What's Next in Customer Experience


What's Next in Customer Experience

By Peter Bernstein, Senior Editor  |  April 14, 2015

The preoccupation with improving the customer experience by C-levels around the world has been a trend for several years. In fact, the fastest growing C-level position is customer experience management officer or some variation on the title. And, as CX becomes ever more important as the means to provide differentiated value, the preoccupation with this focus will only grow more intense in 2015, as so will the investments in technology that help enable organizations to move the needle on customer satisfaction.

This means, by the way not, just investing in omnichannel capabilities and big data solutions and sophisticated analytics, but also in people. 

The above is context for the recent release by Fjord, Design and Innovation from Accenture Interactive of its “Trends 2015” report. At a high level, the report takes off from the observation that the digitization of everything is changing how businesses design services and products for customers. It highlights from its research that the digital winners will be companies that, “Make interactions with consumers more personal, ensure their offerings connect more smoothly with the outside, and build anticipatory, unobtrusive services.”

Mark Curtis, chief client officer for Fjord, Design and Innovation from Accenture (News - Alert) Interactive, commenting on the report stated: “Three overarching themes are shaping what experiences consumers will welcome and what they will reject…. Experiences will become more personal, for example, through the return of real people in some customer service areas as opposed to entirely automated systems. Organizations will better manage and finesse connections between services, devices, and places. Intelligent services will anticipate our intent and automatically perform routine, underlying transactional tasks.”

Here are the nine trends that Fjord (News - Alert) says are shaping the creation of digital and digitally enabled customer experiences.

Omni-Colleague – The New Heroes of Digital

Consumers will see the welcome return of human beings to high-touch customer services as businesses expect to thrive from reintegrating real people into selected offerings. They are beginning to equip service agents with cognitive computing capabilities that can help them deepen relationships with customers rather than letting entirely robotic solutions manage virtually all interactions with consumers.

Mind the Gap

Customers often experience gaps when using digitally enabled products and services, most notably between online and offline experiences. Look to Spotify (News - Alert) offline mode for a convenient way to shuttle between online and offline environments. With platforms multiplying, the most important gap to address will be the one that can be created when customers switch between devices. For businesses, identifying inconsistencies across modes and devices will be key, as will finding the tradeoff between understanding what most users are doing and compromising around that for customization.

Aggregation Moves to Services

Recognizing a multitude of services can cause confusion and frustration for customers; businesses will aggregate services to reduce customers’ pains of navigating a fragmented experience. SNCF, France’s national state-owned railway company, is working to reduce this with a whole journey approach, providing door-to-door service with private cars at either side of the user’s train travel; Airbnb has been testing a local companion service. Businesses initially focused on a specific customer pain point will take insights from the far-reaching parts of the user journey and apply them to their current service – resulting in integrated customer experiences.

Digital Dieting

Tension is increasing between the digital world and people’s need to focus on the world around them that isn’t mediated by screens. Businesses should become more careful about the demands their digital services make on users and employees to avoid irritation and distraction. This spawns physical manifestation of digital services that help with awareness and increase utility. A great current example is Evernote’s (News - Alert) two-way collaboration with Moleskine to create physical Evernote notebooks alongside Smart Stickers that allow for digital tagging of physical notes, search, and share.

Emotional Interfaces: From Commands to Conversations

How people have interacted with digital technologies has been largely transactional. Now advances in technology enable more natural human-machine interactions. In 2014, a supercomputer fooled people into thinking it was human. With emotional sensors becoming even more accurate, machines may know how we are feeling in the future. These will change customers’ emotional connections with machines, so businesses should consider adopting emotionally and gesture-based responsive user interfaces.

Digital Disruption Goes Physical

Many physical actions and devices will become data-driven services. Companies are no longer immune from digital disruption because their assets are physical and expensive. Consider how ridesharing providers challenge a high-investment industry by deploying transformative digital management systems. Businesses use recorded physical actions and sensors to achieve disruptive levels of efficiency. Two winners will emerge: those with the market lead in smart devices and those with the market lead in collecting and analyzing measurable human action.

Money Talks

Businesses are witnessing how customers combine ecommerce and messaging for payments and shopping. Chinese mobility-only chat platform WeChat allows its 500 million users to send digital cash and make purchases from the platform. Many disruptive platforms and ideas originate in markets that have gone mobile first. And it’s not just retailers and banks that are beginning to rethink what happens when payments become part of customer chat conversations, how it might change pricing, and what other services could get embedded in chat services.

Be Effortless – Interactions in Connected Systems

Wearables have taken the main stage, but 2015 will see the rise of new smart devices, such as “hearables” – smart hearing devices – and “nearables.” For example, Starwood Hotels and Resorts introduced virtual doors, made unlockable via smartphone. This requires developing a stronger device ecosystem to blend all of these individual apps and interactions together and ultimately solve a real problem and make lives easier. Smartphones and wearables could increasingly interact with a whole range of sensors that users never see but which act on their behalf.

The Sixth Sense

More services are starting to anticipate what customers might want and act on it, using smart design and data mining, before users click a button. Amazon explores this with anticipatory shipping, a data-driven service that will ship products to a final geographical area without knowing the exact destination address in advance. TaskRabbit makes on-demand scheduling for just about any request possible. Companies wanting to be more predictive will require a solid data strategy addresses emerging data sources and potential uses for data and an ethical conduct for that use.

“Digital is changing which experiences users perceive as engaging and relevant,” said Brian Whipple, senior managing director at Accenture Interactive. “They expect them to be intuitive, more personal and responsive. Considering many marketing leaders are also dissatisfied with the experiences they provide to customers, design needs to be at the heart of how companies shape and innovate around their services and products. Those embracing the transformative potential of service design in today’s digital age have tremendous opportunities for growing their customer base and customer loyalty.”

Peter Bernstein is a senior writer with TMCnet, the online entity of CUSTOMER magazine parent company TMC (News - Alert).

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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