The Future Of Customer Experience: People Plus Technology

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Listen to Global CxO Experience Consulting Leader, Digital Principal at PwC David Clarke, on the Modern Customer Podcast.

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.

David Clarke, Global CxO Experience Consulting Leader, Digital Principal at PwC

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 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.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and author of “More Is More.” Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.

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