Earlier this month Local Measure and Cisco hosted a customer experience symposium at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas featuring presentations from renowned customer experience experts Brian Solis and Peter Lee. The insights were too good to not share, so welcome to the first part of a 2-part series on the event, featuring insights from Brian Solis.

Brian Solis is a world-renown digital analyst, anthropologist and futurist as well as the author of several books discussing digital marketing, evolving business models, customer experience and brand innovation. Here’s a summary of what Brian had to say to our audience of customer experience and hospitality executives.

Brian Solis, "Creating Humanized Customer Experiences for a Digital World" at UNLV

We need to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers

The customer doesn’t shut off and on, we need to look at customer experience from a holistic point of view. It doesn’t work for the customer to have a great experience in one area of your hotel/restaurant/store but then a terrible experience when they jump on your website – if that last touchpoint that failed to meet expectation, it taints the entire experience.

Too many executives have never shopped in their own store or had to book a hotel room – so they can’t understand it. You’ve got to experience it from their perspective.

It’s not just your competitors who are setting the standards

Customers simply love great experiences. Once they experience something really extraordinary that quickly becomes the standard - it doesn’t matter if it’s in the same industry space or not.

We may not think we compete against Uber or DoorDash, but they are still setting the standards for our customers. The fact that a person in Sydney knows they can expect an Uber car to reach them in three and half minutes, sits in their hearts and minds because it responds to their impatience. It starts to change their behavor in ways that people never see coming. For example, sick people are increasingly calling Uber rather than an ambulance to take them to the hospital because it’s cheaper and faster. No one saw that coming - not uber drivers and not the paramedics.

Digital Darwinism

“The reality is that every time we adopt a new technology it changes us.” This includes our behaviors, expectations and customs. It’s something we have to embrace and keep up with every single day from an operational perspective. We can’t keep up unless we embrace Digital Darwinism.

Sometimes businesses will bring in gimmicks to refresh an experience – like hey, why don’t we add some “Instagrammable” backdrops to make people engage more – but that’s not truly understanding the customer.

The state of human experience

“We are busy trying to build on innovations that are so outdated that what we’re actually doing is iterating and not innovating. The difference is doing something better versus creating new value.”

Somewhere along the way technology changed things so much we had to start looking at psychographics rather than demographics. Are you able to see the mindset of your customers and the opportunity to innovate? For example, rather than say that customers staring at their phones are not in the moment, try shifting your thinking to ‘this is how our customers now experience the moment – by sharing it in real time with their friends’.

The experience divide

We make decisions from an executive mindset that focuses on metrics and KPIs, this is not your customers’ mindset. Your customers will make decisions based on their interest, what will make them happiest. Over time this becomes ‘the experience divide’.

Sure, customers will still follow the business processes and standards when there is no other choice, but they won’t do it forever. We’ve got to build the bridge and think differently.

“We’re not just in the experience business, we’re in the humanity business.” Experience is an emotional reaction to a moment, it’s something you sense and interpret and those moments add up to create what that experience really is.

“If you are not designing for how someone feels and reacts, then you are not in the experience business. Everything else: from technology, to transactions, to logistics to support is designed to bring that to life.”

“Memories become shared expressions, and shared expressions in aggregate, become the brand. It reverses the whole concept of brand experience.”

Customer service as the achilles heel

The achilles heel of brand experiences is customer service – it’s the most emotional touchpoint – and we’re putting chatbots out there to deal with it. The existing mindset is that for 60 years we’ve been outsourcing call centers to get further and further away from this emotional journey. It’s no wonder customers are frustrated. This is why the best companies now are trying to figure out how to humanize these moments. Which is why service experience (SX) is now a priority for the C-suite, as is user experience (UX). When you add all this up, you now have a construct for experience design in 2020.

We can’t even have the conversation with our customers until we understand them. Think of fast food chain customers waiting to order – they’re not really present in the store in their minds, they’re on their phones having a mobile experience because they need the escape. We look at our phones up to 4 hours a day and it’s actually rewiring our brains.

So many apps are designed to manipulate, to capture your attention. Your customer is constantly distracted which makes it so easy to miss something unless you’re intentional about trying to give them that escape. Your customer now lives a virtual and physical life and they don’t shut off in between the two – it’s just one world.

There are 3 major consumer behavior trends:

  1. The ‘well advised’ consumer
  2. The ‘right now’ consumer
  3. The ‘right here’ consumer

Consumers don’t delineate between great experiences offline and online – they just want what they want, when they want, where they want.

So how do we give customers what they want?

There are 8 pillars of the on-demand economy (where impatience is a virtue):

  1. Choice
  2. Immediacy
  3. Convenience
  4. Accuracy
  5. Experiential
  6. Integrated
  7. Personalized
  8. Native

Mindset is everything. Innovation is the work you do to conform to the expectations and aspirations of people as they evolve instead of making them conform to your legacy perspectives, assumptions, processes and metrics of success.

Digital insights aren’t just for digital technology, it’s for life, for bringing the ‘wow’ to people. Everything is open to re-imagination whether it’s space, paper or a screen.