Have we moved beyond the term CX to describe Customer Experience? I’m starting to think that 2016 is surely the last year when we can keep on talking credibly about CX without acknowledging how the interaction between brand and customer has really changed in the past few years.
McKinsey recently published a report focused on the customer journey that particularly emphasised how brands need to see the world as their customers do. In 2016 this should go without saying. The customer journey today is infinitely more complex than it used to be because customers now have access to the mobile Internet and social networks. This not only allows the customer far easier access to information on products, like competing prices and reviews, but allows the customer to contribute to the reviews and comments too. In addition, the customer is now defining when and how they contact a brand.
So the journey has not only become more complex, but the way that customers interact with brands has naturally changed as the way that people communicate has changed. The McKinsey analysis is a good start, because it talks about moving away from individual customer touch points and starting to consider the complete end-to-end customer journey, but I believe we need to think even bigger. After all, how do you define a complete end-to-end customer journey when some brands manage to create loyal customers for life? There is no end.
This is a much bigger change to the way that customer service is delivered than simply announcing the support for multiple channels. There is a fluidity in the behaviour of customers today that has never been seen before recent years therefore I believe that instead of focusing on customer experience alone it might be better to start considering how to make your brand customer-adaptable.
What do I mean by customer-adaptable?
Well, the biggest change in the past few years, particularly to the customer journey, has been that customers now set the rules for engagement. The customer will not search for your free telephone number or customer service email address if they have a preference to use a social network or chat for communication. They will just choose how they want to get in touch and when.
But this is really just the start. You don’t need to be a behavioural scientist or futurist to see that there are many other important trends changing how customers are served today.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is allowing contact centres to get smarter by directing real human agents to difficult problems and allowing software agents to manage all the repetitive questions. Combining this ability with the way that Artificial Intelligence is so rapidly improving and it surely cannot be long before the idea of an FAQ list (Frequently Asked Questions) that has to be manually searched will be archaic. The automated agents will have the knowledge of every question ever asked by customers and every possible solution and will learn as each new problem is resolved.
More intelligent insight into what customers need and want is also improving the way we interact because it allows problems to be resolved with more insight and can be combined with marketing initiatives. It has now become possible for brands to genuinely create a personalised offer for a single person because the company knows what that customer likes, when they like to buy it, and where.
We need to think more about this combination of intelligent service and serving the customer in ways that extend beyond just waiting for them to contact the brand with a problem. Brands are becoming more proactive and engaging with customers throughout the lifetime of their relationship so the customer contact mechanisms, the analytics and insight, and operational delivery of products is all changing as customer expectations change.
Exploring all of this change as a complete customer relationship strategy is where I believe we should be focused. Customer adaptability might be adopted throughout the industry, but whether it is or not, I think it certainly is time to move on from just talking about the customer experience.
What do you think about the continued use of CX to describe the customer and brand relationship? Do you agree that we need a more far-reaching way to describe the total relationship? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.
Photo by Christopher Lance licensed under Creative Commons.