My background was originally in newspaper journalism before I started writing for Internet Works, one of the earliest publications in the UK covering digital business. Even back then we touched upon the idea of customer experience but not as a discipline of its own. I then spent some time working on other business titles before finally settling into the editor's chair at MyCustomer, where I started looking at the customer experience in much greater focus.
What do you think have been the most significant advances in CX in previous years?
CX used to be perceived as something nebulous and fluffy. Especially in its initial phases when people were just paying lip service to it.
What you’re seeing now is more of a commitment to providing real and quantifiable results. And this is also reflected by the rise of cross departmental C-Level figures that have responsibility for CX. The Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is one example of this.
A few years ago Forrester highlighted the emergence of CCOs in the US and these roles are becoming more common in the UK as well now. That is symptomatic of a big step forward.
Another significant breakthrough is the evolution of services like customer journey mapping, a topic that took some time to gain traction when we originally wrote about it.
This demonstrates that organizations are moving away from the traditional ‘inside out’ view to an ‘outside in’ perspective. They didn’t really care what the customers thought before, but now they’re mapping out entire journeys, which shows they’re deeply involved in CX and their viewpoint has changed. The feeling at the moment is that a lot of organizations are now going through the mapping process - but a little unsure of what to do with the findings. So the next step is going to be making the information more actionable.
The main challenges around CX can seem obvious at the moment – what do you think is the most under-acknowledged challenge brands are facing in this area?
One, not necessarily under-acknowledged but rather underestimated, issue is represented by the structural obstacles organizations face when it comes to CX. The traditional siloed structure of organizations was a good way of ensuring that was accountability and measurability of departments. But this structure is starting to seem a little out of step with the way that customer journeys are changing, and with the proliferation of touch points.
I also think customer expectations are higher than they’ve ever been before. And as part of this, customers expect organizations to have visibility of their history and wants and needs, no matter who they talk with. But again, with the current structural issues, there isn't necessarily that single customer view. Different departments have different pieces of the customer's picture in their respective databases. So the joined-up view is missing, sadly, and customers of course get very frustrated when they are, for instance, being offered promotions for products they've just bought.
So the historical structural issues manifest themselves as a series of silos - technical (i.e. data silos) certainly, but also cultural, operational, hierarchal... it's a big challenge for organizations.
How do you regard the struggle around interrupting CX and ensuring customers get the help they need?
If you understand the customer journey then, in theory, you will have already identified the precise requirements for additional support. A customer journey map will surface the points in the customer journey where there is, for instance, an emotive element or additional complexity, and therefore where manual support is most important. At the other end of the spectrum, there will be tasks that the customer wants to achieve that are most conveniently dealt with by FAQ pages or chatbots, for instance.
It all comes down to working out what the customer wants to achieve at every stage, what goals they wish to accomplish, or what is the exact action they want to perform.
What are the best examples of innovation in CX that you have seen?
Disney are a classic example of a company looking at the customer journey and finding the friction points then solving them.
With things like theme parks the big friction point is often waiting in line and if you’ve got kids that's even more of a nightmare. So Disney introduced the Magic Band, a wristband that uses RFID technology to link the online/offline world and allows customers to organize their day in advance so they can pre-book the rides, skip the lines and just swipe their bands and away they go. Friction point avoided.
Where do you see CX growing and evolving in the next 5 years?
Identifying the right blend of physical and digital is going to be at the forefront of CX in the future. AI is already getting more sophisticated so it will be interesting to see how that influences the balance.
The challenge will be identifying where the human touch is still needed and implementing it alongside technology. When removing the human element you might risk compromising the fundamentally personal experience that is still needed in our area. That is why organizations need to understand what the customer wants to achieve at every touchpoint, and if appropriate therefore providing the ability to triage the conversation from self-service to a human agent.