Exploring future developments without mapping the landscape related to one of the most inflationary terms used these days—customer experience, is like sending Christopher Columbus to India. You might discover a continent but the odds are low it is India. Customer experience today is created in three interdependent areas with very distinct and specific trends:
• the channels your customers interact with the corporation
• the customer journey f low through those channels and the related processes
• the products the customers use and interact with
30 years ago, a TV show in the US could reach at any night easily 25 Million “eyeballs” with the 3 main nationwide broadcasters being CBS, NBC, and ABC. Today, you would call it a success to break through 1 Million eyeballs on a given night with literally thousands of TV channels serving the US consumer.
A mirror image of this trend is the fragmentation of the interaction channel landscape for the normal corporation. Gone are the days when the five traditional channels—call center, IVR, shops, letter, and Fax had to be managed from a process, provisioning, and consistency point of view. Since then, the addition of eMail, Web, and a multitude of social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat or emerging new channels like Amazon Alexa or Google Home pose a completely new challenge for customers using five to six channels to complete a transaction. This challenge has created a buzzword of its own called “Omnichannel”. What does the “Omnichannel” challenge mean for the normal IT department?
• Holistic View of the Customer across Channels–A solid data model that represents a customer and his interactions across channels is a “must have” to move towards “Omnichannel” capabilities. While the target picture is a holistic view of the customer, most of the corporations add one channel and its customer interactions at a time. To evolve beyond this hygiene is to first understand and then optimize the flow of interactions across channels.
• Ability to Automate the Interaction–With a lot of new interaction channels added being data rich and with less patience for response times on the customer side, opportunities arise to provide a better experience through instant responses and contain cost through automation. IT departments have to get ready to build an engagement layer across the channels that leverage on robotics to interpret intent of customers, provide the right response, and trigger activities on the backend. What started with static chatbots has evolved into dynamic and learning bots that cover text, voice, and more recently video.
• Leveraging Analytics to Gauge Personality & Emotional State for Interactions–A profound understanding of the customer includes the understanding of the emotional state of the customer and an adjusted interaction that accounts for this emotional state. Voice analytics in a channel like call center drives better results for customer retention or up/cross-sell attempts. Social media handles provide the ability to get a gauge on the personality type of customers by using publicly available data. The use of personality types for adjusting service experiences is very much at the beginning but has to be accounted for going forward.
• Customer Journey Management as a key trending requirement requires the ability measure the experience along the journey with its smallest unit being the interaction/ transaction. To crystallize good and bad journeys, the quality of the experience has to be gauged—ideally without surveys to avoid customer effort but by taking indirect measurements such as heatmaps of browsing and clicking behavior on a website. This requires a robust set of KPIs for each journey step, tools to correctly and objectively gauge those KPIs, and a data model to associate the specific experience to the individual customer.
• Revamping business processes to support customer journeys seamlessness is a second crucial part., It is essential for such a revamp to work in cross-functional teams for agile decision making. For this, IT becomes a partner in the cross-functional teams both finding solutions to enable better experiences as defined by the business and to squeeze the existing technology for its potential. This has an impact on how IT is being organized. More decentralized business partner organizational structures known from functions like HR organizations become far more mainstream again for IT.
• This goes hand-in-hand with a DevOps approach that is required with smaller release drops, faster iterations, and immersion of the business users and end customers into the process.
While technology has enabled us to provide more modular products in the last decades they are still far away from delivering personalized products that create emotional attachment. Creating this emotional attachment through co-creation builds loyalty, reduces price sensitivity, and creates even higher degrees of acceptance of product defects if they occur. The ability to co-create a product has reached various industries from the likes of the toymaker LEGO (https://ideas.lego.com), to Starbucks(https://ideas.starbucks.com) or to the car maker Local Motors (https://localmotors.com) where customers design and assemble their own car. IT departments have to get ready to enable the inherent design and production flexibility that the trend to co-creation requires plus to create the collaboration platforms to actually enable this new phenomenon. For this product portfolio, simplification is the essential hygiene to be established.
Channels, journeys, and products are the three interdependent areas that touch every process in a “digital non-native” organization. Addressing these three areas holistically is a rare feature to achieve and requires full focus and determination from a management team. Done right, those areas have the potential to be sustainable sources of competitive differentiation in terms of customer experience and from an agility and cost point of view.