Having a great customer experience used to be all about human interaction. A smile from a shop assistant or a waiter remembering your favourite meal made all the difference. And you know what they say: have a good experience and you will tell around six people; have a bad one and you’ll tell around nine to fifteen people.
Companies poured their efforts into making sure that they trained their customer experience staff and backed them up with the right resources. Giving customers the attention they craved was possible, but it was expensive and labour-intensive.
Nowadays, businesses are waking up to the fact that what customers really crave is convenience and value. So long as the service is comparable, they’re happy to choose whatever channel or service is quickest, easiest or the best value for money. The trouble is that when things go wrong these days, it’s no longer just 15 people who hear about the problem. In 2009, an airline broke Canadian musician Dave Carroll’s guitar. He uploaded a song that told the tale and by July 2016, 15,839,321 people knew about it.
Giving customers an outstanding customer experience is therefore now a number one business priority. With the changing role of the CIO, the responsibility has moved from the door of marketing to that of IT.
So here’s the thing. How can you use innovation to make customer experience even better?
Real-time engagement with the consumer is already becoming a necessity, not a luxury, for those that want to thrive in customer-centric industries. And frankly, nowadays every industry is becoming a customer-centric industry.
It’s important that CIOs, IT leaders and their teams work with other senior decision makers in the business to make this happen. There’s a real danger otherwise that companies may reckon that it’s enough to reduce costs and then wait and see what growth is possible. In truth, it will take considerably more than that. If companies are going to outshine the competition and give customers greater choice, IT will have to enable the other departments with digital innovation. That means creating a solution that will suit business goals, that employees will use properly and, most importantly, that will offer customers the best possible experience.
As if that isn’t a big enough ask, the rapidly changing technology landscape brings other factors into play.
It may be tough to spark a customer experience into life in a way that you know will be glitch-free.
It may be hard to find an approach that will scale up (and down, for that matter).
But the landscape changes so often that it’s virtually impossible to find a Customer Experience (CX) approach that’s future proof. What’s reliable and cutting edge at the time of deployment could be restrictive and patchy once you scale up without the right planning and support.
According to Gartner, 40% of CIOs have already stepped up to lead digital transformation in their enterprise. So how do they successfully steer their business into the next stage of customer experience? What’s the secret of quickly developing and deploying new apps to take advantage of new customer opportunities?
You can almost take it for granted that the answer is – cloud. It blends in almost seamlessly with all of the CX features we constantly hear about. It enables real-time personalised engagement; holistic customer data insight and feedback; a single point of truth; and connection with all kinds of channels and locations that offer the customer choice. What’s more, it allows you to quickly spin up and roll out new services ahead of the competition.
The opportunity is out there for businesses to embrace new technologies – but which will be relevant in delivering customer experience in the cloud? It seems likely that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will be the most prominent new frontiers for customer experience. You may already have seen companies discussing the potential for sponsored locations in Pokemon Go’s rich AR environment, while a recent VR event in the US looked at the role that Holoroom, Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and Glasses.com play in AR and VR.
There’s also huge potential in IoT-enabled applications. Take, for example, connected devices. These help companies to get rapidly, and deeply, into customer trends and buying behaviour, as well as product performance. The result: better insights that they can use in almost real time to move at the speed of their customers.
Certainly, AR, VR and IoT could open up new revenue streams for businesses and new ways of interacting with the customer on an individual level. But it’s not a straightforward path. These areas are heavy in data storage and computing. You’ll also have to work out how disparate locations, data points and applications can join up and communicate seamlessly in the cloud.
What does the cloud-powered customer experience demand?
It’s one thing knowing that the latest frontiers in customer experience are going to be demanding on your business and on your cloud deployment. It’s quite another matter working out how to master them.
There are many approaches that you can adopt, but success in each of these comes down to three factors.
You need to make sure that your infrastructure is flexible enough to allow you to make changes when you need to.
Your infrastructure has to run smoothly, no matter what. In addition, its delivery of services must be predictable. It’s the only way to maintain SLAs that everyone – external customers and internal colleagues – will buy into.
With enhanced customer experience, more and more customers (in principle, at least) will begin to spread the good word about your business. This will mean more customers buying from you, more customer engagement, and your shoulders carrying more expectations. Not surprisingly, you’ll need your solution to be highly scalable.
Clearly, if you’re to put your business in the cloud, you’ll need to have the right tools and the right network in place to enable it.
How do you see technology changing the way enterprises approach the customer experience? Let us know in the comments below.