Recently, there has been a lot of "buzz" in the IT world about the potential rewards and possible pitfalls of becoming a digital business. Companies are rushing to digitize everything they possibly can, and the effects are becoming far-reaching. However, no single aspect of business has been impacted more by digitization than that of the customer experience. Done correctly, businesses have the opportunity to engage customers on a more personal level, allow employees to be more productive, and improve profitability. Done incorrectly, digital initiatives can frustrate employees and annoy customers leading to a decline in profits or revenue.
In increasing numbers, customers are demanding a more personalized experience that connects smoothly across all channels. To help satisfy the needs of the digital customer, many successful businesses have implemented certain strategies.
- Humans are returning to customer service. Customers want to handle tasks themselves whenever possible, but when they need help, they want to speak to another human rather than navigate through a complex menu. Digitization allows customers to "self-serve" when desired while freeing reps to provide assistance faster and more efficiently. Aided by the innovative capabilities of cognitive computing, reps can offer personalized assistance to help strengthen the relationship between the company and the customer.
- Interactions are occurring in connected systems. The growth of the "Internet of Things" has made it possible for customers to connect a variety of devices to the Internet. For example, wearable technology includes devices that can monitor activity or vital signs. With the data available through the device, it can be emailed to the user or transmitted to a health care provider. Another example of connected systems is the ability for customers to make a purchase while chatting with a rep online. The key is to make the connections effortless, requiring little or no user interaction, such as a door that unlocks when the owner's smartphone is within a specified range.
- Predictive computing is becoming more common. Most customers would be delighted if a company could read their minds to show only the products they want to buy. Predictive computing is not quite that far along yet, but it can use purchase histories to suggest the most likely choices. Another way that companies are using predictive computing is to stage inventory at various warehouses throughout the country based on analysis of how many of each product will likely sell in each geographical region. This allows companies (and customers) to save on shipping costs while reducing the transit time to the customer.
- The gap between offline and online experiences is being closed. Traditionally, users who switch devices or who use a service, both online and offline, have often encountered difficulties. One notable example is the difficulties encountered with apps such as an online music service, which allows users to download files to their phones that can be played back later but require the site to transmit an authorization. Businesses are finding new ways to close the gap and offer customers a consistent, trouble-free experience.
- The digital experience is becoming less fragmented. Many companies are beginning to collaborate with other businesses to make things easier for customers by offering multiple services simultaneously. Imagine booking a hotel room and having the opportunity to schedule a flight, request a shuttle to the airport, rent a car upon arrival and purchase tickets to local events without having to visit another website or enter personal information more than once.
Making the most of the digital revolution is not free from challenges, however. It requires quality data—and a lot of it. It requires respecting the privacy of customers and keeping their information secure. It also requires an awareness of the line between offering customers a personalized experience and invading privacy. Those companies that can master digitization are the ones who are most likely to be successful in the coming years.