Data-driven experiences can adapt to customers’ changing needs, personalize customer journeys and deliver empathic experiences at scale. The customer experience of tomorrow is here.
Let me explain: As experiences themselves are human cognitive processes, it is surprising that it is data, composed of 1’s and 0’s, that is humanizing the customer experiences of tomorrow.
There is something deeply human in the term experience. Experiences are not exact, not very quantifiable, and not very repeatable. If you buy and eat an ice-cream with a friend today, the experience cannot be replicated fully tomorrow because of other things than the service or product itself. Your experience is affected also by environmental factors such as weather, your mood, your friend’s mood, salesperson, and many other variables. You might get close to original, but not exactly.
On the other hand, computers are extremely exact, very quantifiable and they excel in repeating things with 100% accuracy. However, the challenge with digitally driven customer journeys is that they lack the sensitivity to customers’ context and human needs.
When we interact with service providers, people, or machines, the last thing we want to feel is that we are talking to a machine. We do not want to be reduced to a segmented persona following a pre-meditated path through the customer experience, but instead feel that we had a real interaction, the service was adapted to our needs and personalized, and the service provider understood and respected our feelings and even showed empathy.
“In the decades ahead, improving offerings with customer data will be a prerequisite for staying in the game, and it may give incumbents an edge over new entrants”
HBR Competitive Strategy: When Data Creates Competitive Strategy
To take the next step in customer experience, we will need to combine software crafted experiences, logic burned in hardware chips and data stored in cloud to deliver real-time experiences that will please the “wetware” receptors and synapses in our brains and our embedded desire to be social, sensing, intelligent beings. Data, 1s and 0s, that will play a key role in re-humanizing our customer experiences.
Many organizations are collecting a lot of information about their customers through various digital touchpoints and analytic solutions, but most also struggle in utilizing the data to grow customer value. First and most obvious problem is often the siloed data. Data gathered from one channel cannot be utilized in another.
Luckily, there are many tried and tested technical solutions for solving this problem. Customer Data Platforms (CDP), Data Lakes, CRM systems, and others can all mitigate the siloed data.
But this brings us to the deeper challenge. Data is often collected without a clear idea about how it exactly will be utilized, and which use cases the data should enable. Data platforms are designed separately from customer experience, and this leads into discrepancies between CX vision and available data. It is a bit like a restaurant where the head chef would source the week's ingredients without knowing what would be on the menu that week.
Our experience at Tietoevry is that customer data and customer experience are indistinctly linked and should be designed in parallel. For a globally operating retailer, one of our customers, we recently designed 40 service and loyalty concepts with the sole purpose of helping them populate their CDP with right kind of data points.
Let’s then explore what right data can enable and how it can lead to better and more emotionally satisfying customer journeys.
Some years ago digital customer journeys tended to be quite rigid and based on pre-determined segmentation. This can lead to challenges, for instance, in situations where the same customer returns in a different context. You might fly with an airline as a business traveler during the week and then embark on a family trip a few days later with hugely different expectations and needs.
So, what could help? Leading companies are using customer data proactively to identify more accurately the customer's current context. Where each customer might be on her journey right now, what information or guidance does she need and what is the next best action to take.
Next Best Action (NBA) is a customer-centric marketing approach that considers multiple different actions that could be taken for a specific customer and then provides the best one.
These days NBA thinking is being increasingly applied also to create customer journeys of digital interaction that are adaptive and responsive to customer's context and needs. The better we understand the customer’s current situation and what she wants to accomplish right now, the better equipped we are to offer her the right product or service. Without feeling that they have been “sold to.”
It is an age-old practice to tailor and personalize the service for one’s most important customers. This used to be a very manual process; a shopkeeper would recognize recurring customers, greet them by their first name and adjust the service for their needs. However, this individualized touch is very much tied to the individual delivery – and difficult to scale.
This is well evidenced in travel and hospitality sector, where the biggest difference between top-of-the-line luxury hotel and “a good high-end hotel” is not so much about the quality of the facilities and room amenities, but the ratio between personnel and guests. Some of the top-line cruise lines can have more staff on board compared to passengers.
Digital tools offer an interesting opportunity to scale that luxury experience without having to hire a personal butler for all customers. As an example, some mid-range cruise lines are using wearable devices that act as cabin keys and payment methods, but also allow the service staff to know who you are and what your preferences are. Replicating the service experience of higher category products.
This also creates a positive spiral where customers expect a better, more personalized experience. Customers want us to use the data we need to tailor their journeys in parallel with treating their data as our most prized possession - and what it is! We need to be transparent, secure, and logical in our data use.
The ability to understand the feelings of another, empathy. Why is it so important in customer experience and building digital engagement?
Because very few things are as annoying as the feeling you get from interacting with a machine. We want to be understood, and we want to be treated with respect for our feelings and needs.
In 1-2-1 human interactions, it is easy to be empathetic. We also tend to teach it to our children. But teaching a digital marketing funnel or guest service mobile application to understand and be mindful of users’ feelings is way trickier.
The last 5-10 years have seen human-centered disciplines such as service design, usability, accessibility, user experience design, and ethnographic research enter the stage of digital experience design. Human sciences have an unequal footing with engineering, architecture, and solution platforms.
However, to complete the holy trinity of Intelligent Customer Experience we not only need human centric design methods and technology, but a comprehensive approach to collecting and utilizing customer data. Most organizations today are good at it, but very few excel in utilizing the data.
To provide empathy at scale, you need to have a clear link between your data strategy, customer experience strategy and technology platforms.
One of the Finnish leaders in utilizing customer data for better experiences is Musti Group, best known for their pet-care stores Musti & Mirri. We, Tietoevry Create’s Advisory team, helped Musti Group to set a new standard for winning customer experience by utilizing advanced customer data capabilities.
To build truly intelligent and empathic customer journeys in a digitalized world, we need to understand our customers better than ever - what creates and destroys value. We also need to have a solid customer data architecture connecting and driving customer journeys in real time. Delivering agile and adaptive, hyper-personal and emphatic experiences with the scale and repeatability that only a computer can.
Only then will your customers no longer feel that they are talking with a machine.
Would you like to share your thoughts with us? Tietoevry Create and our cross-functional Experience team helps organizations to discover the opportunities in data-driven customer experience and bring the data from business systems to customer journeys and touchpoints. We are here to make your digital customer journey feel human and magical, again. Get in touch!
Mikko works as Head of Sales in the Customer Experience practice. He is a keen explorer of customer experience, design-thinking, digitalization and business transformation. Mikko's areas of interest include service and business design, digital design, online and mobile solutions, data-driven CX, customer service solutions and digital customer experience. Contact Mikko if you have any questions on the topic!