In recent talks I have given around the industry, I have focused on my belief that the Internet Age is morphing into what I call, “The Age of Acceleration.” In this new age, speed is what matters. In fact, to my point, I saw an item today that says current technology delivers video in a real-time that is actually too slow. We need to speed things up to create even more compelling user experiences, and, while you are invited to read the details of my previous thoughts about all of the attributes of The Age of Acceleration, I thought it would be interesting to focus on one of the formulas that is driving it, as well as where “improving the customer experience” fits into the conversation.
People + Products & Services + Processes = Business Performance
The reality is that this formula in many ways is the true crux of the matter. Since time is a finite resource that we cannot make more of but can only make better use of, it is difficult to emphasize enough that all aspects business performance, i.e., each one of those things on the left hand side, when optimized can work magic when put given an accelerant. They not only produce efficiency, but effectiveness in being able to create compelling reasons for customers to do important things like appreciate value and remain loyal.
A look at some revealing insights are good context for understanding that end users are not the only “customers” of technology solutions, and that it is time for the industry to broaden the scope of its marketing.
Let’s start with the obvious; having great people who are well-trained and having great products and services with perceived value in the market is a given. Having the dexterity to turn these into market leadership is the challenge, and wisely using technology to literally seal the deal is the objective.
IBM’s recent fifth biennial Global CEO Study, Leading Through Connection, is instructive. Based on conversation with more than 1,700 CEOs in 64 countries, it found that 70 percent of CEOs say they are looking to get a better grasp of customer needs and generate improved organizational responsiveness based on improved operations and customer insights. Two big findings were that CEOs:
This is what is guiding investment decisions from the top.
What pops out of the findings is that we tend to see in industry marketing a decided emphasis on “customer needs” as pertaining only to end users. Reality is that it is satisfying the needs of internal customers that needs as much if not more attention. When the right people in the right place and time do not have the best tools to deliver great end user experiences the formula for success breaks. You can’t get to there from here.
If you look at the remarkable speed at which contact center solutions are transforming the way companies interact with those who purchase their products and services the point becomes self-evident. Whether it is going multi-channel, using real-time analytics of data as well as speech, breaking down the silos between enterprise knowledge repositories to create actionable business intelligence that can then be used to automate (cut costs) and/or improve work flows and business practices (make interactions more user-friendly), the customer is not the end user.
In fact, the end user gets to experience the deliverable of what the improvement of how workers/internal customers have experienced and improvement in the tools they use.
What this means in terms of the two big takeaways in the IBM study is important. Improved collaboration is mainly for internal consumption. Recent studies say that the average knowledge worker spends upwards of two hours per day in non-productive activities like checking/deleting email, playing tag setting up meetings, etc.
There are also studies – and now solutions – for how to better measure and then use what can be a significant amount of “idle time” in contact centers. Having better and much faster collaboration, the ultimate deliverable of “Big Data”, is the Holy Grail. It is also who people are empowered to provide that other customer experience that is so desired for generating and sustaining competitive advantage.
It is understandable that the marketing machine of the tech industry is squarely aimed at what it thinks C-levels want to hear —improve the customer experience, improve the customer experience, improve the customer experience. This is great as far as it goes. However, keep in mind that what we are talking about is the creation of a virtuous circle where the addition of speed and smarts generates optimized operations and exceptional results because end users are pleased and the bottom line looks good.
That said, those internal customers of technology need to get the attention they deserve; pleasing them makes pleasing the end customer that much easier. They are also the best source of new ideas since they have the most intimate relationship with your buyers.
It is important to remember not just the old bromide that, “the customer is always right!”, but also that there are a lot of different types of customers out there and they all need to be nurtured. At the end of the day, we need to get better about how we all talk about the customer experience.
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