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Disruptive technology has long been primarily the domain of the CIO or the CTO, which made sense since it does say, “technology” in there. But, by definition, the word disruptive has an all-hands-on-deck connotation that suggests that perhaps we need to call in a champion of Customer Experience in 2013.
I see four major disruptive technologies which will test, and stress, large and small companies this year and I also see critical role to be filled by the CMO or some other champion of Customer Experience.
1. MOBILE DEVICES: We all have them and we all want to use them for work. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is the new norm and one that challenges infrastructure, corporate policy, and security, sometimes to the limit. Marc Andreessen did a good job in a recent TechCrunch article explaining why change is now bottom up, as opposed to the top down approach of 50 years ago. BYOD is a bottom-up change that says, “I do this at home and I now want to do it at work too”.
2. SOCIAL MEDIA: If companies were skeptical about social media five years ago, those days are long gone. True, many companies hit it with their blunt instruments of traditional marketing tools which, of course, fell flat. But once they learned the dance and engaged with customers the way they wanted to be engaged, life got a bit better for everyone involved. Did I want to look at a Strabucks Facebook page? No, of course not. Do I want to send a $10 Starbucks gift card to a friend on her birthday through Facebook? Happily!
3. CLOUD COMPUTING: Last year we saw many companies moving their business processes and mission-critical applications to the cloud. While generally concerned about security, what was once a band of rouge employees posting collaborative work on Google Docs, entire company infrastructures have migrated to the cloud in recent years. But all this is not without peril. Consider Evernote, the wildly popular storage and retrieval company. Their success was born out of the realization that the poor, hapless schlumps who had to use SharePoint at work could use Evernote at home and it was awesome! But last week, right at he time when Evernote was creating a big push in the marketplace with Evernote for Business, a massive security breach happens forcing over 50 million users to have to change their passwords. Evernote responded quickly and has announced today that they are implementing Two-Factor Authentication but I am certain there were some heated “I told you so!” conversations in corporate board rooms. This is where top-down security meets bottom-up consumer demand.
4. BIG DATA: 2012 was the year when we all learned to use the phrase “Big Data” and roll it around in our mouths. But many organizations haven’t a clue as to what big data is really all about and how to harness and leverage big data and turn it into actionable business intelligence. From a customer experience perspective the benefits of big data are still rather abstract and nebulous.In fact, many consumers assume that companies are going to use big data to trick them into doing something. But when your credit card company suddenly recommends a new restaurant that you happen to be near and they say you will love and…oh wow…they are actually right…well, big data is working for us, isn’t it?
What does this have to do with Customer Experience? Well, pretty much everything. By identifying how your customers engage with your business, you will begin to see how your company’s decisions about cloud computing, big data, social media, and mobile devices all look from their perspective. And this is why a champion of Customer Experience (Service Design if you are in the UK) needs to be front and center with these disruptive technologies. One of the most powerful tools I have seen on consulting engagements over the past few years has been the creation process of a Customer Journey Map. A Customer Journey Map describes the journey of a customer by representing the different touchpoints that define all interactions with your product or service. A great little company in Colorado called EffectiveUI created this customer journey map that I first saw on Smashing Magazine’s site and I have seen it pop up about a hundred times whenever customer journey maps are discussed so I will put it up here now:
In a previous post I mentioned that a big insight into doing customer journey maps is that biggest missed opportunities happen in the white space between the individual business units of an organization. If you just looked at an organization’s business units they would look like they were doing a pretty good job but you would be missing some critically important business intelligence. By speaking with customers you learn where the handoffs aren’t happening or at least aren’t happening well. You can also step back a bit and perhaps realize that instead of building a bigger call center, by fixing these procedural and operational customer experience issues you may find that you don’t even need that bigger call center anymore. In a best case scenario, you have discovered that your customers don’t want a better call center experience, they just want things to work right!
So, what about those three reasons I mentioned in the headline? Here they are:
1. KNOW THY CUSTOMER
Disruptive technology are disruptive for your company but they are also are disruptive for your customers. Consult with them, find out how they are thinking and feeling about their interactions with your company. Discover some behavioral, attitudinal and quantifiable things you didn’t know before. During times of disruption it is even more important to (now, you know you know this) communicate! Then take what you learn and bring it back to the hive to discuss your corporate strategy and operations around these disruptive technologies.
2. ANTICIPATE YOUR CUSTOMERS RISKS AND MITIGATE THEM
Your customers probably know more about what they want than you do. Obvious? I think not if you observe how most companies operate. Don’t take a “we know best” approach that doesn’t include your customers. It may have worked for Apple but, hey, you’re not them. What if Evernote talked to customers and found that they were putting more and more sensitive information in Evernote, do you think they would have waited for a security breach to implement a more secure authentication? That breach almost sunk their business and I would argue that the resulting customer ill will was avoidable.
3. WITHOUT A CMO, OR SOME CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE CHAMPION, YOUR DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY INITIATIVES ARE HIGHLY EXPOSED. GET ALL THE RIGHT PEOPLE AT THE TABLE.
Beyond the incredibly useful business insights and intelligence you will glean from your customer experience work there is a powerful risk mitigation component. Disruptive technologies are risky by definition. Why wouldn’t you want to mitigate that risk?