Why APIs are the key to creating customer connections in a digital world

Akshay Kumar is practice leader, cloud and digital integration services at Capgemini.

Have you ever chatted with a company’s customer service representative from a mobile app or made a grocery list with the help of a voice assistant? Or maybe you’ve signed into a website using your social media login for a more personalised experience?

What you may not know is that these types of interactions are supported by a vast network of application programming interfaces (APIs) that are working behind the scenes to connect and integrate various technology systems. APIs can bring a lot of value to organisations – including the holy grail of customer experience: data integration.

Accurate and actionable data helps organisations know more about their customers and connect with them across every touchpoint and channel. In turn, this level of personalisation creates an engaging customer experience (CX) that drives conversion and strengthens loyalty. For example, Capgemini worked with an international sportswear manufacturer who recently built their Customer 360 platform leveraging an API-based integration architecture. Now their internal teams (sales, service and marketing) have access to up-to-date customer order and preference data, helping them to provide a better customer service experience.

While digital transformation and CX initiatives have been road-mapped for years, the pandemic has quickly proven that organisations without a strong customer experience and data-centric strategy will be left behind. Beyond the pandemic, businesses need to also think about how they are going to retain customers long-term.

API-led connectivity can boost customer experience

Success in the digital economy hinges on the ability to leverage technology to the best of an organisation’s ability. In order to get to a place where that is possible, there needs to be a significant investment in appropriate technologies and platforms. With an API-first technology architecture approach, the benefits to an organisation are quickly realised:

Improved quality of customer data: In the eyes of the enterprise, everything begins and ends with data. Because APIs act as connectors between modern and legacy applications, they provide the ability to capture and process the critical transactional and historical data that flows between systems. These APIs can be used to create a 360-degree view of customers to better understand their journeys and interactions as they navigate a brand’s various channels.

Seamless integration of disparate technology systems: An organisation’s digital presence consists of a host of different technologies – this usually includes systems like a CRM, commerce or marketing platforms and legacy databases. On its own (and without APIs), the systems operate in solos and have a hard time “talking” to each other; data is inconsistent or often gets lost. By relying on APIs to connect these systems, customer journeys can be traced, and a single view of the customer is within reach.

Accelerated implementation timelines: The pandemic has brought unprecedented change to the market, and organisations need to be nimble and quick to react. The reality is there might not be time for a year-long implementation project. This is where APIs do the heavy lifting, allowing for immediate adaptation within an organisation’s technology systems and enhancing the end user’s experience.

Improved agility and velocity of workflows: Once an API-led architecture foundation is in place and the applications are API-enabled, technical teams will be impressed with the ability to pivot and prioritise different business issues as they arise. This flexibility is rooted in the “low code” or “no code” development process of the APIs – as provided by most of the mature iPaaS technology products and platforms today. The innate reusability of APIs not only reduces duplicate development work, but also accelerates the “time to launch” multifold.

Internal efficiencies for sales and service: As much as APIs have a direct effect on the end user’s customer experience, the internal business teams are equally affected. APIs connect an array of applications and systems in a typical organisation and integrate data in real time or near real-time. This efficiency allows marketing, sales and services teams to have an up-to-date view of a customer’s history so the teams can better meet their customer’s needs and understand their pain points – including what was purchased in past sales cycles and what products are likely in need of service. This leads to the reduction of the “swivel chair syndrome” and contributes significantly to employee satisfaction as well.

Bringing APIs to life

Organisations across a variety of industries and sectors have seen the benefits of APIs first-hand. We work with one of the world’s largest independent tyre and wheel retailers, and recently implemented a digital queue management system to include digital signage and mobile application development. This initiative improved the customer experience while visitors wait for their car and tyres to be serviced – as well as enhances the employee experience to provide greater visibility into customer data and queue status.

Another client, a leading manufacturer of animal nutrition and supplements, had a disparate digital landscape with many siloed systems and legacy data sources like a custom order management system. We implemented an API-led integration strategy to provide the client with a 360-degree view of their customers. This approach led to full insight into order status, improved marketing messaging and provided real-time data to service reps for effective order management and post sales support.

We continue to hear about new ways APIs are bringing benefit to organisations – everywhere from banking and insurance to retail and life sciences segments. As customer expectations change and the market continues to fluctuate, one thing we know for sure is that customer experience will remain a priority in 2021. The time to future-proof technology and application ecosystems with an API-led solution is now.

Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash

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