Demand, expectation and robots
Every business has always needed customers, but today they are impacting businesses much more than ever before.
There are many reasons: the power of social media means that companies can no longer take customers for granted.
The power of marketing is also waning, as a customer’s buying decision will be less influenced by high voltage advertisement and more by what other users say.
Add in disruption that can upturn mature industries (traditional taxi drivers in Mumbai never thought that a distant cab aggregator could kill their business, but it did), the demand that customers have to be treated as an individual, and the fact that they don’t mind dropping a company if they don’t get what they had been promised. The customer's world has been filled with choice, and the challenge for business is to understand the customer before they go elsewhere.
Customers are more demanding today, because their expectations are being influenced by benchmarks being created by pioneers such Amazon, Apple, Vistaprint, Warby Parker, Disney, Zappos, Ritz Carlton, Surf Air and thousands more. When customers come to buy a product from your company, they may have in mind experiences which may be from a different industry or something that they have experienced in a different context.
The connected consumer of today is used to getting things at a click of the button. They seek instant gratification and don’t have patience to wait for a product or service delivery. They also don’t mind punishing a company who don’t deliver what was promised, naming and shaming without hesitation in the social media.
Key point: today, customers are seeking experience and not just a product.
If you understand the ‘experience as product’, you can understand your customer’s specific needs - which if catered to, makes them happy. Of course, it’s important for a customer to understand what to expect from a company. They can’t expect a Ritz Carlton experience in a Holiday Inn Express.
What business leaders often mistake is to think that all customers deserve equal treatment. 'Customer Centricity' is about creating value for the right set of customers - not all customers.
Automation / human balance
The challenge for businesses – which too few businesses seem to be thinking through – is balancing automation and the human touch. In their effort to adopt technology, companies risk forgetting the balance that has to be kept in mind before automating interactions. Customer service bereft of humans will not work. While straight through processes may be automated, those requiring cognitive effort, managing exceptions, building connection and addressing emotionally charged moments require humans. Key point: It’s imperative to keep the customer at the centre of all automation efforts.
Where do the robots step in?
It’s true that tools like BPM and RPA help to build efficiency into business but they also help to serve the customers. For example, RPA can help to automate repetitive activities in customer journeys done by humans. When processes are done by software robots, they not only eliminate pain points but also deliver error free customer experience. Chatbots have cognitive abilities and respond to text and voice queries of routine customer issues. Predictive analytics can help to understand customer behaviour, predict what they want, when they want and when they are losing interest. They could also trigger offerings based on customer life events and offer ways to keep the customers engaged.
AI will work brilliantly when a transaction is binary in nature and does not require critical thinking, but when there is a problem where emotions are involved robots can’t help. For interactions focussed on deepening relations, humans cannot be substituted.
So, machines have lot to offer which may not be obvious to us but we should know how and where to use them.
This is an abridged article, the full version of which will be published in The Pex Report 2018 - coming soon.