Getting Ready Now for the Future of Customer Experience
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Several months ago, I attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It’s always a great opportunity to get a finger on the pulse of technology. But this year, my experience at the show was different.
What changed? Like every year, I saw plenty of cool gadgets—new products like VR goggles or video displays that bend, curve, and snap together. Practically every product category now includes some form of digital technology.
Still, it wasn’t a particular technology or device that wowed me. It was the sheer scale and variety of products that have gone digital, and the intertwined consumer experiences that are emerging. It’s a new reality that many in the consulting and services industry (i.e., services partners) need to confront.
It’s no longer enough to invest in a few core technologies or have expertise in a few areas—the scale of interoperability demanded by future digital experiences is too vast. New technologies like augmented reality and AI, coupled with 5G connectivity, will take customer experiences and customer experience management (CXM) to a new level. Consequently, implementing CXM strategies will require organizations to act now to prepare for the future where they can best orchestrate the entire end-to-end customer journey, on any channel, at scale, in real time. Early adopters with an eye to the future are already on a path to defining their vision and practices around CXM while others are starting to build competencies in this area.
Putting these factors together, here are four areas where services partners need to get ready for the future of customer experience.
1. Put customer experience at the core
In practical terms, consumer expectations around experiences are already changing the way consumers interact with and think about brands, and the way digital experiences and products need to be designed. Because every day is a new opportunity to win customers—or lose their trust—the work is never done. We need to drive long-term value.
For services partners, this means starting with CXM as the core strategy:
- Articulate and drive a vision of what CXM means now and in the future. Partner with like-minded technology leaders. Partners excelling in this area have already built innovation centers to show new technologies at work and help customers visualize the experience. They also showcase customer work in immersive environments that go beyond theory and put prospective customers in the middle of the real-world experience. It is these “almost live” case studies in action that differentiate the leaders.
- Design engagements with a vision of the customer experience clients want to create, rather than the product or feature they want to implement. Brands are evaluated by consumers on the strength of their experiences.
- Treat CXM as a long-term value proposition. CXM needs to be thought of with the same rigor and innovation as a product offering, not as a finite project. Partners can help their clients move toward this future state and orientation.
2. Develop new talent and competencies
Services partners have a dual responsibility to not only invest in their own business transformation but also to act as trusted, prescient advisors to clients grappling with their own CXM challenges. That means success for service partners is as equally rooted in the talent they bring to the table as it is to their technical and creative execution.
Partners’ talent agendas need to consider fast-changing customer expectations, the blend of disciplines required to deliver in digital, and the broader expertise demanded by new technology platforms:
- Invest now in expertise that will help your company integrate new technology on an ongoing basis. Skills like custom programming, data integration, data analysis, and testing will all become critical.
- Nurture talent capable of working on emerging technologies—such as full stack architects, AI engineers, and experience designers—and support new roles as they emerge. Services businesses and brands alike will need to find talent capable of working across disciplines— e.g., creative technologists highly skilled in interaction design principles; deep technologists who build front-end technologies; and dedicated business analysts who approach CXM from a business standpoint.
- Organize and manage working teams differently. Future teams will require a unique combination of art and science to be successful. Product managers will need to partner with customer researchers, creative directors, business analysts and data strategists to commercialize and bring experiences to market. Similarly, delivery teams will need to deploy offsite members globally, working around the clock hand-in-hand with onsite members who are highly engaged with clients.
This sort of people and team transformation is often the hardest part. Services partners should organize their business in a way that brings these elements together now, to help their customers prepare for the future and enable talent faster.
3. Invest in data expertise
Accenture estimates that, “by 2025, we will have 200 billion connected devices, including more than 6 billion smartphones, generating more than 163 ZB of data.” Underneath every great digital experience is creative and engaging content informed by data signals that customer have agreed to share—the visibility that customers allow into their actions to help brands to get deeper insights and power better experiences. The importance of investing in data is visible in IPG’s acquisition of Acxiom, Publicis Groupe’s announcement to acquire Epsilon, and Adobe’s own big bet on Adobe Experience Platform.
Services partners delivering on data intelligence will want to:
- Build services competencies around data intelligence that enable brands to deliver stronger experiences.
- Invest in the partnerships and operational processes that will help clients stitch customer data together and achieve personalization at scale, while keeping data privacy top of mind.
4. Embrace and create a culture of constant reinvention
Services companies provide expertise to drive transformational outcomes for their clients. To stay a few steps ahead and profitable, partners must look to reinvent their service delivery and methods once they mature.
- Collaborate with ISVs and data partners to take advantage of investments in platform technology. The move from single apps to platform presents a big opportunity for service partners looking to extend enterprise architecture and develop new services integrating open source technology.
- Use automated testing or bots to drive more efficiency. It’s a great example of disruption that creates customer benefits, while freeing up expensive delivery resources for high-value activities.
- Develop integration skills to orchestrate customer experiences across public clouds. Integration services will be more of a competitive advantage as infrastructure management services get commoditized with the move of IT services to the cloud.
A final thought
Looking to the future, consulting and services firms face a classic early adopter’s conundrum. As new technologies and experiences emerge, should these firms develop ahead of these technologies becoming mainstream, or wait until there is wider adoption?
My view is that the future arrives too quickly to wait. Leading services partners will have a point of view for each emerging technology and be prepared to provide advisory and full implementation/lifecycle services. They will place bets on where to double down and create new service offerings to realize early gains.
By putting customer experience at the core, developing new talent and competencies, investing in data expertise, and reinventing constantly, services providers can be prepared to move quickly when emerging technologies jump the chasm to mass adoption.