Is your company running from the future or preparing for it?
Nearly every business leader knows the the future of work and technology will bring huge changes, but very few of them are actually doing anything about it. Companies that invest now to become future ready will be the ones that lead and withstand upcoming changes instead of getting disrupted and being pulled in multiple directions.
Wunderman Global CMO Jamie Gutfreund and her team recently undertook a major research project and discovered a large disconnect between companies seeing problems and actually solving them. Most people see change as an obstacle instead of an opportunity. And while Gutfreund agrees that you can’t predict the future, it is definitely possible and wise to prepare for it.
One of the main keys to becoming future ready is to be constantly evolving. As technology changes, it opens new doors for how brands connect with customers. Brands that are preparing for the future pay attention to new technology and find new, innovative ways to share their messages and connect with customers. It’s easier said than done, however. The research by Wunderman found that while the majority of brands say they are future focused, 70% of business leaders said they can’t sacrifice short-term gains for long-term goals.
The important thing to remember is that digital transformation and new technology isn’t just a trend. It’s a long-term game and a powerful tool for forward-thinking companies to have in their tool belts. Digital transformation isn’t a quick fix but rather something that needs to happen over time.
However, digital tools don’t matter if the messaging isn’t there. Gutfreund says that the most successful companies are the ones that have set themselves up to receive feedback from employees, customers, competitors and industry leaders. These companies can hear what is going on and put it into context of what their brand stands for.
Companies that are future ready can’t operate in a silo. They have to be exposed to what is going on with their customers and across all industries. Instead of simply competing against other companies in the same industry, technology and customer experience have made it so that all brands are competing against each other. Customers compare every interaction with a brand to their best brand interactions, regardless of if that means a bank or airline is getting compared to Netflix or Amazon. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make listening and customer experience a key focus moving forward.
Wunderman’s research also uncovered the idea of wantedness. Today’s customers have all the power. Instead of brands seeking loyal customers, they need to pivot and serve their customers as loyal brands. The vast majority of customers will only consider using brands that show they are interested and care about their customers. Customers want to feel wanted, and it’s up to brands to give them that special treatment.
So much of the buzz in the consumer world is around transparency and low levels of trust. Brands that can show they are invested in incorporating feedback and new technology and actually want to serve their customers will not only be ready for the future but will be the ones leading it.
A huge change is coming to Europe, and most businesses aren’t ready.
The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, goes into effect May 25, and with it comes a power shift that allows customers more access to their personal data than ever before.
Customer data has long been thought of as a business asset. However, under GDPR, customers are now taking back ownership of their information and the power that comes with it. They can now choose what information companies have and delete their information from a company’s database for any reason. Companies that don’t comply with the new regulations run the risk of being fined up to millions of dollars.
However, the majority of businesses aren’t prepared for the new legislation. According to Jeff Nicholson, VP CRM of Pegasystems, most companies didn’t realize the impact GDPR would have until it was too late. That leaves companies scrambling to come up with a data solution that meets the guidelines of transparency while also preparing for a potential wave of customer data requests.
A new survey from Pegasystems found that 82% of EU residents plan to use their new rights to view, limit or erase their personal information that companies have on file. That means that not only will companies have to field the requests and share the information they have on each customer, they will also potentially lose customer data if customers request to erase their data. Companies also should handle the request in a way to adds to their customer experience.
Nicholson says it’s more a question of when, not if, the requests will come in. Companies must plan for large numbers of customers asking to see and potentially remove their data. GDPR doesn’t grant exceptions if there are too many requests for a company to handle in time, so all brands must be prepared for large volumes.
Nicholson says the best thing companies can do to be GDPR ready is to be proactive. The power and data shift is coming, and companies that ignore it or don’t plan accordingly run the serious risk of being blindsided by data requests and changes. Being transparent and creating reliable processes for customer data allows proactive brands the chance to build relationships with customers and gain a competitive advantage.
It all comes down to trust and transparency. Customers want to know they can trust companies to take care of their personal information and not sell it or use it inappropriately. Companies that can demonstrate customer trust will be much more successful than unprepared companies inundated with customer deletion requests.
One of the biggest downsides of customers electing to have their data erased is that it can no longer be used for data analytics. Losing data means companies won’t be as connected to customers or have as many insights into their preferences and habits. One of the most vulnerable industries with these changes is retail, which relies heavily on customer data for personalized recommendations and marketing. Companies need to learn to do more with less data to still provide a high-quality, personalized experience.
GDPR is a huge shift in the EU, and it has the potential to expand to other parts of the world, including the U.S. According to Nicholson, the implementation day of May 25 isn’t the finish line but rather the starting line to a long road of customer data changes. Companies that are proactive and GDPR ready will set the tone and can weather the shifting consumer landscape.
There are often two camps when it comes to customer experience: those who think automation and technology is the future, and those who think humans will still perform every task. However, perhaps the most likely scenario is one championed by David Clarke, Global CxO & Experience Consulting Leader, Digital Principal at PwC, who believes future success in customer experience comes from a combination of people plus technology.
One of David’s first suggestions to companies and one that he is constantly using in his own work is for companies to consider if they are transactional or transformational. Transactional companies treat their customers like numbers and are just there to get the job done, while transformational companies aim to really change their customers’ lives by providing a quality product or service and a great experience to go along with it. Although technology is a powerful tool for customer experience, relying on robots can quickly turn a company into a transactional company where customers only interact with the brand to make a purchase and move on. However, if things are too people-heavy, a company can lose efficiency.
The key is to find the balance between technology and people. David advises that changes don’t have to be massive. Brands don’t need to rush out and buy the latest automated technology, but should instead start with the technology they already have on hand. Small changes can create momentum. The journey to customer experience is never over, but taking small steps helps things grow and keeps the company moving to continual success. As David says, lots of good steps amplify each other and keep you moving in the right direction.
Technology can not only open new doors with customers but also connect with the second half of the equation: human employees. PwC focuses on mentoring associates to give them the individual tools they need to succeed. Transformational companies move easily between industries, and a lot of that comes from moving employees between disciplines. PwC focuses on building the right team for each project, which often involves bringing together employees from different departments. The goal is to find the right people to work together to extract the best from each person. Technology can help, but the work of a cohesive and diverse team of humans can’t be replaced.
This approach to the future of customer experience is reflected in a new report from PwC. One of the key takeaways from that report is that customers are willing to pay up to 16% more for a better experience. This statistic shows the power of customer experience—after all, not many other investments or marketing campaigns lead to a 16% price premium. The survey also found that 42% of people would pay more for a warm welcome, which is something that can’t be done by a robot.
The report also found that customers will walk away after one bad experience, and that the cost of earning them back is very high. In our connected society, customers have lots of sources of information and chances to judge companies, so brands need to always be focusing on customer experience and earning customer loyalty.
The future of customer experience isn’t about replacing people with technology. New technology only amplifies the human experience. More than half of customers surveyed said brands have lost their human touch. In order to make the most of customer experience, brands should focus on finding ways to complement the human experience with automation. Instead of simply becoming robot-controlled commodities, companies need to build the connection between people and technology to differentiate themselves.
Innovative companies stay ahead of the curve and are constantly moving forward. As David says, moving to the future of customer experience isn’t something you do once and are done with—it is a constant movement of small steps and regular innovation to find the next thing to please customers. There is always change, and that change comes from combining people and technology.
In a world filled with uncertainty, helping everyday Americans gain financial security has never been more important. That’s been the goal of Prudential Financial since it was founded in 1875, but the company has changed its methods with the times and is now leading the charge for innovation.
One of the big players in that charge is Chief Customer Officer Naveen Agarwal, who views his role as connecting the dots of every customer interaction. Naveen says the biggest challenge in customer experience, especially in the financial services industry, is that it is often organized by product because of how the business is managed internally. This creates a fractured experience for customers, who often have completely different interactions depending on if they are talking to someone in banking versus someone in the credit card department. Naveen’s goal is to connect the entire ecosystem and not let management silos define the customer experience.
Technology and data play a huge role in breaking down those silos. Before Naveen could create a customer-focused strategy, he had to look at the data to understand customers. Prudential’s more than 300 websites and 40 call centers provided plenty of data about why customers were connecting with the brand and where they were in the customer journey. With a base understanding, the team could then improve those interactions with technology.
In the financial world, customers work with either fast money or slow money. Fast money includes things that are done quickly, like account maintenance and credit card applications. Prudential is good at helping customers pay their money faster. On the other hand, slow money involves long-term things like investments and retirement. In these areas, people tend to be very uninformed and overwhelmed. Prudential saw a gap in the customer journey where people were avoiding these big decisions because they simply didn’t know enough. As a result, it created an online content library with resources broken down by subject to help people learn how to manage their money.
This is especially important for people who are left as beneficiaries of their loved ones’ accounts. Prudential’s goal is to educate customers in their times of need, and it does that with an innovative survivor center with content specifically tailored to people dealing with the financial aftermath of the loss of a loved one.
Even with more than 20 million customers across the globe, Prudential still aims to create personalized experiences. By tracking customer behavior, the company can understand each customer’s preferences and stage of life. The goal is that no matter how a customer interacts with the brand, Prudential employees always discuss each customer’s individual needs. In many cases it opens up needs and questions customers didn’t even know they had.
AI and machine learning have played a large role in transforming Prudential’s core values for modern customers. Prudential is one of the best examples of putting AI into action in a way that truly transforms the customer experience. It used to be that applying for life insurance required multiple meetings, tons of paperwork, and invasive tests, which was a drain on the company and its customers. The entire process could take up to 10 weeks before customers were properly assessed for their risk. Prudential moved to AI to turn the basic information provided by customers on their initial life insurance applications into an algorithm to predict risk. The model is 93% accurate and can produce a policy in two days instead of two months. As a result, the number of customers buying life insurance has shifted.
As Prudential moves towards the future, it will continue to put customers first and use the best data-driven technology. Customer-focused executives and team members should understand technology and customer needs because everything they do has a deep layer of technology. Prudential shows that even a long-standing brand can transform itself to serve customers with innovative data and technology.
In a world where many customers just feel like dollar signs or voices on the phone, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world promises its customers they will be able to see the whites of its employees’ eyes. No matter the issue, there will always be someone there so closely involved in the situation that customers will know who they are and feel their presence.
It’s a powerful identity that Gary Adey, Commercial & Operations Director, Group Enterprise at Vodafone, has created for his team. Called Red Line, it’s an effort that showcases the importance of trust, ownership, and empathy in customer experience, especially when it comes to the operations team. Whenever a customer issue crosses the Red Line, the team owns it until it is resolved.
The Red Line identity is something that employees can connect with and that makes them proud to work for Vodafone. They then use that identity to drive positive interactions with their commercial and enterprise customers around the world.
Vodafone went through a transformation three years ago when it realized it needed to create a strong customer experience to match the high-quality network in which it had invested so much money. The company set a goal to be the customer experience leader in every market it operates in—a tall order considering Vodafone’s 500 million customers in 26 countries, including both consumer and enterprise customers.
Gary’s operations team plays a unique role in customer experience that isn’t seen in many other companies. At Vodafone, operations is an important piece of the culture that aims to create the optimum mix between people, technology, and process. Operations is directly connected to digital transformation and customer experience.
One way Vodafone drives customer experience is by focusing more on structure than on rules. Employees don’t have strict rules they have to follow; instead, they are given a structure and the autonomy to act within that structure to provide the customer what they need. Gary wants his employees to be empowered and passionate and not to be held back by rules or things they don’t have authority to do. Vodafone knows the importance of investing in customer experience, especially considering that it takes 12 positive customer interactions to undo the damage of one negative interaction. Investing in creating positive interactions from the beginning is more cost effective than risking a bad experience and having to fix it later.
This is especially important considering the wide range of interactions employees have with customers. On the consumer side, customers have questions about things like their bills, coverage, and upgrades. Vodafone has digitized many of those interactions so customers can engage digitally through the app for a more efficient and seamless interaction. On the enterprise side, the operations team supports large multinational customers who may have issues with their infrastructure that impacts everything about their business. Employees have to be ready to address a broad catalog of customer experience issues.
In the competitive telecommunications world, Vodafone sees customer experience as a sustainable differentiator that helps it stand out from the competition. It is easy to see the correlation between strong NPS and company growth. The company is focused on building trust with its long-term customers.
Vodafone’s operations team also stays on top of new technology and innovations. As trends and technology change, the company wants to be able to provide the best service and options to its customers, including an innovative program around the changing role of the retail store. This is particularly important in the enterprise space where many of Vodafone’s customers are going through their own digital transformations. By using new technology, Vodafone can have more data to create personalized experiences that can be scaled across countries and segments.
Operations plays a pivotal role in customer experience, as shown at Vodafone. By creating a team that owns the customer experience and is passionate about serving customers the best it can, operations can become the heart of any customer experienced-focused company.