Improving the customer experience with technology innovation

We live in an age where experience means everything. The purchasing decisions of digitally-empowered customers, whether in the B2B or B2C sector, are strongly affected by their experiences. How customers feel is driving how they engage with businesses at every level. Data that measures and reflects those feelings and experiences is therefore of critical importance.

“Customers want to be known, and so context and relevance of data become really important,” believes Sudhir Rajagopal, Research Director, Future of Customer Experience with analyst firm IDC, speaking at the recent Business Innovation Leaders Forum roundtable event titled ‘Innovations in Technology to improve Customer Experience’. “We talk a lot about personalization, but it really comes down to the context within which customers are engaging with businesses. That dictates how businesses react back to customers. In a digital environment, enterprise leaders are prioritizing digital experiences. We found that this is the number one priority for C suite executives worldwide.”

Figure 1: Making CX a priority


The customer experience may be paramount as a transformational priority, but it’s not the only item on the C-suite agenda. Enterprise leaders want to be able to balance the CX priority with other factors such as operational efficiency. “This is not a surprise given the tough macroeconomic environment,” believes Rajagopal. “We see operational efficiency and CX competing with each other.”

So what is the future of the customer experience? Rajagopal sees it as an empathetic relationship between customers and brands, built on what the customer wants and how they want to be treated. Technology provides a lens to measure, learn and engage: “It’s not just about customer data, it’s also about data on the organization, and the processes through which they interact,” he says. “This all starts to drive and inform how we design experiences and how we execute on them. It’s about the ability to create frictionless experiences for customers, build intelligence and learn more about them. You need to understand customer sentiment.”

When it comes to building and driving customer empathy, organisations need to move on from just focussing on digital transformation, maturing to become true digital businesses: “This means driving initiatives on the security side, in augmented personalization, in the rise of IoT and devices, in the whole notion around edge data,” he argues. “Data really starts to become the fuel for becoming a digital enterprise, using data for customer engagement, and offering personalized experiences.”

Figure 2: Becoming a true digital business


The Business Innovation Leaders Forum invited a panel of CX thought leaders to engage in debate. Eduarda Camacho is Senior Vice President, Customer Success & Chief Customer Officer with BMC Software. She says BMC is focussed on solutions that help customers, stretching from IT operations, on prem and in the cloud, delivering actionable business insights, agility, and customer centricity: “This is a key topic for us, because a unified view of data helps deliver maximum benefits, as well as impact on purchasing decisions,” she notes. “We’ve recently published a survey about profitable outcomes and how they are linked to data-driven maturity, and it proves the relationship between profit and customer satisfaction, with 55% of respondents seeing a strong correlation between those two factors.”

Jason Purvor, Data Centre Transformation and Mass Migration Lead with Google Cloud shared a quote from former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who said that there are only two sources of competitive advantage: the ability to learn more about customers faster than the competition, and the ability to turn that learning into action faster than the competition: “That sums up what our customers are really looking for,” Purvor believes. “They’re seeking competitive advantage and the ability to survive and thrive in the new normal. Data has become the way in which they are able to reach that objective.”

People, he says, who have bad data often make bad decisions with great certainty: “It’s not their fault that they’re making those bad decisions,” he concludes. “It’s just that they’re not aware of what their environments look truly like. I think there are parallels with customer experiences here. If you don’t have the listening posts along the customer journey to understand what the sentiment is, you don’t know if you are doing things the right way. Are customers giving you information that you’re ignoring along that customer journey, information you could use to make real, rational, powerful changes which really affect the experience of those customers?”

Nick Parmar, Global VP of Collaboration Services & Business Unit Head with TATA Communications sees a key CX challenge as lying with siloed data and broken systems: “You need deep understanding of customer needs and preferences across all touchpoints,” he says. “Organizations need to focus on collecting and analysing all data from all sources on needs, preferences and behaviours. This includes data coming from social media, mobile apps, websites, customer interactions and other channels so you can create that valued customer profile.”

It’s a challenging task, as Parmar is happy to admit: “You might have many touch points and yet be missing out on context. Bringing everything together and providing that contextual response in a timely fashion is the kind of complicated task which most organizations are facing these days. That’s why TATA is talking about a hyper-connected ecosystem, where everything is linked. Every element needs to work cohesively, requiring a digital fabric to stitch it all together.”

Purvor of Google Cloud says that many organisations approaching the company for help are trying to exploit their data to create new services to inspire and excite customers: “We’re the poster child for that, because we have multiple different services in our stable,” he claims. “We have over a billion users, and we’re all about coalescing the world’s data and making it universally accessible. We have ads where we can personalize experiences. Customers are keen to understand how they can leverage that capability. We have seamless services that are almost invisible. For example, once you log in to a Google account, you can log automatically into multiple different websites without having to remember a password. Google Maps and Gmail are all seamless. The experience between different platforms is seamless.”

Camacho of BMC Software believes that the desired level of seamlessness starts with the need to scale the backend efficiently, so as to be able to handle growing complexity of data and IT infrastructure: “We also see a lot of customers leveraging AI and AI operations, to be able to have a more robust, scalable, non-human way of enabling the front end to work perfectly, without downtime,” she says. “We provide everything around intelligence, automation and remediation, and we work with our customers around AI ops.”

Parmar of TATA Communications concludes with the non-technical view that the customer journey needs to start internally, within an organization: “You need to first have a better way of measuring the employee experience,” he believes. “A happy and engaged employee results in an improved customer service, higher productivity, lower staff turnover and better financial outcomes for the organization. Happiness is contagious. If customer agents are happy, customers will always get a good experience.”

The next priority, he suggests, is being able to map the customer journey, identifying the pain points and areas of improvement, using this as the basis for automation and AI-driven tools and initiatives: “The final stage is involving customers in the process,” he says. “It’s easy to forget to use feedback from the customer. Soliciting feedback from customers should be behind automation and AI implementation decisions, helping to provide CX that really meets their expectations.”

By Guy Matthews, Editor-in-Chief

Analyst Chair: Sudhir Rajagopal, Research Director, Future of Customer Experience, IDC
Eduarda Camacho, Senior Vice President, Customer Success & Chief Customer Officer, BMC Software
Jason Purvor, Data Centre Transformation and Mass Migration Lead, Google Cloud
Nick Parmar, Global Vice President of Collaboration Services & Business Unit Head, TATA Communications

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Book of the Month*

The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck

By Dr Christian Busch
Serendipity is an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. To other people it looks like “good luck”, but it is more the ability to recognise and seize an opportunity, rather than have good fortune thrust upon one. Finding a wallet stuffed with money on the conference room floor is good luck, whereas holding it up and asking if anyone has lost their wallet might be the beginning of a valuable friendship – that would be serendipity.

Chance encounters, or strokes of fortune, feature in countless stories of business success. This book looks beneath the surface, reveals and teaches the mindset that can transform pure chance into opportunity. The author is director of the Global Economy Program at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, and a lecturer at the London School of Economics.

Serendipity is an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. To other people it looks like “good luck”, but it is more the ability to recognise and seize an opportunity, rather than have good fortune thrust upon one. Finding a wallet stuffed with money on the conference room floor is good luck, whereas holding it up and asking if anyone has lost their wallet might be the beginning of a valuable friendship – that would be serendipity.

The author says “This is a book about the interactions of coincidence, human ambition and imagination”. In the above example: finding the wallet is the coincidence; ambition is the desire to make something of the discovery; add imagination and you open up a whole menu of possibilities: from spending spree to earning a reputation for honesty – or even making a wealthy friend.

Business is typically forged on human ambition and imagination, but early success often feeds an appetite for control – and “control freaks” can be blind to the opportunities thrown up by the unexpected. They only see chance events as distractions. If plans go awry, they may blame the failure on “bad luck” rather than admit their own inflexible attitude.

The author himself admits to being “a German who is used to planning” and prone to feel anxious when something unexpected happens. That makes him an ideal teacher, because he has worked hard to discover and analyse the mindset that enables one to “connect the dots” and cultivate serendipity. He presents a goldmine of examples from science, business and life where an apparent mishap or failure lead to a breakthrough.

Indeed, studies suggest that around 50% of major scientific breakthroughs emerge as the result of accidents or coincidences. A well-known example is Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, launching the whole field of antibiotics. Other examples include X-rays, nylon, microwave ovens, rubber, Velcro, Viagra and Post-it Notes – where would we be without these!

The book goes beyond the ability to recognise and respond to opportunities in chaos, but the subtitle – The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck – is actually a bit misleading. True, he does show ways to develop better fortune, but it would be better to call it “inviting” or “encouraging” good luck. For example, he suggests better ways to start a conversation with a stranger – ways that will make it more likely to lead to chance connections or shared interests.

The publishers may have chosen the word “creating” to make the book appeal to the human desire to control – for control freaks are exactly the readership that would benefit the most from this book’s wisdom and practical advice.

For the rest of us, it offers a great way to rediscover the sense of play that is so important in life – and too often lost in business.


“Following the success of The Serendipity Mindset hardback, a paperback edition has also now been launched under the title “Connect the Dots”.

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