What happens at the intersection of technology and humanity? Some believe robots will begin to replace human employees or rogue artificial intelligence will take over humanity. Others believe technology will aid humanity for the better, improving our quality of life and overall health. Solstice believes this intersection has lead us to a tipping point between the ways we interact with one another and the ways in which businesses evolve to improve their customer service. Digital is moving at a rapid pace and organizations must capitalize on these changes to transform their customer relationships. The question is what happens next?
The Solstice FWD innovation summit is an annual gathering for leaders in CX, Digital, IT and Product who share unique perspectives on the future of how we will live, work and play. Guests were greeted by Siena, Solstice FWD’s artificial intelligence companion, who could be contacted via Facebook Messenger chat bot or on her robotic interfaces found in the exhibit hall. As you walked through the event warehouse, everything from full-stack digital technologies displayed on a ping pong table to interactive live music performances were on display for guests to experience. At the Solstice FWD summit, cutting-edge technology creates new digital experiences that immersed the consumer in a way that was both approachable and applicable to everyone. "[Together] we can make the decision to embrace new channels as a way to differentiate ourselves from our competitors,” said J Schwan, Solstice Founder & CEO. “We can choose to stop following the trends around experience design and start setting them ourselves.”
In today’s world of business, innovation is no longer about who adopts digital technology the fastest. Instead, enterprises need to be thinking about the future of the customer experience and how technology will impact the new generation of business. “Digital is just a fancy word for serving customers’ moments wherever and whenever,” says James McQuivey, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester. As customer demand increases, digital interfaces will begin to act like assistants to consumers and that interaction must become more human-like.
Innovators today are riding the digital wave into a new era of business that puts the customer experience at the center. Think of technology as a tool that gives customers what they want next and research from Forrester reveals companies can grow their bottom line when they improve their customer experience. While the digital world brings with it many challenges, one common theme was echoed throughout the day; customers are becoming hyperadoptive of new technologies, making it difficult for businesses to predict what consumers will want next.
As the world becomes increasingly digital, software like artificial intelligence can help companies sort through mountains of data in order to anticipate a customer’s next move. The key is to really push beyond thinking in short-term transactions and margins and to build deeper, more meaningful connections with your customer; in creating a lasting relationship, businesses can use customer feedback and data to successfully meet future expectations. Today’s marketing and sales funnels have to move towards rich one to one interactions. In this post-digital generation, companies must invest in learning more about their customers' habits, preferences, etc. so they can know what the consumer wants, when they want it and in what moment they will ask for it.
To demonstrate his point about hyperadoptive customers and the importance of predictive technology, McQuivey used Tesla as an example of a progressive organization. Tesla is one company that understands its customers are adopting new trends faster than most companies can predict. When Elon Musk announced the release of the new Tesla Model 3, the vehicle he planned would bring electric cars to the masses, thousands of customers immediately lined up to pre order the vehicle. The crazy part? The Model 3 isn’t slated for release until 2017 and Musk has already received 400,000 pre orders. What this suggests, like what many speakers at the Solstice FWD summit discussed, is that customers are always seeking more out of their experiences and want tomorrow’s products at scale. And in order for businesses to keep up with their consumers, they need to engage in digital disruption and using technology to accelerate digital innovation much more rapidly than before.
A successful digital customer experience depends on three things: frequency, emotion and convenience. As your business embraces technology to improve the customer experience, you must be able to routinely meet new expectations, anticipate and deliver customer satisfaction and above all, everything must be painfully convenient for the consumer.
Speaker Mark Relph, Head of Global Business Development for Amazon Web Services, introduced the brains behind Amazon’s Echo product as an example of an effective digital customer relationship. On the surface, Alexa is simply a voice-activated A.I. software that can play music, tell you the weather and even order a pizza from Domino’s if you’re feeling hungry. Alexa is built directly in the cloud and becomes smarter the more you speak to her and utilize her various functions. And because the Echo is always connected, software updates automatically and Alexa gains new skills such as requesting a ride from Uber or connecting to local Yelp searches. What Amazon created was a piece of technology that not only satisfies a customer’s immediate need but also anticipates what a customer might ask Alexa to do in the future.
Alexa is successful because she meets the requirements of frequency, emotion and convenience. The more consumers speak to Alexa, the more she adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences. She also fulfills customer satisfaction, bringing delight to customers who describe Alexa as easy to use and a fun product that also serves a purpose. And Alexa offers increasing convenience to consumers on the go. Consumers can order food, call a car or check the weather without ever having to log on to a computer or pick up their phone, giving people back their time to focus on other things.
At the intersection of technology and humanity lies a customer experience that is made more convenient by digital interfaces and provides fulfillment on an emotional level. The Solstice FWD summit challenged business leaders to explore what the next generation of consumer relationships will look like for their own organizations and how they can incorporate technology to elevate their customer journey. For any enterprise, the goal should be identifying which technologies and strategies a business needs to elevate their customer experience. Consumer expectations are growing faster than most humans can process and it’s time for businesses to start asking themselves “what’s next?”