It used to be that customer experience took place in person or when a customer called a support line; however, the interactions of today’s modern customer are much more digital, meaning there is a huge need for a technology stack to drive a strong customer experience.
According to David Rowley, CTO of IAC Publishing Labs, customer-driven technology can make a huge difference within an organization, but it also needs to be thought through so that it is strategic and efficient. Many companies build with themselves in mind instead of their customers, but forward-thinking organizations with the best customer experiences put themselves in the shoes of the customer and think about how their customers interact with the brand. By breaking down the interaction into every touch point, companies can focus on the technology that will best meet the needs of the customer and the goals of the company.
The key to a strong technology stack is to make a seamless experience for the customer. Although internally things might be divided amongst various teams and apps, the customer should be able to have the same experience no matter if they are communicating with a brand on social media, browsing products online, or calling in with a question after making a purchase. Many companies focus solely on the discovery phase of the customer journey when customers are choosing which product to buy and doing their research. While that part is incredibly important and is often what drives customer growth, it shouldn’t be prioritized at the expense of the later customer stages. After a customer has purchased a product or chosen a service, they can be turned into powerful brand advocates and have the potential to build a strong relationship with the brand. These customers can turn into a valuable tool for referrals and expanding a brand’s message, but oftentimes the step is forgotten.
Along each step of the customer journey, there should be systems in place that build connections between the brand and the customer and offer a personalized experience that customers will want to share. In order to be truly effective, brands need to combine systems of engagement, or the things they use to interact with customers, with systems of record, or the back-office programs that track customer information. Tying these systems together is critical to monitor and stay on top of the modern customer experience.
One of the biggest challenges of the modern customer experience is integrating technology stacks that will last as technology changes and evolves. The key is to focus on the problem you are trying to solve and to understand how customers want to interact with the brand. Some brands have success going through a single stack provider, while others like to piece together services from a number of vendors; there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather each company needs to do what is best for their strategy.
The key to staying ahead of the modern customer experience is understanding technology and how the right stack can help companies better understand and interact with customers.
Anyone who says it’s a man’s world clearly hasn’t seen the impact women can have on customer experience. As more women flock to customer experience roles and opportunities and bring their unique perspectives and skillsets, it’s becoming clearer that women are in a unique position to lead customer experience.
According to Denise Lee Yohn, a brand-building expert with more than 25 years experience, women have unique points of view that lend themselves well to customer experience. Among those is the natural ability to be empathetic, which is especially important because customer experience really boils down to understanding the customer and what they want. Women can also stand out in a field of men, which gives them more opportunities to shine and share new ideas. As diversity and inclusion becomes a bigger focus at many organizations, not having women involved in customer experience makes companies seem out of touch. After all, women are half of the customer base, so leaving them out of the decision-making process could be disastrous.
I interviewed Denise Lee Yohn on the modern customer podcast. Listen to it here.
That’s not to say that women don’t face challenges in the customer experience space. Some women have to battle with being stereotyped, and not being thought of as credible. Many women suffer from imposter syndrome, at least as they move up in the leadership ranks. That means they don't feel as powerful as they seem and they must fake it until they make it. Society often tells women even in 2017 that their worth is based on their looks, rather than their mind and their work. When you look at the top of politics, of corporations, and even of keynote speaker line-ups, we still mostly see men. Where are the women? We are here, but we face many hurdles uphill, but must support each other in our effort to create more opportunities for women.
Along with personal challenges, inside of corporate America there are challenges women face internally at companies. In many organizations, customer experience is divided across multiple departments, meaning that to truly make an impact, a woman has to be able to influence beyond her scope to people in other areas, and many organizations aren’t currently set up for women to do that. In order to be most effective, many women rely on their content to override the prejudices and use a more logical and analytical approach when discussing customer experience with men.
According to Denise, customer experience is very connected with employee experience—if employees don’t understand or aren’t motivated to deliver a good customer experience, it is much more likely that they won’t. The most successful companies develop an internal culture that is aligned with their brand that then connects that to the customer experience by linking what customers need to what employees need. When employees are treated well and feel valued and connected to the brand, they are much more likely to share those experiences with customers. This strategy seems to work well with women, who often naturally like to make connections between groups and people.
For a woman to break into the customer experience space, she must embrace her differences and channel that unique perspective into something that can contribute to the company. Being deliberate about your career and the skills needed to succeed can make a big difference.
It may be an uphill battle, but women are making great progress in the customer experience space and proving they can connect with customers and drive results in a new way.
Denise Lee Yohn is a fabulous speaker and thought leader and I had a wonderful time interviewing her for my show. She is an important voice to follow.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, speaker and author of the book More Is More. Sign up for her newsletter here.
Sheryl Connelly is the in-house futurist for Ford Motor Company. You might be surprised to know she doesn’t ever talk about cars.
As futurist she says she often finds herself “in the role of the polite contrarian.” If you listen to Sheryl, she’s a wealth of knowledge about self-driving cars, to shifting gender roles, to how and why companies need to work on building trust with consumers.
Her job involves playing the role of contrarian. At Ford she spends time asking her colleagues about their own assumptions around their work. And this is the role of the futurist, to pose possibilities and various scenarios around the future and what could be. Technology has sped up the rate of change and this is why the role of the futurist is more important than ever.
“The reason we have so many futurists today is we have so much change happening so quickly. I need to put in the opposite vision just so you can entertain it," said Cheryl.
Futurist As Storyteller
Part of being a futurist is painting possible pictures of future scenarios. This role is part researcher, statistician but more importantly storyteller. As a storyteller you have the potential to tell an optimistic story of the future or a negative one. Sheryl said in our podcast, “If you’re an optimist you have rose colored glasses. That includes economic growth, prosperity, improved quality for masses, education for all, disease and suffering eradicated. But you always have to compare it to the exact opposite.”
Sheryl is an optimist but does her best to stay neutral. She said, “It’s much easier to imagine the many ways to things can go right than go wrong. The end game isn’t to see who wins, but to see how expansive you can get with your thinking.”
Sheryl is very measured when she speaks about the future, even self-driving cars. When I asked her in our interview what impact the media hype has on the work at Ford around self-driving cars she said, "The media hype doesn’t drive what Ford is doing. Ford has been working on autonomous vehicles for decades. The really big obstacle is the other stakeholders, barriers or hurdles. [For example] How do you resolve issues surrounding insurance, legislation, data privacy, protocol, partnerships with cities, infrastructures, public and private collaboration in place to monetize the infrastructure?" She added, "who should be in those discussions?"
Self Driving Cars - The West Isn't Ready
According to Ford the West isn't ready for self driving cars. The reason might surprise you. Ford did research in eight different countries around self-driving cars. What they found was 84% of people in India and 78% of people in China said they would drive self-driving cars. While in the US only 40% of people said they were ready for self-driving cars, and an even lower number for the UK. Sheryl said, "We didn’t ask why, but our theory is that China and India have the most egregious congestion takes place, unimaginable for westerners to comprehend. In Beijing the average daily commute can be five hours a day. This isn’t an infrastructure problem since in Beijing they have a highway 50 lanes wide. They suffered a traffic jam that lasted 12 days long." She believes that this is why in China an India people are ready for self-driving cars. You also have more fatalities because of cars.
However the West is a different story. According to Sheryl in the West the car is an extension of personal identity – the car symbolizes freedom and independence. It’s hard to give that up. She noted that autonomous vehicles could add to gridlock.
In the podcast we talk about the 2017 Predicting The Future Report released by Ford. The research talks about building customer trust, the rising role of women in society and sustainability.
The Rising Role Of Women
We talk extensively in the podcast about the rising influence of women and Sheryl talks about how she presents these ideas to various teams at Ford. She said, “The rising influence of women is something we pay attention to.” She illustrates to her team members who the rising influence of women impacts society in a variety of ways. “Let me show you how that’s playing out in education, budget planning, board membership and company performance. Let me tell you what women are telling us about our cars. Let me tell you how women are responsible for 80% of household decision making. Let’s look to other arenas for insights that might change the trajectory of our conversation,” said Sheryl.
Sheryl is very unique in her role as in-house futurist. You won’t want to miss our conversation on the modern customer podcast.
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