Customer experience is the future of business. In our highly competitive world good customer experience improves the likelihood and magnitude of customer revenues. But how can we ensure good customer experience? And what does this mean in the context of rapidly advancing technology?
Last Wednesday, I had the great pleasure of participating in the Optus Vision business conference in Sydney. It coincides with the release of Optus's Future of Business Report. In contrast to markets with poor customer experience (which I've written about in the past), Australian operators are keen to express their desires to wow customers and to improve their 'net promoter scores'. I listened keenly to a range of Australian business leaders speak about their own efforts in building customer-centric organizations. In fact, customer experience was the only topic discussed all day long.
Mark Hassell from Virgin Australia delivered one of the standout presentations. His key message was that with an unrelenting commitment to the customer, Virgin Australia was able to grow from '200 people and one route' into an award winning airline within the highly competitive Australian domestic sector. Mark highlighted the need to constantly challenge existing business practices for opportunities to innovate and evolve. Paraphrasing his comments he said that it's not always about introducing something new, often it's about reevaluating and enhancing existing products and services, as customers demand more. Mark also highlighted the benefits of segmentation with Virgin receiving accolades following the introduction of business class services.
In the afternoon, I had the chance to speak on an expert panel on emerging technologies and how they are changing the way that vendors like Juniper interact with our customers. It was a good opportunity to geek out and bounce ideas between representatives from Optus, Samsung, Cisco and Microsoft. Here's a quick summary of the comments I made in this session:
The lines between the physical and digital worlds are blurring. We are drowning in innovation and it is more important to understand how to apply digital technologies within our business practices rather than just considering each new technology in isolation. Digital technologies can give us great insight into customers and their experiences.
Good customer experience requires leveraging technology in a transparent, proactive and personal way. Applying digital tools to existing solutions can transform the customer experience with significant benefit for the enterprise too. Consider Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machines; they’re a great machine-to-machine example that enables the long tail for customers - improving personalization improves experience. Coca-Cola also benefits with new insight into customer behavior and reduced restocking and maintenance truck-rolls.
The constant improvement in technology benefits those that can move quickly to evolve their business practices and enterprise tools. Moving fast is the killer app, those that are stuck with slow to evolve legacy systems are likely to have the hardest time remaining competitive. Reinforcing the comments from Virgin Australia, only those businesses that focus on continuous development of their products and services will keep pace with the expanding expectations of end-users.
As a side point, on Thursday morning (in Australia), Jeff Bezos unveiled Amazon's Fire Phone. Most of the commentary surrounding the Fire Phone has focused on the 3D Dynamic Perspective and Firefly capabilities. Less focus has been given to the Mayday customer support feature (including 'warm handoff' to AT&T's support team) that is a disruptive approach to customer service. It should be no surprise; customer experience will make or break the success of the Fire Phone. Optus's research backs this up, with 93% of those surveyed preferring a human touch to their customer care.