Visionary business leader Steve Jobs once remarked: ‘You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.’ From someone who spent his life creating definitive customer experiences in technology itself, these words should carry some weight—and are as true today as ever.
The fact is that customer experience is a science, and relevance is its key goal. A powerful customer experience is essential to compete today. And relevance is what cuts through the noise of the market to actually make the connection with customers.
The fundamentals of success
For companies to transform their customer experience, they need to be able to streamline their processes and create innovative customer experiences. They also have to be able to deliver by connecting all their internal teams together so they always speak with one consistent voice.
But that’s only part of the story. Customers have real choice today. They’re inundated with similar messages to yours and are becoming increasingly discerning in their tastes.
Making yourself relevant depends on the strength of your offering and content, and the effectiveness of your audience targeting. It also depends on your technical capabilities. Many of your competitors will already be experimenting with powerful new technologies to increase loyalty and drive stronger margins.
The value of data
Learning to collect and use relevant customer data is essential. Data is the lifeblood of modern business—it’s the basis of being able to deliver any kind of personalised service on a large scale. Businesses need to use data to analyse behaviour, create profiles for potential new customers, build propositions around those target personas and then deliver a compelling experience. They also need to continually capture new data at every touchpoint to constantly improve their offerings.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have a key role to play both in the analysis of the data and also in the automation of the customer experience. These technologies are developing at speed to enable us to improve our data analysis, pre-empt changing customer tastes and automate parts of service delivery.
More mature digital marketing
You can also now add in all kinds of technologies to the customer experience mix that are straight out of sci-fi. The internet of things (IoT) is here, with connected devices providing help in all kinds of areas—from keeping you on the right road to telling you when your vehicle needs maintenance, from providing updates on your order status to delivering personal service wherever you are, and much more—enabling you to drive real transformation.
Moreover, intelligent bots are making it much easier to provide high-quality, cost-effective, round-the-clock customer support—able to deal with a wide range of issues—and using ML to improve their own performance over time.
Augmented reality makes it possible to add contextual information, based on your own products and services, to real-world moments. So, if you’re a car manufacturer you may wish to provide help with simple roadside repairs (e.g. change of tire) via a smartphone app.
Finally, whether at the pre-sale or delivery stage, your customer experience platform must give you the ability to deliver consistency at every touchpoint. Whatever channel, whatever time, whatever context, your customers must all believe that your whole business is one person.
Indeed, as Michael Schrage, author of the Harvard Business Review, said: ‘Innovation is an investment in the capabilities and competencies of your customers. Your future depends on their future.’ So you have to get as close as possible to your customers to learn what they want today, and understand what experiences they are likely to want tomorrow. Work backwards from that and use any technology that can help you deliver it.