I am sure in the past year or so you have seen the headlines: Customer Experience Is the Innovation Battleground; Bots Are Going to Revolutionize Customer Experience; How Artificial Intelligence Features Will Wow Customers. While it seems like noise, some of these technologies will revolutionize customer engagement. And they could even be a catalyst to change the technology landscape. But aren’t we forgetting something? The most important person in the customer experience story is the customer.
It’s time for us to take a step back and think about our goals, what has been created and what we’re trying to achieve.
Take a Picture It Will Last Longer
A year ago, I subscribed for an annual subscription to a photography software package, which I barely used (no surprise there). If you are like me, you probably would overestimate your artistic abilities and the time required to pursue a new hobby. In some corner of your ever-positive mind, you convince yourself that you’ll make time to learn animation or photography or whatever hobby it is—and you buy the software to “make it happen.”
Anyway, this particular yearly subscription for personal software was a big trap. The conditions were as follows: To subscribe, you provide your credit card and sign-up to all the miniature conditions they put forth. They could probably ask for your first born—you never know. If you want to cancel the subscription, the onus is on you. The service provider will continue to bill you without notification.
After couple of months, I realized that I wasn’t doing my “artistic abilities” any justice with this software subscription, so I called the provider—wondering if there was a way to cancel the subscription. I was told in a very terse manner: The condition is either a full year subscription or pay six months’ equivalent subscription fees at the time of cancelling. My positive frame of mind again opted for a yearly subscription, rather than paying a fine of six months’ worth of fees. Does this mean I made time to learn the software after that?
Well, no prizes for guessing, I ended up barely using this product. The worst part is, I totally forgot to cancel the subscription at the end of the year. Shouldn’t the customers be able to preemptively set end dates for their subscription? Nope, that feature is not available for everyone.
I started searching the software company’s website for a contact number, but I do not qualify to use their 1-800 number; my subscription only qualifies me for chat interactions. Reluctantly, I initiated a chat and it promptly was routed to someone halfway around the world. So, for next half hour, we chatted away.
The agent first tried to convince me to subscribe for another year. “Are you kidding me?” I responded. Then he tried to convince me to go for the six-month subscription. Finally, he was willing to charge me for couple of more months because he “understood” my situation.
Since we were at an impasse—unable to conclude our negotiations after nearly 45 minutes of chatting—I was transferred to his supervisor. I then had to narrate my sorry story all over again. After an hour and half, we finally concluded that I would pay for another month before the subscription would be effectively canceled.
Create Cross-Generational Customer Experience
If customer experience solutions are built monolithically – serving customers without any regard to who they are, what they want and when they want it – then any number of bots or artificial intelligence (AI) solutions would not help the cause of serving and retaining customers.
We are at a digital crossroads—amid a technology boon that caters to four different generations. We have Generation Xers who are digital immigrants and skeptics to adopt new technologies. And Baby Boomers can be even more skeptical, reticent to change and territorial. Millennials are the digital Woodstock-ers who are comfortable storing credit card information on their watches or even injecting a chip into their hands. And then, Generation Z—they are even more advanced with their use of technology.
I am Generation X, a digital immigrant and not a multitasker. If I had provided an option to call-in or been actively provided a call-back option—instead of forcing me to type for 90 minutes—my issue would have been resolved in a matter of minutes. In fact, there was a chance the company would have saved revenue and would have retained me as a loyal customer. Instead, they lost me forever.
A Millennial might have loved to chat away but older generations often have different preferences. The customer experience platform deployed must understand the customer context and their preferences, instead of just forcing them to be monolithic interaction.
Yes, bots, AI and various other customer experience solutions help to resolve bottlenecks and simplify a company’s offerings. But, before deploying these technologies, companies must try to better understand their customers; employ business analysts to get a clearer picture of your customer segments, their likes and dislikes, the optimal interaction type for that customer, and when/where they would like to be engaged. The onus is on the business drivers to understand these subtleties as part of the customer experience strategy.