Customer experience in the digital age
Who accelerated the pace of digitalisation in the 21st century?
Digitalisation is undoubtedly the critical strategy that many organisations will invest in after COVID-19. We have been forced to adopt it out of necessity. Humans are not available 24/7 and require many conditions to work productively, such as safety and good team communications; however, machines will not demand all of these.
What is the key to design customer experience in the digital age? Let’s take the outside-in approach by imagining how the new normal would look for your customers.
How can we deliver the most value out of the end-to-end customer journey?
Customers are becoming even more sensible about safety. Cash is not the preferable option, as you do not know who touched it before. Security checks or baggage check-ins by airport staff would not be ideal, as we are not comfortable in staying close with strangers.
In fact, many services that humans provide at the moment can be replaced by machines wherever possible. We rather never really thought about how machines could improve the customer experience before. In addition, we can find customer touchpoints that humans can serve much better than machines.
So, how can we select touchpoints that would be better served by humans, not machines? It is always useful to put yourself in the customers’ shoes and look into the end-to-end customer journey, then map out the crucial experiences where humans can create value.
Starbucks, for example, utilises machines to help a barista. Starbucks’ Deep Brew, AI engine aims to strengthen the brand’s custom-made recommendation. AI helps staff to remember individual preferences for orders and consider conditions that customers are under, e.g., weather and location, helping the barista to find more time to engage with each guest personally.
How to make invisibles trustful and memorable?
Digitalisation has a less physical form of interaction, meaning that it is not easy for customers to trust products or services and memorise experiences. For example, you are likely to spend more money on online shopping, as you do not see your wallet becoming thin and light as you spend money.
Good news is that there are ways to supplement these losses.
First, you need to design the sequence of experiences coherently under the clear brand purpose, offerings and personality. By showing them repeatedly in different times and settings, customers will be more likely to connect the dots into one line. Coherency helps brands humanise your services.
For example, Uber has been successfully acting on their purpose of 'we ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion’ and formed a brand in the customer's mind. They keep expanding their service area - starting from San Francisco, they are currently present in 600 cities, with the number of drivers (3.9m in the world), and provide services at affordable rates with stress-free taxi order and payment systems.
Second, you can explore how to maximise the interactions with five senses - sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. For instance, you can explore ‘audio’ branding to create your own sound for products or services, like Windows or Apple, when you switch on laptops. You can also consider scentsational branding. Singapore Airlines is known for hot towels perfumed with “Stefan Floridian Waters,” a blend of rose, lavender and citrus.
The value of ‘sharing experience’
Digitalisation does not mean that people would like to have fewer interactions; social distancing rather re-affirmed to people how sociable we are. In fact, customers tried to find ways to share views with others on digital platforms. Zoom, for example, became a platform for signing, drinking and playing a game together during the lockdown.
The key to success in creating a community would be utilising psychology and behaviour for reward and recognition. The Amazon Vine programme is a club of most trusted reviewers to post comments for new / pre-release products. They are in principle selected by the helpfulness of their reviews by other customers. Amazon assisted in creating this scheme, but once it was launched, it has all been in the customers’ hands in terms of how it is run, grows and creates unique value to Amazon in an organic manner.
The new normal is still new; however, if you work back from customers, it is not too difficult to find out how to adapt to it.
Digitalisation is not an enemy for humans; rather, it will help customers have better experiences. The first recommended step would be to focus on delivering coherent services in order to be trustful and memorable, and creating a community to share experiences with fellow customers.