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Man vs machine, which delivers the best customer experience?

Published: Sep 12, 2017
Author: Diane Magers

Dan Russo talks to Diane Magers, CEO of the Customer Experience Professionals Association, about how technology is transforming the customer experience.

Diane, you’ve been working in CX for over 20 years. In that time, how have you seen the CX landscape change?

In all the changes that I’ve seen in customer experience, I’ll tell you the one thing that hasn’t changed—and that’s the human heart. Regardless of technology, or how we enable interactions between customer and brand, it’s all about that human connection.

As consumers, we know effort and time are the two biggest commodities. Making things more efficient gets us from point A to point B quicker.

What customer experience does is it adds the emotional component. You can go to a restaurant and have a meal, but the experience of having that meal—whether the wait staff are responsive, or the meal itself is delicious, or you’re able to make a reservation before you go—all of those things are really what customer experience is about.

We usually focus on taking care of the transactional and functional elements, but we also have to care for the emotional experience and provide real value to the customer.

What are the challenges that B2B and B2C organizations face when dealing with customers? Has technology raised expectations?

I believe that organizations face a challenge today because our expectations as consumers have risen so dramatically. When someone interacts with our brand, whether we’re B2B or B2C, we’re only as good as that consumer’s last great experience.

For example, a consumer interacts with Amazon and they have this wonderful, responsive, emotionally engaging experience which saves them time. Then they interact with another brand, and they expect that same intuitiveness and speed.

I talk to a lot of B2B companies and they used to think that it was OK to be behind, and not really focus on the customer experience. But that’s changing as they interact with other brands. It really is driving a sense of urgency and criticality that we’ve not seen before.

How has your background in psychology helped your understanding of customer needs and preferences?

We’ve been wired a certain way as human beings, over millions of years, and we’re much more likely to avoid negative experiences than seek out positive ones.

This has huge implications for a brand. If you deliver a bad experience, not only will you lose the customer, but they’re also likely to go and talk about their experience. That’s how we vent our negative energy into the world, and it’s why social media has become so important and impactful.

Control is also important for human beings to feel engaged with a brand. Let’s say you’re having cable installed at home. Giving customers the ability to choose a time for the service technician means more than the actual wait time. Even if it’s a long wait, the customer will have higher satisfaction scores because they felt a sense of control.

All these things are really driven by psychology, and understanding why people do the things they do.

Interesting. I was reading somewhere that artificial intelligence (AI) can read a person’s emotions better than humans can. Do you think technology and AI can deliver a personal human experience better than people?

It depends on how the customer wants to receive that interaction. Imagine if you had a medical emergency and were seeking help, you would probably want a human being to talk to—someone who would empathize with your needs.

I think AI can certainly help, and can probably gather a lot of information and make a rational diagnosis. But the ability for us to understand an emotion from somebody we’re interacting with, and bring our own experiences into the conversation, that’s the rich engagement I don’t think AI will be able to give us.

Technology is an enabler of what we are trying to create in customer experience. It can make the transactional side of things more effective and efficient, but there’s going to be certain times when we’d rather choose a face-to-face interaction.

What will the future of CX look like?

I think there’s going to be more talk of ecosystems. If you think about the way businesses were before, we had this linear supply chain. Now with the Internet of Things (IoT) and the value chains being interconnected, we’re going to see more ecosystems where information is shared between IoT providers.

I think about my life and how many brands I touch every day—using my phone, getting in my car, driving to the store. Those brands all know me. How those things come together is where the next chapter of CX lies. My car communicates with my house and my information gets transmitted to my doctor, all of those different brands will need to work together.

That’s going to fall not only on digital teams, but also customer experience teams. They will have to lead how these experiences are designed.

To find out more about AI and the future of CX, listen to the full interview with Diane Magers.