Adopting technology and automation to deliver a ‘WOW’ customer experience


I was recently invited by RSM Australia to address a gathering of senior financial industry executives at their Business and Finance Symposium 2018.  The theme of the symposium was “In an ever-changing business environment, are you prepared to face the future with confidence?” I spoke about “Adopting technology and automation to deliver a ‘WOW’ customer experience” and because the topic is so relevant in today’s fast paced business environment, I decided to write about it.

Let me start with a short story about my ‘Wow’ customer experience. Many years ago, I walked into a Tesco’s supermarket in London wanting to buy a bottle of Australian wine. I was excited to see that the Penfold’s 389 was on sale,50% off!! At the cash register, the price came up as the normal price. I protested that it was on sale, and the cashier happily pressed the buzzer and called out “Customer Service to the front register please, Customer Service…”

My heart rate went up and I went into defensive mode, I was prepared for the fight. I told the unusually friendly Customer Service attendant that the bottle was labelled at a cheaper price on the shelf. He walked back over with me and we had a look together.

Indeed, there was a discount price tag, but as it turned out it clearly related to the bottles of wine below the tag, and not the nice bottles of 389 above the tag.

It was clearly ‘user error’ on my part, and I mumbled something like “ah sorry my mistake”.

To my pleasant surprise, the Customer Service attendant said to me: Ma’am, it is our store policy to delight our customers so we will sell you the wine at the price you thought it was, even though it wasn’t. And so WOW, of course I was delighted.

On my way out, the cashier, who was a completely different person, said to me “Thank you, please come again”.

You betcha I will!

This was a truly WOW customer experience, and I am still raving about it 15 years later. But this was a face to face in-store experience, and they would not have known back then if I was a loyal customer or not, or what I purchased, or when.

I want you to hold that thought.

I have spent my career helping customer-centric organisations such as banks, insurance companies, wealth planners, schools, hospitals, as well as federal and state governments all around the world to adopt technology and automation to deliver better outcomes for their customers.

The biggest challenge that the leaders in these organisations face is that they know they need to embrace change and try new strategies to be future proof. They know they need to try new operating models to improve the way they do business in a digital world. The challenge is to actually do it.

We must all be prepared to face the future with confidence and to adapt to change with open minds.

I am here today to let you know that The Future is all about the needs of Your Customer and how you genuinely deliver quality service. It’s about how you respond to and anticipate their changing needs and expectations.

The Age of the Customer

In today’s digitally disruptive world where competitors can emerge and conquer seemingly overnight, arguably the most powerful weapon that you must have is a ‘WOW’ customer experience. This applies equally to public sector citizen interactions, as it does to private sector commercial transactions.

Your customer service strategy has got to be more than just an aspirational statement.

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Image source:

Being nice and friendly to customers is critically important. We all know that. Tesco knew that 15 years ago. But in today’s digital age being nice is not enough. It’s about being easy to deal with, being ‘real-time responsive’, being personal, being predictive and being reliable. We must know and understand our customers in many ways. The only way to truly understand is through the lens of ‘The Data’.

Customer Expectations Have Changed

Start-ups and technology-led companies are driving the penetration of markets with a ‘customer first’ approach, instead of the old paradigm of a product or price first approach.

Gartner, says that we need to be focused on the customer experience as by 2020, customers armed with more technology will demand more from your organization’s ability to deliver a wow customer experience.

Customers Don’t Want Friction

Previously, customers tolerated pain and friction - Image

Previously, customers tolerated pain and friction

In the not so distant past, customers tolerated pain and friction. They suffered long wait times to access customer service call centres, they were made to come into a branch to update or collect simple paperwork; they are made to fill out forms and fax them back, worse still, hand deliver them. These painful tasks were considered a normal element of the customer experience. They even had to wait in line to get the form they needed to fill in to make a complaint!

My, how things have changed.

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Technology driven organisations using the latest intelligent online systems are fuelling empowered buyers who now demand a new level of customer obsession and service.

They are creating new business models and supply chains, and are working hard to reduce or eliminate any friction in the engagement and retention of their customer, and anywhere along the customer journey.

Technology Enabled Disruption is Everywhere

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All these service providers focus on the Customer. They are driving down costs, lighting up supply chains, enabling anywhere anytime any device self-service, with no barriers to buying or completing a transaction. Transparency of the quality of service is a core metric in these business models.

So, what have these companies done differently? And what can we learn from them?

They’ve reimagined traditional business models with a truly ‘outside-in’ or a customer-centric perspective. They focus on the Customer Experience. They are redressing old paradigms where the Customer previously had to share the effort and endure friction in the process. Now, provided you can get online, that you have a mobile phone and a credit card, you can pretty much turn on and turn off whatever you need, without the friction.

Why Focus on Customer Experience

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Why? Because according to Forrester, great customer experience drives retention and revenue growth.

Inside-Out vs Outside-In

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Many companies in the financial, insurance and government sectors still think about their business and technology from an ‘inside‑out’ perspective. What does this look like? And what does ‘Outside-in’ look like?’

By reimagining your business from a truly ‘outside‑in’ perspective, you have a unique opportunity to rethink and plan out your digital transformation journey into the future.

You need to Know Your Customer to Deliver a ‘WOW’ Customer Experience

You need to Know Your Customer to deliver a ‘wow’ customer experience - Image

Organisations in the financial services, insurance, healthcare, education, legal and government sectors, must recognize that customers are going through life events such as marriage, buying a house, going to school, going to hospital, travelling overseas, getting a divorce, changing jobs, or making an insurance claim after crashing their car. And not necessarily in that order.

Whether you are in a B2B or B2C situation, customers today expect a seamless, fast and personalised experience. When these customers reach out to your brand, they need painless friction-free processes. Some of them will also need a real helping hand and empathy at certain points.

Unfortunately, what customers typically experience are series of slow, single‑channel, manual, redundant processes and interactions that feel clunky, frustrating, sterile and anything but helpful and easy.

Traditional customer‑facing companies should realize their high‑touch, data‑rich business models offer a huge opportunity to digitally deliver superior customer engagement. Ironically, what most folks don’t realise is that automation provides the opportunity to focus on improving traditional customer service delivery when it is needed.

How can you QuickStart your Digital Transformation Journey?

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By reimagining your business from a truly ‘outside‑in’ perspective, you have a unique opportunity to rethink your approach to digital transformation.

But where do you start and when? Complex, well defined initiatives planned over one, two or three years may seem like a daunting task and rightly so.

But in these days of rapid change, you do not have the luxury of time, because your tech-savvy competitor is already ahead of you: so you need to start now.

In my experience, waiting for ‘IT to do it’ will take too long; they are typically busy dealing with core systems and other below the line pressures. Overhauling back-end systems is a long-term challenge and existing operating models and functional processes will always be a barrier to starting your digital transformation journey. You must not let this hold you back.

In your pursuit of digital transformation, I suggest you tackle the low hanging fruit in small steps, rather than tackling the heavy lifting projects that have a high chance of failure.

Teams working at the front line are the best catalysts for digital transformation success. They know the business process and they know where the friction is. To be truly ‘outside‑in’, start your transformation with the front-end experience. You don’t have to rebuild and redesign your entire back‑end systems before you modernize your customer experience.

Start at the front‑end, with the experience, and work with the core systems you already have.

Modernizing the Front-end to Reduce the Friction

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According to Forrester, 66% of customers said valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide them with a good customer experience. How can you do that? Make it easier for your customers to interact with you across multiple channels. The first thing you can do is to eliminate paper, PDF forms and manual signing processes. These high effort touch points are considered a significant barrier to a healthy business relationship and are a paradigm of the past.

So, What Does Your Secret Weapon to Reduce Friction Look Like?

Your secret weapon is a digital transformation platform that enables the collection and use of real-time data with the ability to action that data at any point in the customer journey: from acquisition to onboarding to servicing.

Your front end should be mobile-ready and able to connect, in real time, to your core systems of record such as CRM and your ERP/ finance system, and to send information back out through multiple digital channels. The transformation platform you choose should seamlessly automate any process or digital transaction within this customer journey. The insight you will gain through data visualisation will enable you to monitor and gain insight into all transactions so you can improve the experience and anticipate your customer’s preferences and problems.

The ‘WOW’ moment comes when you take out the friction, when you enable online interaction as much as possible in the process, when you personalise interactions, when you are on the front foot, when you reach out to ask for or to give relevant information at the right time, and when you deliver an interaction that will have a genuine relevance and impact on your customer’s day.

And please, please, please don’t make your customer have to print something out at the end and sign it with a pen and send it back to you!

Data gives you the ability to know your customer – to spoil your customer – to anticipate their needs and, to creatively and effectively meet competitive challenges. Data helps you to respond to and recover from ‘customer problems’, all of which are the cornerstones of a WOW customer experience.

The best companies are using smart technology platforms to create an authentic relationship built on trust and on truly ‘knowing’ your customer. Every customer transaction or interaction is the heartbeat of a data-driven rhythm that enables you to continually monitor the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of your customer. It will enable you to have what I call ‘front line empathy’. Use this as your weapon to build a future-proof customer-centric strategy that drives satisfaction, retention and growth.

If you’re interested in learning more about Digital Transformation in a customer-centric world, read our e-books on the topic.