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Saudi Arabia’s Opportunity to Lead the World in Customer Experience

By Kristine Pitts, ExperienceLab Middle East Director

Businesses in Saudi Arabia can no longer provide purely products and services – they need to provide experiences, and customised experiences at that. In fact a recent YouGov survey (November 2019) showed that for 96 percent of businesses in Saudi Arabia in 2020, customer experience was a top priority.

And this is because a great customer experience breeds loyalty and overall it boosts happiness and a sense of positive wellbeing. With creating the happiest country in the world being a key pillar of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the Kingdom has a rich opportunity to create a blueprint to define what ‘excellent’ looks like.

But in the current climate, how do businesses in the Kingdom set a standard for customer experiences? How do you canvas sentiment on current customer services? When looking at touch points across the country that people engage with, from arriving at an airport, to shopping in the malls to using public transport, the customer experience when you think about it is vital to how we feel about a service and in turn our perception of that service. A bad customer experience can significantly impact our views towards a service or product, even if the end result was to our expectation.

There has been until now, little data available in the Kingdom to evaluate the overall success of products and services and how well they meet the needs of the customer. Harnessing data and behavioural insight can help here to gain an understanding of a person’s thoughts and views on a service they’ve engaged with. Armed with this information, we can then really begin to understand what makes a great experience. We can then use this insight to tweak and change products and services as needed so that we are directly supporting a customer’s wants and needs.

This is why we’re excited to launch ExperienceLab for the first time in Saudi Arabia in alignment with our new business strategy which focuses on managing people, assets and data with a reinforced commitment to the delivery of excellent customer experiences, supported by an investment in technology and innovation. It’s the first end to end integrated research, design and delivery offering in the Middle East. Clients will be able to see first-hand how data and behavioural insights can be harnessed to help transform a customer’s experience when they interact with a service or product.

By harnessing such insight, Saudi Arabia itself has a huge opportunity to set a precedence and a global standard for customer experience that the world should follow. Nowhere on the planet is there a country that is going through such transformative and ambitious change with such pace as Saudi Arabia. This is why, at the start of this process, with so many Giga-projects (such as NEOM Smart City, Red Sea Resort Project and Qiddiya Entertainment City) planned, getting the customer experience right at the very beginning will then create the best first impression possible, to then build on for future success.

Ignoring the customer experience is something businesses will do at their peril. And once lost, it is very difficult to recover from. This is why even small changes can have profound benefits – for example when thinking about a patient’s experience when they are in hospital; it’s important that they feel they are receiving the best care, whether this is the journey into the hospital, the care they receive at their bedside, through to the experience a family member may receive when they visit. The experience one has can even help to accelerate the recovery process.

The collection and analysis of behavioural data will then enable clients to transform their customers’ experience by making enhancements where needed on existing services and products, and for anything new, designing and delivering exactly what the customer wants. Through delivering such a service we are looking to drive a transformative change across the region to help provide world-class citizen services for those visiting and living both in Saudi Arabia.

In a country where tourism – both religious and non-religious – is rising at an unprecedented rate, it is crucial that businesses support the Kingdom in putting the customer at the heart of all experiences. In order to do this, we need to bring together an understanding of people, data and assets to understand what makes a stand-out experience. Then we will truly enhance the experiences of those who live and visit Saudi Arabia as we make strides towards creating a best in class destination for those who visit, live and work in the Kingdom.