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This CX Mini Masterclass comes directly from a listener request about how organizations can ensure that CX is protected, even as customers and companies move to more reliance on technology. Show host and customer experience expert, Julia Ahlfeldt, explains the relationship between customer experience and technology, and 3 ways to maintain the integrity of CX amid a changing landscape. If you’re interested in some practical actions that you can take to ensure great customer experience even as the consumer marketplace becomes more digitized and automated, then this episode is for you.
Balancing customer experience and technology
The rise of digital technology has brought about an explosion of customer touchpoints. It used to be that if a customer wanted to do their banking, they had to go into a branch, but that’s definitely no longer the case. Now customers have their choice of online banking, app banking, banking through a messenger service, calling a contact center, engaging with their bank on social media or going into the branch. That’s a LOT of different touchpoints, and most of them are powered by tech.
At the same time, companies have integrated technology solutions behind the scenes to improve speed, accuracy and efficiency. If you were to go behind the scenes of pretty much any experience, you’re guaranteed to see a mix of people, processes and technology fueling experiences. The role of technology is only set to grow as applications for things like artificial intelligence become more commonplace. This means that CX professionals need to help their organizations keep the heart and soul of experiences, even as touchpoints and the spaghetti wire behind those touchpoints continues to evolve.
This is easier said than done, but there are several practical approaches that CX professionals can use.
1. Establish your experience principles
A customer promise and experience principles can help foster consistency for experiences throughout the journey, regardless of which touchpoint a customer engages with. Episode 69, explored both the customer promise and experience principles. Essentially, a customer promise is a clear definition of what customers can expect and also how teams should deliver experiences. It’s a high-level statement, or a Northstar of what experiences should ideally look like.
The promise can be backed up with more granular or prescriptive experience principles, which outline the “how-to” details behind the promise. An example of an experience principle would be “each customer will walk away from their experience with us knowing we value their business” or “we commit to providing a safe and respectful environment for customers”. These statements are applicable to nearly any touchpoint, and they speak to outcomes or results, so while the approach might be slightly different for a safe and respectful environment in a store vs. online, the way that the customer feels after that interaction should be the same.
Experience principles can be a helpful framework for teams to evaluate experiences, reality-check the journey across touchpoints and assess the relationship between customer experience and technology. If an experience isn’t yielding outcomes that are consistent with the promise, that’s a red flag.
2. Test the user experience
This may sound obvious, but in their haste to launch a new system or platform, it can be tempting for teams to skip the step of testing and refining the user experience. Resist this temptation at all costs. Before any experience is launched into the customer journey, it should be vetted and tested, ideally against experience principles and some sort of customer impact scorecard. An experience should be refined until it receives a passing grade and only then, “released in the wild”. Once an experience is live in the customer journey, the monitoring shouldn’t stop. It’s important to keep tabs on how customers are responding and to keep refining things.
There is a lot of emphasis on user experience testing for customer-facing experiences, but the same customer impact assessment, user interface testing and refinement should happen for the technology innovations that support teams behind the scenes. If an organization wouldn’t launch some horribly clunky experience into the customer journey, why would it launch this into the employee journey? Technology should enable teams to deliver on the customer promise and the brand purpose, not hinder them.
Ensuring that customer-facing and behind the scenes tech enablers are user-friendly will go a long way to maintaining great customer experience, especially as customer experience and technology become more deeply intertwined. For more details on UX and how this differs from CX, be sure to check out episode 56.
3. Make in-person experiences extra special
As consumers and businesses become more reliant on technology, brands need to be prepared with GREAT experiences when they do happen in person. Customers are increasingly opting for self-help channels before picking up the phone or walking into a store or branch. As a result, human interactions are fewer and farther between. As these moments become more rare, they also become more precious.
Brands would be wise to make these moments memorable and make them count. If technology enables teams to have a little more capacity, let them use that time to deepen customer relationships or deliver a special wow moment. CX professionals need to help business leaders rethink in any point of human interaction as an opportunity to connect with customers. These can no longer be transactional moments, they need to become loyalty-building moments.
CX leaders should go back to their customer journey map, identify any interactions that still happen in-person or specific the moments of truth and figure out how to maximize the impact of personal touch. Again, if a team has established a customer promise or experience principles, make sure that these specific moments are an absolute home run in terms of delivering on the CX goals. As long as the basics of the customer journey sorted, then these moments have to power to pay major dividends in terms of customer loyalty and advocacy.
Want to keep learning about CX?
If you’d like to checkout more of these CX Mini Masterclasses or listen to my longer format CX expert interviews, check out the full listing of episodes for this CX podcast.
Decoding the Customer is a series of customer experience podcasts created and produced by Julia Ahlfeldt, CCXP. Julia is a customer experience strategist, speaker and business advisor. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional and one of the top experts in customer experience management. To find out more about how Julia can help your business achieve its CX goals, check out her customer experience advisory consulting services (including CX strategy, voice of customer and culture change) or get in touch via email.