the uniqueness of the customer by providing a common and stable underpinning of technology and services beginning with the network fabric and extending through the services layers.

Change the way you support your customers based on their evolving needs and preferences. For example, customers have become more self-sufficient when it comes to seeking out answers to product inquiries or support issues, so customer portals have become incredibly valuable tools. Portals can be used not only as sources of information, but also as sources of adoption of different products and services. Customers prefer to complete transactions themselves over the Internet or on their mobile devices, rather than having to make a call or travel in-person to a business’ location. Imagine if chat-bots are perfected and the opportunity to offer this next-generation technology enables the delivery of highly personalized content.

Networking has become engrained and embedded into every type of business. We live our lives through networking. It is a wireless world. Wireless is the new norm. A CIO of a digital, global enterprise will be expected to deliver seamless wireless connectivity to users everywhere and at any time. Our technology has become more advanced, and customer needs have become more complicated; but we are continuously expected to offer seamless and user-friendly experiences. If you deliver across the entire customer journey from beginning-to-end–from fans in a stadium, to students across a campus, to the Engineering and IT teams working behind-the-scenes to keep everything running–you will achieve a consistency that upholds the promises of a positive experience with better customer service, and realize that competitive advantage.

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