In our latest series of interviews we’ve set out to truly understand customer experience, to establish where it is now, and find out where it will go next.
First up is Blake Morgan, Keynote Speaker, Futurist, Customer Experience Reporter at Forbes and Author of More is More.
Hi Blake, Let’s start with what you think have been the most significant advances in CX in previous years?
It's an interesting time in history, because people, no matter what type of profile they have, are enjoying their moment in the sun. We like to livecast our lives across all types of social network and part of life is doing business with companies. This means brands now have more information today about their customers than ever before.
The benefit for the customer is the opportunity to have a public voice and opinion. But this is only one side of the coin. Companies need to understand that this is an opportunity to show the world that they respect their customers’ opinions and are going to engage with them, even if that customer says something unfavorable about the brand.
The main challenges around CX may seem obvious -- but what do you think is an under-acknowledged challenge brands are facing in this area?
Scaling listening is a major challenge for businesses but doesn’t receive attention. It has always been hard to scale customer service on traditional channels, let alone all the new channels on the rise. Now companies are expected to be omnipresent, listening to customer feedback on whatever channel it comes from.
So, if companies invest in the post transactional experience of their customers just as much as they invest in sales and marketing, they'll be pleasantly surprised that the positive customer experiences will generate repeat and new sales. Customer service is marketing, but you have to invest in it in order to be able to scale the program accordingly.
Tell us more about this 'post transactional’ experience and the idea that even if a customer has already made a purchase, there’s more that can be done.
Many companies don't want to deal with customers after they've made a purchase. However if you think about the modern customer lifecycle, the way you treat your customers at all stages in the lifecycle is very important. The idea is to turn your customers into advocates.
These advocates will then aid in the creation of new customers. For example, many companies sell their products online, on Amazon or other sites. The review that your customers give you is really important in the decision making process for new customers, so it all blends into one another.
So, in that case, does that mean that measuring the impact of CX can be quite difficult?
Many companies are only focused on quarterly profits and it prevents them from seeing the long term view. They're only concerned about looking good on Wall Street tomorrow, not winning the hearts and minds of customers for the long term. And that's a problem.
It's just like in your personal life. If you invest in a relationship, you might not get something in the short term, but it's possible that in the long term someone will think of you and refer you for a job. You have to go out on a limb and invest relationships or other areas of your life if you want long term gains.
Are there any examples of CX trends that don’t add value that come to mind?
Today, many of our customer experience software products are interruptive and don't create positive CX experiences.
I cover chatbots for Forbes a lot and I have yet to find one that I think really does wonders for the customer. For the most part they are just glorified search tools and they're not providing much value. Hopefully it'll be different in the future, but they don't do that much more than what we might get from, say, Google.
Do you think that there's also work being done in terms of improving CX in stores?
It’s all identifying the purpose of a customer’s visit so businesses can service them in the right way. If I’m going to the grocery store I’d rather not talk to people even though the self checkout tech is not perfect, I want to be in and out.
In contrast, I'll go to the Sephora makeup counter for advice and the assistant can use a tablet to match my skin tone to a range of products. In this instance I’m building a closer relationship and getting more value from Sephora and that means, in exchange for their expertise, I’m happy to give them my data, for example my email, for them to send me product recommendations.
Is there anywhere else that you’ve seen some really good examples of tech or staff providing really great CX to people?
In my book, 'More is More' I talk about Airbnb because they are a perfect example of a company that understands customer experience. They've got the trifecta of leadership, employee experience and customer experience. Which I’ll explain individually.
First, there’s leadership. The founders of Airbnb actually host customers in their own apartments and homes. So, they know exactly what the customer journey is because they are so involved.
The second, is employee experience: the Airbnb offices are absolutely magnificent, they have been created to look like actual Airbnb listings all over the world. It is the most beautiful office I've ever seen in my life. They even create personal Airbnb experiences for contact center staff so they can understand what it feels like to be an Airbnb customer.
Third, the customer experience is unparalleled because they give customers technology that they’re already using in their personal lives. For example, if I want to book an Airbnb I can do it on my phone, I can message with my host through in-app messaging and everything is very seamless. I don't have to re-enter bank details or send money.
Where do you see CX growing and evolving in the next five years?
For me the exciting part of customer experience for tomorrow has to do with artificial intelligence and machine learning. These tools are going to allow us to better understand what the customer needs and allow us to deliver that experience to them at exactly the right time.
AI and machine learning have the potential to make machines or bots very good listeners and provide very accurate information back to the customer. And we haven't had that opportunity in the past.
We’ve put together an eBook that showcases some of the best examples of brands digitally engaging with customers to simplify their experience. These are not just technology gimmicks either, these brands put the experience ahead of new tech ‘gadgets’ to offer a truly pleasing experience that fosters genuine loyalty. Get your free copy now!