Good, Great and Awful: Why Technology Can’t Deliver the Best Customer Experience Alone

Apr 16, 2013

“What was your experience like?”

“Come experience the best of what we have!”

“Tell us about your experience.”

“Experience this!”

Experiences. We have them all the time. We have great ones, lousy ones and every other kind in between. But experience is also subjective. My experience of one thing could be vastly different to yours, yet nearly all companies today focus on creating or delivering better customer experiences.
At ThinkInk, most of our clients are in the “experience business.” Some develop loyalty program technology to help brands create more engaging customer experiences through multiple channels. Others develop in-flight shopping and payment technology to improve airline passengers’ onboard experience. Some are helping marketers analyze and improve their messaging to deliver a better mobile experience. And others are building programs to help companies create entirely new types of experiences.

What’s very interesting here is that all of these companies are rooted in technology – that’s the connecting thread. From CEM to CRM to behavioral modeling and big data analytics, millions upon millions of dollars are being invested and spent in creating customer experience eco-systems whereby a company can understand what its customers’ needs are – and try to deliver.

Unlike algorithms, humans aren’t consistent or predictable. We’re prone to flippancy, mood swings, meltdowns and bad tempers. Children, partners and sh!#@y jobs also affect human behaviors. And because of this, any customer experience program needs to factor in these “flaws” when considering, building and implementing such programs.
There’s only one problem.  Humans.

Interestingly enough, I’ve never heard humans mentioned in these discussions or in any articles about CEM/CEX programs. Why is that? Could it be because there is no fix for “streamlining” human behavior? Or maybe we’ve come to rely on technology so completely that we are committed to building software solutions that seek to predict the unpredictable. It reminds me of weather forecasting. Today’s $100+ million weather satellites are an incredible, almost wondrous technology. But even with unprecedented computing power, forecasters are still the butt of jokes. Why? Their forecasts still suck.

If this is the best we can do measuring objective data, measuring subjective human emotions makes weather forecasting look easy. And I’m not just talking about predicting customers’ brand engagement reactions. I’m talking about company staff – people.

Imagine this scenario:

Loyal customer Vanessa walks into her favorite retail store, which we’ll call Snazzy Sacks for story’s sake. Vanessa is in a good mood and expecting great things from her in-store experience.

But at the reception counter, Camilla, the sales assistant is upset about something at home and projects this negativity onto the happy Vanessa. Rather than telegraphing a positive corporate culture, Camilla’s bad attitude offends Vanessa. Even before the “true” brand experience has begun Vanessa, turned off to what the store offers, whirls around and leaves.

All it takes is one bad experience like this and long-term loyalty could erode.

Don’t get me wrong. CEM/CEX software is vital to improving the customer experience. Our technology is certainly improving.

Yet no amount of software can replace the need for a soul and basic human training. Employees from the front desk attendant to the CEO must appreciate corporate culture and recognize that their off-site unpleasant moments, if not handled properly, can impact customer retention, experiences and ROI.

So bank on that software, but companies across all verticals should bank on the human brain and quality staff training first.

That way, the next time a customer is asked “What was your experience like?” they can say “Great!”

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