Digital tools and customer experience

Don’t get me wrong – the scope and scale of digital tools that are available to help you deliver a superior customer experience are pretty comprehensive and getting more refined and invaluable every day. From IVR and contact centre technologies to chatbots and personal assistants, technology is shaping the channels through which you interact with your customers.

But sometimes it’s all too easy to think about your customer as a statistic. Simply another number travelling through your digitally enabled interaction points. You’ve mapped your customer journeys and the customer simply has to live up to their written down persona in how they engage your organisation. You’ve lined up just the right digital touchpoint to deliver their experience with an optimum cost to serve.

This totally fails to understand the human element. Customers can be complex and irrational and might simply not follow the customer journey you had expected. They might start a purchase online, forget about it for several days and end up resolving and completing it via your contact centre sales team. They might need human engagement to help answer their questions in a way that no chatbot is going to manage.

Adapt to your customers

As important as data can be (and bearing in mind that a robust set of analytics can give you information about your customer behaviours), your customers are more than data points. They can be emotional and irrational (some people more than others!) and we need to design customer journeys that reflect that. It’s no good just focusing on a ‘happy path’ of your business processes and then being surprised when the reality is something quite different.

Of course, customers will find ways around your IVR. They will barrage you on social media until they get a response. Of course, they will try emailing your CEO just to get the response they feel they deserve! They might do a whole host of things that you won’t be able to fully service with your digitally enabled channels and that’s because their problems and needs in the moment might be complex.

It is important to remember that your customers and users have experienced their context uniquely; they are the prime source of information about its many facets. Their knowledge may be hidden below the surface or be hard to understand immediately. Assembling the big picture of how and why your customers are interacting with different channels, touchpoints, products and services is where your customer experience journey begins. Making sure you keep learning from your customers is how your customer journeys stay meaningful.

How to keep the human focus

Whilst a customer experience programme built around specific improvement ideas and prototypes will deliver value to your customers, it is worth considering how a pervasive customer focus can become embedded in your organisational culture. This might include your strategy, structure, systems, capabilities and business processes.

You need to demonstrate systems, policies, procedures and business rules that may need to be changed in order to align with the new values and desired customer-centric culture. Send a clear message to employees that the old system and culture are in the past.

Encourage employee motivation and loyalty to your target customer culture. Help your organisation to articulate the value (to the business and to your customers) of the changes and support buy-in to the change process. Training might need to be provided to employees to clarify new processes, expectations, systems and ways of working. Improving the lives of customers should matter personally to your employees.

Keep encouraging your teams to reach out across functional and role boundaries to make improvements happen. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo (within acceptable business risk and governance) and think of ways to enable the sharing of ideas and information. This might include collaboration tools and social channels, physical customer experience rooms, back to the floor sessions or even representative gestures like Amazon’s famous ’empty seat’ at meetings representing the customer who isn’t in the room.

Work to raise the consciousness of CX as a priority in your organisation and also help people to think about how their role contributes to customer experience. For example, chatbots can be great tools for time-saving but they can also impact your employees of the chance to add personal contact. Automation in your customer journey needs to be appropriate to the interaction point. Employees should feel able to override an automated system where it creates a stronger customer experience, so long as there is a data or business case to support it.

Ultimately such approaches encourage you to fully live and breathe your customer throughout your organisation and not just try and fit them into your digital channel interactions. Your employees are the human side of the customer experience. They are your brand ambassadors and they operate your business processes and use your chosen technical systems. They have the power to turn a poor experience into a positive one. We’re not advocating employee anarchy, but don’t forget the vital role that your staff play in keeping the human focus in your customer interactions.