It’s a great time to be a customer. Often, companies are finding that they are at product parity with their competitors and thus look to service to be the differentiator. When Allstate introduced accident forgiveness for their auto insurance products, it wasn’t too long before competitors followed suit. Thus, companies are looking to elevate customer experience to increase customer loyalty. According to Bill Carmody, CEO of Trepoint, “Customer experience is your ONLY differentiator.”
The ideal customer experience is much like the experience customers would have with the owner of the local general store. The owner knew each customer, their likes, dislikes, and even some personal information. Often, the owner of the general store would be the source for new product information and would even share how other customers were using the latest innovations. In short, loyalty arose because the general store owner could lavish time and attention on each customer.
Today’s customer expects the same kind of experience even as they transact anytime, anywhere, and through any contact channel. When a customer browses your website and reviews a product, they expect that you’ll be aware of that when they call in the morning. Your contact center agents won’t have time to figure it out—rather, they need to have it presented to them in a way they can easily consume and use to increase the customer’s satisfaction with the entire transaction from the web to the phone call to getting what they wanted.
Always-on customer engagement creates an additional challenge for your company: How do you scale a general store owner type experience across millions of transactions and at any time of the day or night? Customers will give their loyalty and their dollars to that kind of company. This relationship is reinforced both in good and stressful times.
What makes always-on customer engagement possible? Each interaction by a customer begins to reveal what the customer wants, both explicit wants and those that reflect their attitude and state of mind. Each interaction begins to reveal trends and insights for your company and its products. Artificial intelligence and machine learning allow you to extract important information in real time and shape an improved experience. For insurance companies, first notice of loss (FNOL) is a key process. During this stressful time, AI can help agents and managers identify angry customers, detect potential fraud, transcribe and direct the call, and do all of this at a lower cost. In the long-term, customers will start to see products that are better tailored to their needs, and unassisted and live-assist experiences will be enhanced.
With the greater insight that big data and AI provide, you are able to calibrate the experience to the needs of your customers and the budgets within which you operate. The general store owner type experience is great but very expensive. Thus, using big data and AI to augment your customers’ experience creates new opportunities to innovate services that you’re able to offer as part of your product.
As brand, product, and service become manifestations of the company-consumer relationship, here are top-ranked companies that have shown how that can be done.
Apple has built a business on building products, ecosystem, and supporting services as appendages of a larger experience they deliver to their customers. Microsoft has been very successful in taking laptop computers and creating a luxury brand category that delivers a differentiated product/service experience. Regardless of the type of product, always-on customer engagement supports an integrated experience across all aspects of the relationship between you, your customers, and the product and services that are at the foundation of your relationship.