It’s what marketers and brand owners everywhere are talking about: the Customer Experience. More and more businesses are investing in it as a way to maintain relevancy amidst ongoing disruption. Last month, we had the opportunity to interview Peter Lee, Customer Experience Consultant at Cisco. Lee has previously led companies such as IBM, Walt Disney and PetSmart in creating innovative solutions that successfully deliver on business goals. His perspective provides valuable insight for any consumer facing business that is looking towards the future.

How data and technology intersects with the customer experience…

“My view is that when you look at the customer experience you don’t actually look at the technology. Because if the customer experience is done right the customer should never know what the technology is.

What’s more important is for the business to understand their consumer and the consumer experience they’re actually trying to create … so the technology in a lot of aspects needs to be pretty dynamic.”

Creating a single view of the customer…

“The biggest challenge is how much legacy baggage a business needs to carry with them. Often times, the legacy data and profiles businesses have for customers is really good but at times [it can be negative] because it’s what limits them from moving forward from a practical perspective.

There was a point in time when we gathered a lot of information around name, address, and a couple of other bits of information we thought were interesting and informative only to realise that it only told you a little glimmer about the person, but nothing about who they really are, how they really shop, what their personality is, what their likes and dislikes are and so on.”

“Protect the future of what your customer experience is going to be and then look at the technologies that enable you to deliver on that better, faster, cheaper.”

How we can design personalized customer experiences …

“In the future it won’t be one customer experience, it will be a context of customer experiences. For example, if I go to the gas station, I want my customer experience to be repeatable, static, simple. I want to go in and go out. But if I go into a grocery store, I may want an experience where I’m going in to buy milk and eggs, but the next time it may be that I’m trying to figure out what to eat that night and I want my experience then to be much more experiential. So how does [the grocery store] take what my day was like, what my mood is like, etc. to then create an experience that is pre-mapped for me based on what was discovered…

That’s where I think the next evolution is: a more ad hoc and dynamic experience based on [consumer] personalities. Artificial Intelligence can also be used in looking at what the customer experience could be.”

The common pitfalls when adopting new technology…

“Typically what I’ve seen is a couple of things: one is that either businesses take the new technology and they try to integrate it but it’s a round peg in a square hole. They’re trying to use a new technology that just doesn’t fit in with whatever it is they may have for the backend architecture or the workflow process or whatever the case may be. The other problem that typically occurs is that people jump on a shiny new technology, get it to do one thing, but then forget about the journey.”

[On the experience provided by beacons] “…it was fun the first time because it was new but the second time you go into the store and it says ‘welcome to our store’ and it doesn’t even know that it’s you again and you go there every day, well now the technology went from new, shiny, and exciting to boring, unexciting and probably intrusive … again [the businesses] were just not thinking of what the actual business outcome of that new technology was, what the new technology actually gave them.”

On making the business case for investments…

“No company ever has enough budget to do everything – that’s always true. I would say the bigger challenge is the cultural methodology that people are not implementing in a lot of cases … Any time I hear the discussions [of technology being too expensive], a couple of things come to mind: first, is that the business outcome wasn’t clearly defined. Because whether something costs $100,000 to implement or $100 million to implement, if the business outcome and business models are vetted and formulated and are believable then it makes no difference because your investment is going to get paid.

What’s missing in a lot of companies culture and DNA is the ability to think with much more agility. What you do is take that big problem and break it down into definable, iterative pieces that you can deliver over a continuous basis. So the first project may only cost $500,000 to show eight, small, minimal viable products that lead you towards that larger $100 million dollar vision of where you want to go, and so on… You take something that’s daunting and break it down into small iterative pieces that are small enough for you to get started with and show the value along the way on a continuous basis.”

Preparing for future disruption…

Lee warns against the mindset of trying to protect old investments, “…in many cases you would have missed the boat if what you were trying to do is future proof an investment.” We only have to look at the home video, music and taxi industries to see how that played out. Lee suggests a more sound strategy for businesses: “protect the future of what your customer experience is going to be and then look at the technologies that enable you to deliver on that better, faster, cheaper.”

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