Customer Experience at the Speed of Life
Keeping up with customer expectations in the age of Digital Transformation means really listening to them.
New technology never stays in its own lane.
Instead, it has the power to totally transform society. Take the Neolithic Revolution, ushered in by the technologies of plant cultivation and animal husbandry: it not only changed what we ate, but laid the foundations of modern civilization by turning itinerant hunter-gatherer tribes into settled agriculturalists.
The Industrial Revolution not only shifted how and where goods were manufactured, but completely reorganized how and where we lived: a rural, agricultural culture driven by the rhythms of nature was transformed into our modern world of cities and time clocks. The Information Age, our current Digital Revolution, brought us instant and widespread access to knowledge, and opened up an entirely new frontier: the virtual world, where people spend increasing amounts of time and money, unrestricted by the physical limitations of our humdrum planet.
These eras of technological breakthroughs bring incredible improvements to our way of life – but change also comes with a price. Agriculture brought civilization – and plague. Industry brought cheap consumer goods – and pollution. The price of our current technological revolution seems to be time.
Everything in the digital age is faster, and constantly in flux: new products and technologies appear and displace the old, and suddenly we find ourselves streaming movies before we even had a chance to really figure out how to program the VCR.
In business, this relentless pace is felt acutely in the constantly evolving expectations and demands of the customer, and the difficulty in trying to create a customer experience that will ensure brand loyalty. Our age of digital disruption means ever-shifting ground beneath our feet, goalposts constantly being moved.
In an interview with Communicate magazine, Karen Boswell, Chief Experience Officer for marketing agency VMLY&R, provides some insight into how today’s brands can keep up with the fast pace of digital transformation:
“Connected technology and data have had their finger on the fast forward button for several years and the lockdown increased adoption exponentially across all demographics. To thrive amidst this pace of life, businesses must put their customers front and center, rearchitecting in totality around what their audience base needs and want, to be able to meet them on their terms at their point of interaction with a brand every single time[.]”
Things are moving fast, and the customer experience journey is growing more complicated: it includes more technology and data, more touch-points and platforms, and more individualization and customization. Taking all these elements into account can seem overwhelming, but at the center of this digital deluge remains the customer, and from the customer’s perspective it couldn’t be simpler: they want an experience with your brand that gives them what they want, when they want it. They want to be seen, understood and inspired. “Design to be seamless, frictionless, and enjoyable, and know that the bar is constantly being raised,” counsels Boswell.
As Boswell points out, online on-demand giants like Amazon have made immediate gratification and ease of purchase de rigeur. Consumers expect to interact with your brand on their terms, and buy on their terms. Creating a customer journey without taking this into account is guaranteed to fail, because in this Digital Age of remarkable plenty, they have other options. “A brand needs to be ready the second a customer has made the decision to purchase, wherever they may be, on any device, in any location,” says Boswell.
The most intriguing insight concerns the driving force of digital transformation itself: not the technology per se, but the needs and demands that the new technology creates. “Don’t compare yourself only to your competition, growth comes from serving those who fuel your business model, your customers. So, listen to them and allow yourself to be disrupted by those that would buy from you before you become disrupted by those who would steal from you.”
Rather than simply going along with the newest tech trends for the sake of “digital transformation,” understand how those trends have changed customer expectations and needs. Some new technologies actually result in negative customer experiences, and create a blowback expectation – for example, the over-use of data mining created a demand for enhanced privacy protections. Stay focused on what your customers actually want, not on keeping up with cool new tech for the sake of it (NFTs, anyone?). Technology is constantly evolving, and brands absolutely need to evolve with it – but some trends are going to be evolutionary dead-ends best avoided. Listen to your customers, keep their needs central to the customer experience journey, and avoid going the way of the dodo.