From a historical perspective, Customer Experience (CX) has evolved from a purely seat-of-the-pants operation with very little in the way of hard metrics, to a realm dominated by big data and analytics today. On that continuum, we have reached a tipping point.
When CX first started to move away from being the domain of salesmen with a knack for memorizing clients’ preferences, their kids’ birthdays and their favorite liquor; towards something much more automated, the first steps were awkward. Sappy voice recordings starting out with, “To better serve you . . .” often ended in customer disappointment and an inability to solve all but the most basic issues. And while those early steps may have solved 80 percent of customer issues automatically, Customer Experience was not really enhanced. Those 20 percent of issues that couldn’t be solved automatically became more difficult to address because they didn’t fit neatly into the customer service box, and more importantly, customers simply missed the human connection.
The tipping point comes when that automation can solve nearly all customer issues, provides the company with deeper and more meaningful insights into what customers really want, and finally, creates an environment of personalization that is better than anything a human agent could ever offer.
A friendly greeting and recognition
Everyone loves to be recognized. When you walk into a new place and someone says, “Hey, great to see you again! I loved your last article!” It makes us feel like a minor celebrity. That recognition is echoed across all types of businesses and all industries, from the neighborhood diner where the waitress knows your order by heart and calls you “sweetie,” to the industrial supplier who knows all about your company and you personally, down to your preference for Montecristo cigars and Glenlivet single malt scotch.
That friendly greeting is more than just the instinct of a good salesperson. According to recent research commissioned by hotel price comparison platform HotelsCombined, 22 percent of American business travelers like to be recognized if they stay in the same hotel regularly. The research also shows that 48 percent of business travelers prefer to stay in the same hotel each time they travel, which shows that through guest recognition, hotels are likely to see loyal guests return more frequently. “That level of recognition is a big part of what makes an excellent customer experience in the hospitality industry,” said Chris Rivett, travel expert at HotelsCombined. “We’re seeing many hotels prioritize the guest experience, and we expect this trend to continue as technology makes it even easier for hotels to offer personalized services.”
Big data gets friendlier
Major retailers are refining their tech, not to replace humans, but to make their interactions better. Kroger, for example, is experimenting with “smart shelves” in some stores. In this example, technology is used to create a more interactive – and perhaps even more human – interaction with customers. Amazon’s Amazon Go store also takes interactive technology and customer data to the next level in new ways.
Grocery stores are again just the tipping point, but serve as an excellent example – customers walking in the door can simply switch on a smartphone app, and the smart shelf knows what’s on your shopping list, knows what type of soda you like, and offers personalized suggestions. For example, rather than sending general coupons to everyone, the app knows that you love Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and gives you a coupon. The shopper behind you is a value shopper who prefers the house brand, and they get a coupon for the house brand.
The perfect blend of technology and people
The Customer Experience tipping point does not attempt replace people with technology, but to use technology to empower them. The value of that new technology isn’t just in its ability to accumulate large volumes of customer data – rather, it is the technology’s ability to create an environment of empowerment, where front-line employees have the information they need and the motivation to provide a greater level of service. More information doesn’t necessarily mean more value, if it’s not paired with empowering front-line employees to act on that information, and to ensure that the right information is being gathered and is accessible when needed.
Dan Blarchawski is founder of Ugly Dog Media and author of “Born in the Cloud Marketing: Transformative Strategies for the Next Generation of Cloud-Based Businesses“