“You have got to start with the customer experience and then work your way back towards the technology, not the other way around.”

Steve Jobs

Customer experience (CX), is a journey starting from the discovery of a product/service. Historically, customer satisfaction has been the most critical element of measurement. Today, the focus is on the customer’s experience from the conceptualization of a service, to its design and the experience of consuming the same. The fast pace of innovation is changing the expectations and what the consumers get to experience.

Customers respond to direct and indirect contact with a company in different ways. Direct contact usually occurs when the purchase or usage is initiated by the customer. Indirect contact implies blogs, ads, news reports, unplanned encounters with sales representative’s word-of-mouth advice and criticism. Brands such as LinkedIn, Amazon, Facebook, and Uber have been incorporating the CX aspect of business into their daily operations. This is illustrated by the absolute number of returning customers. At the end of the day, the product, a business is offering tends to remain the same. It is the customer experience that can be re-imagined and re-designed to make the product more attractive. Technology is enabling businesses to enhance customer experience in various fields. Let us dig a bit deeper into some of them.

Shopping
Today’s shoppers have an array of options; shopping in a store, shopping online, getting product reviews, friend’s opinion and opting for product comparisons. These benefits are all just a click away. To create a shopping experience that entices shoppers to come back again and again, enterprises need customer experience analytics. They give retailers unprecedented insight into shopping experience from the consumers’ perspective.

A majority of companies rank “Improved customer satisfaction” as the primary reason for adopting analytics. Analytics gather data and help the companies understand the needs and expectations of their customers better. This data endorses informed decision making which helps management take manageable risks and make amends.

Large retail stores like Macy’s are using big data to offer more localized, personalized and smarter retail customer experience across all channels. Datafloq is a website that analyzes different data points; such as out-of-stock rates, price promotions, sell-through rates etc., and combine them with the stock keeping unit data of a product at a certain location and time. This data is assessed to optimize the local assortments to the individual customer segments in those locations.

Combining and connecting e-commerce with in-store shopping is the best way to offer a seamless shopping experience to customers. Online platforms are now lowering entry barriers by providing affordable substratum to new entrants. Big commerce allows anyone to set up an online store in less than 30 minutes. Since its establishment in 2009, it has already processed 17 million orders for as many as 35000 clients.

Retailers have made the process of shopping as simple as walking into a store, scanning an item and paying for it with a series of taps on a smart device. On the other hand, online buying allows buyers to select a product by making comparison with alternate vendors and doing a best online shopping. As we progress deeper into the future, the shopping experience is bound to change even more. New and improved technology will be a step below of trends and needs for the customer. It is up to the companies to keep up with these trends if they do not want to lose customers. They can do this by harnessing big data wherever available—be it through social media, surveys or just a plain old feedback.

Learning
Educational institutions sticking with traditional methodologies have been experiencing a decline in revenue. These institutions must implement digital learning that exceeds a set of new expectations.

The demand for knowledge continues to be outpacing supply. As the world’s population grows, so does the number of students who enter tertiary education each year. The total number of students in higher education is expected to reach nearly 380 million by 2030, 472 million by 2035, and more than 594 million by 2040–all up from roughly 216 million as of 2016. Providing education to such a large number of learners using traditional modes of delivery would require tremendous amount of funding and effort, namely building roughly 4 universities per week for the following 15 years.

In order to educate the students of the future, CX analytics should be put at the service of understanding the mentality of the student, ranging from their preferences to their needs. Thanks to data on course enrolments, graduation rates, grades and feedback as they help education providers to develop a much more in-depth understanding of each student’s exigency. This will allow institutions to make changes to their learning techniques accordingly and consequently provide an amazing student experience. For instance, publishing giant, Pearson acquired a learning analytics startup to strengthen its personalized learning offerings.

Leading companies are already making the most of the latest digital tools to propagate, share/acquire knowledge. For instance, Bank of America recently partnered up with Khan Academy, a not-for-profit provider of online education courses, to offer online learning on finance. The United States Navy has done the same with Institute for the Future, a think tank, to launch a massive online gaming tool that will help those craft strategies to fight piracy.

Staying Healthy
Data is at the center of a new trend in healthcare industry. Medical technology is increasingly becoming connected to a wide range of secondary devices that allow medical professionals to treat patients with greater insights and efficiency. Cloud based platforms are improving the overall treatment for patients through increased transparency. Integrated data from app-based wearable monitoring devices enables personalized medical analysis. The explosion of data will not subside, as consumers continue to demand better information about their healthcare options, costs, short and long-term outcomes, as well as other potentially life-changing factors that go into their treatment.
The more tech-savvy consumers are using the numerous mental-health apps that connect people with licensed therapists and allow them to chat by text/even through a video call. It is cost and time efficient for both parties, thereby delivering an exemplary consumer experience.

Marjorie Bessel, the chief clinical officer at Banner Health, shares her view over the future of healthcare: “I think what the next ten years will look like for the industry will be lots of electronic tools, apps, portals that help us engage with the patient and help the patient engage more in their own health, their own health outcomes and how they decide to get there.” All these effects put patients and consumers in the driver’s seat, steering wheel in their own hands. They will be calling the shots, while the tech will make sure their shots are reaching their treatment goals better than ever.

Entertainment
The digital transformation disrupting traditional value chain is the key market driver behind the rise of CX in media and entertainment. Consumers expect digital content that serves to entertain and be delivered to all their devices in an engaging way anytime and every time.

Advertisements and subscriptions are two key revenue streams for the media industry, and both need to be balanced. Payment/subscription revenues are not yet working in digital for many traditional players as they continue to fail to focus on the customer. The key is to build models where customer pays for value and experience; they receive, not just “for the content.” Let us expand on this idea a bit further.

Graeme Noseworthy, IBM’s Senior Social Strategist, has the perfect analogy: “Where we used to say that ‘content is king’, we can now argue that the consumer audience is king, and the content is the castle we must build around them.” Media companies with access to huge data sources are trying to build close relationship with customer and understand them on an individual level. They are now able to analyze customer and behavioral data (who they are and how they act) simultaneously, creating accurate, detailed and personalized customer profiles using this information and predictive analytics. Media companies can now recommend content in real time, and that content can be developed to have substance that truly connects with their audience.

Disney has set a benchmark in the entertainment industry when it comes to achieving perfection. The company extensively uses technology to improve their customer experience, beyond the limits of their legendary theme park. My Disney Experience; a website and an app that requires one to log in with their personal Disney account. This application was launched, so that Disney’s customers could thoroughly plan their vacation online; make dinner reservations and other quick selections. It also helped the customers explore the park using an interactive map, filter activities and check real-time show times, buy photos of themselves that were taken at the park. The website provides information about all of Disney’s attractions, accommodations, and things to do etc.

The management team should always make it their mission to focus on their customers. The employees, stakeholders and the overall ecosystem must be aligned to this paradigm shift of customer experience.

Travelling

IBM’s Bruce Speechley—“Technology is now enabling people to experience the vacation before they arrive.” Experiencing means to explore, and exploring online means leaving digital traces. Companies uses this data to provide better customer service to individuals. Here are a couple of examples.

Delta Air Lines for instance, through exhaustive customer segmentation analysis identified that 5% of their customers accounted for 26% of their revenue. They then employed what they termed the “listen/respond/listen model”—listen to what those 5% of customers want, respond with products and services according to the that information, then listen again to see if customers recognized the value of Delta’s response to their needs.

On the other hand, hotel chains like the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company are managing their customer database centrally but use predictive modeling and purchase third-party data. This helps them understand what the customer might do next and how they can target them with the right message at the right time, and ensure they are receiving a personalized Ritz-Carlton experience.

The disruptive effects of crowdsourcing companies like Airbnb and Uber, on the travel industry have already been discussed. Though, crowdsourcing is innately innovative and efficient, it has also helped the companies to inevitably focus on the customer experience. However, disruption by digital innovation can be easily traced across the travel industry. Today, no company is immune to the demands for transparency that are given with crowdsourcing. Consumers are drifting to online marketplaces to thoroughly review and compare their options. In today’s world, all it takes is a minute for travelers to tell hundreds of people how exactly their trip went, either on social media/an online review site. Online feedback is the digital version of word of mouth and can make/break a company. Businesses these days must focus on providing an exceptional customer experience in order to set themselves apart. As the rate of customers using digital technologies continues to grow, companies should continue to employ blends of innovative ideas in order to meet the demanding needs of their customers.

Paying
Leaders in the payments industry are teaming up with organizations outside their industry to get the capabilities to improve customer experience. For instance, American Express customers can use their loyalty points to pay for taxi rides in New York. Thanks to the partnership between the Credit Card Company and VeriFone, a provider of point-of-sale technology. BNP Paribas an international banking group joined forces with Proximus, the largest telecommunications company in Belgium, to pilot a digital wallet application. Another prominent example of innovation in CX in the payments industry, is the development of pay-at-the table service in restaurants.

Organizations are trying to innovate new ways to provide better customer experience and simultaneously take their brand to the next level. Therefore, excellent CX is vital for ensuring repeated purchases, positive recommendations and overall brand loyalty.