A new-age connected customer wants their customer experience (CX) to be personalised. To provide this, organisations need to convince customers to part with their data, and get on board with future tech trends.
To find some of the best customer experiences, you need to look no further than classic sitcoms. TV bartenders and baristas anticipate the needs of their customers, knowing both their coffee orders and life troubles. It’s a trope that has long been acknowledged to be as fantastical as zombies and unicorns. But that is changing, because interactions can now be personalised at scale with artificial intelligence (AI) and big data.
But implementing new customer experiences can place organisations at a crossroads. On one hand, consumers want greater personalisation and on the other, privacy.
According to our recent research into customer expectations and the future of CX for the State of the Connected Customer report, 80% of customers rate the experience a company provides as important as its products and services, and 67% of customers say their standard for good experiences are higher than ever.
In addition, 76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations.
Creating these individualised experiences requires them to hand over their personal data to companies, and our research found that more than half of customers are uncomfortable with how companies use that data.
Organisations that can earn customers’ trust though are well ahead of the pack, because solving this dilemma is about trust and data guardianship actually drives loyalty.
The best CX comes from making an effort to be closer to the customer and making them feel that every interaction is tailored just to them.
My version of a TV sitcom bartender is the bookseller who knows my taste in books.
When I was much younger, there was a local bookstore where I lived in Palo Alto, which I loved. I would go into the bookstore and, as I arrived, the owner would say, "A book just came in that I think you're going to love. Take a look at this".
Fast forward to now – this is what Amazon is doing. Amazon has a record of all the books I've bought from it in the past 20 years. It knows what I'm going to like, so its recommendations, as a result of AI and big data, are even better than those of the owner of that little bookstore 40 years ago.
To create personalised experiences, organisations need data. But research shows that customers are now less trusting that organisations will use their data responsibly.
With the customer in control of the process of sharing data, the solution is for businesses to be transparent about their use of data and to create experiences, similar to my experience with Amazon, that are worth trading for data.
In fact, according to the State of the Connected Customer Report, 79% of customers are willing to share relevant information about themselves in exchange for contextualised interactions.
Knowing that customers expect a personalised experience is one thing. But what does that experience actually need to look like for an individual business? You need to start thinking about how this relates to your business, as it differs across the spectrum.
Most of the technologies that can facilitate these experiences are in the early stages of development, and the AI revolution is yet to fully take hold – the data that fuels insight and action has enormous value, but building up that data takes time and will only play out over the next five years or so.
So this is the best time for organisations to experiment with a range of CX to determine which works best for their customers. Part of this strategy has to involve starting from scratch and completely rebuilding CX.
Caesars Entertainment Corporation for example, has noticed a shift in consumer needs and desires, and adapted to it. While the infamous company has retained some of its traditional casino-going customers, it wasn’t easy to attract new customers, as younger people are less interested in gambling and everything else that comes with it.
To cater to customers’ changing needs, Caesars Entertainment Corporation partnered with Gamblit Gaming in 2016, completely redesigning its customer experience and creating a ‘casino of the future’. This was designed around young computer gamers who can play games and hang out with other gamers at its casinos. It's a completely different environment to the floor where older customers play roulette, blackjack and slot machines.
This kind of agility, and the ability to create a completely new experience to attract new customers, will be integral to the success of businesses.
One way that you can currently approach forward-thinking is through scenario planning, which helps you deal with uncertainty and explore the possible futures to make better decisions and have more strategic conversations today.
AI remains central to most CX technologies, specifically machine learning and big data, which make sense of data and organise services around customers in a highly customised, but highly reliable way.
Digitally savvy organisations should also be looking to the widely varied applications of AI when developing their customer experience. This includes a digital assistant platform, which AI enables.
That is the next platform. Today, everything is developed for the smartphone. Tomorrow, it will be developed for the digital assistant, creating a whole ecosystem of interacting digital assistants.
This technology will be ubiquitous – that is, the environment will configure itself to suit individuals – think of all the ads changing to target Tom Cruise as he walked through a shopping mall in Minority Report almost 20 years ago.
So, the real opportunity is for people to feel like they're in a world that knows them. When a smart city knows where you're going, what you need and what is going on around you, and organises itself around you, that’s when you know delivering on CX has reached new heights.
Download the second annual State of the Connected Customer report to learn more about how customers’ expectations of companies are changing, which emerging technologies are influencing the future of CX, and how companies can foster trust to improve CX.