Like it or not, the world is going digital. Websites were just the beginning. Now we have social media, smartphones and so on. The only conclusion I can reach is that more of our lives will be spent interacting with technology of one kind or another.
The conundrum: People are more likely to create memorable experiences, which is essential to drive genuine loyalty. In CustomerThink’s research, we find that friendly, well-trained, and knowledgeable employees are key factors what customers perceive to be excellent experiences. Only humans can express empathy and solve problems creatively, so it’s not surprising that interactions with people are more memorable.
New technology can be a positive surprise — I still think it’s amazing that I can buy and receive a Kindle e-book from Amazon in less than one minute. But as Jon Picoult of Watermark Consulting notes: “When technology helps fuel a delightful customer experience, it usually doesn’t take much for other firms to copy that technology.”
More typically, automation is used to make customer interactions more efficient, consistent, and less memorable. So if you’re not careful, you can automate your way to a faceless company with no personality whatsoever!
The solution is to understand the three important roles that technology can play in delightful customer experiences. Let’s use the analogy of a great movie, where the audience experience is delivered by the star, supporting actors, and a “key grip” to manage lighting and camera movements. Obviously only the actors are seen on screen, but without great support behind the camera, a film won’t be delightful to watch.
- Technology as the Star of the Show: In some cases technology clearly is the lead actor. Take Amazon.com, which conducts its business exclusively online. The website doesn’t try to wow customers on every visit. By stressing ease of use, personalized recommendations, and flawless delivery, it has earned stratospheric loyalty scores befitting its customer-centric mission.
- Technology as Supporting Actor: Starbucks has made its store experience a central part of its value proposition. Jeannie Walters of 360Connext believes that the mobile payment system Square helps create a “memorable experience where before there was nothing special, memorable, or intimate about it.”
- Technology as “Key Grip”: In filmmaking, a “key grip” is the person who manages lighting and camera movement. Although rarely noticed, technology is often part of the infrastructure needed for employees to delight customers. Jeanne Bliss of CustomerBLISS notes that from her prior experience at Lands’ End, technology enabled the retailer to automatically insert custom messages and “freebies” in shipping boxes when customers placed their first order, bought a certain category, etc.
If you do decide that technology should play the lead role in customer experiences, keep innovating! Citibank was the first mover in mobile check deposits, but now all four of the largest US banks enable customers to deposit checks by scanning with smartphones. With good research and innovative thinking, you can use technology to directly or indirectly to make a difference in customer experiences.
About Bob Thompson
Bob Thompson is an international authority on customer-centric business management who has researched and shaped leading industry trends since 1998.He is founder and CEO of CustomerThink Corporation, an independent research and publishing firm, and founder and editor-in-chief of CustomerThink.com, the world’s largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and implement customer-centric business strategies. His book Hooked on Customers (April 2014) reveals the five habits of leading customer-centric firms.
For more information visit – http://hookedoncustomers.com