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Reimagining Customer Service With Data and Tech

What’s that magic ingredient that combines with tech and data to deliver a truly exceptional and delightful client experience? Head of Proposition and Marketing, Michael Summerton, explores how to solve for χ to transform your business.

6 min read

There are a seemingly infinite number of apps, APIs (application program interfaces) and services available offering companies a way to transform their CX, or client experience. But here’s a secret: none of them will solve all of your client experience problems.

We explore the magical ingredients that might bring together tech and data to create a truly wondrous client experience, one your clients will tell everyone they ever met about.

Battle chess

First, it’s worth understanding what tech and humans each do best. We may be losing some ground to artificial and general intelligence, but we’re not completely irrelevant. Yet.

Take the example of two amateur chess players, Steven Cramton and Zackary Stephen. Chess buddies who met at a local club in New Hampshire, US, they spent a few years honing their skills at the game and Stephen, in particular, was keen on chess programming. They entered the first PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Tournament in 2005, which allowed any kind of interaction between humans and computers without focusing on augmenting human-machine performance. Using three standard PCs, the duo won the competition, beating grandmasters and accomplished chess programs alike. According to MIT Sloan Review, “They had optimized an entirely new process in which either one of the humans or the machines took the lead depending on patterns of positions and play of opponents. According to some theorists, this type of green-field process optimization would be the prototype for future human-machine collaboration.” Let’s solve for χ So let’s consider our equation: ∑ (TECH, DATA, χ) = CX What is χ, the magic ingredient that combines with TECH and DATA to deliver a truly exceptional and delightful client experience? Maybe it starts with leadership: Why are we here? Who makes decisions? How do we make decisions and allocate time and resources? How do we articulate our success criteria? Do our people believe in our purpose and us as a leadership team? Or maybe it’s about process and finding a way of work that works best for your organisation. We throw around terms like “MVP” (minimum viable product), “scrum master” and “standups”, yet how many of us can truly say we are practicing, let along empowering, our teams to operate autonomously? Autonomous, engaged teams build better software. Giddy-up, psychological safety Maybe it’s about how teams work together and, specifically, the level of psychological safety within the organisation. ‘Psychological safety’ refers to the climate in which people are comfortable expressing and being themselves; they are not hindered by inter-personal fear but are rather comfortable sharing half-formed ideas, questions, concerns and mistakes without fear of retribution or embarrassment, humiliation, or being ignored. Gallup, one of the leading contributors to engagement research, uses 12 simple questions – ranging from ‘Do you know what is expected of you at work?’, ‘Is there someone at work who encourages your development?’ to ‘In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?’ – to provide a simple but powerful gauge on the level of engagement that employees have with their role, manager, and organisation. Gallup estimates that if companies shifted employee engagement rating on ‘My opinions seem to count’ from 30% (the international average) to 60%, productivity would increase by 12% whilst decreasing both staff turnover by 27%, and accidents by 40%. Proof that the power of psychological safety in the workplace is transformative. Working on the trust equation One of the key aspects underpinning the concept of psychological safety is trust and this can be applied internally amongst team members and externally with clients and suppliers. Below is a simple trust equation which you can use to gauge which areas to work on in order to increase the levels of trust within your firm:

Self-orientation is probably the most difficult to get right.

The data disconnection

So, how well do you know your client? Do you know who they are, their wants and needs, what value are you adding to their life? Do they trust you?

While we try to gather more and more data about our clients to serve them better, we see a dramatic increase in the rate at which people disconnect, unsubscribe and opt-out in an effort to stem the barrage of notifications that clutter daily life. Organisations must learn how to offer value to users who crave quiet in a noisy world.

It is getting increasingly difficult to know when and how to show up when your clients actually need you to. In order to give them their space and privacy, we need data to personalise their experiences – but without becoming creepy like Facebook.

Let’s assume you tick all the above boxes. Once you have everyone trusting each other, with great processes, a strong clear vision, strategy and leadership, and autonomous teams delivering on a high-value portfolio of ideas and everything else, how do you go about creating a truly wondrous client experience – and then scale it? You don’t start with 100 million users. You start with a few. Stop thinking big and start thinking small. Hand-serve your customers. Win them over, one by one.

And don’t stop until you know exactly what they want.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour

Airbnb is one example of starting small and scaling up with which we are familiar. Brian Chesky’s early work as co-founder and CEO of Airbnb was more akin to a traveling salesman. He went door-to-door, meeting Airbnb hosts in person, taking photographs of their space, and learning what they did and didn’t like about his product.

Airbnb has such high attention to detail that meeting rooms at their headquarters in San Francisco are scale replicas of some of their first most interesting properties hosted on their site.

But how did they scale that magical experience from renting a blow-up mattress in an apartment to delighting millions of hosts and customers alike every day? In order to scale, you have to first do things that don’t scale at all. Today, Airbnb is valued at $31 billion. 10 years ago? A very different picture. Their first year and a half saw fewer than 50 people a day on the Airbnb site and between 10 to 20 bookings. That was in 2008. Since then, they have learned a lot about winning over customers.

Click here to read How to Scale a Magical Experience: 4 Lessons from Airbnb’s Brian Chesky.

Sprinkle the fairy dust

In order to reimagine your client experience, you need to reimagine your organisation – and here are three points you should consider on this journey:

  • The combination of human and tech/data has the potential to be way better than each on their own
  • Find the magical ingredient that will have an outsize contribution to your organisation’s success
  • Stretch your imagination on what a magical customer experience might be.

None of us have infinite resources or the ability to transform whole organisations with the flick of a magic wand. We also operate on limited budgets and constrained time/capacity. So instead, I try to imagine that I have a small bag of fairy dust. With this fairy dust, I can completely transform one product or process or spread it across many areas to make small improvements. This is a whimsical approach to capital allocation.

My challenge to you is: now that you know the areas where you might transform your business, how will you combine your tech and data to deliver magical experiences for your clients?

Where will you sprinkle your fairy dust today?

This article is derived from a presentation Michael Summerton gave at the FINTECH WORLD FORUM in November.

Written by

Michael Summerton

Michael Summerton

Solving problems is Michael’s forte. He’s also quick to see the practical side of business challenges and opportunities. Choosing a life in financial services over one in auditing, he feels most rewarded when connecting grannies with solutions that make their hard-earned retirement a little more dignified.