levitating

Do you believe in magic? I do. 

I’ve seen a caterpillar magically transform into a butterfly, beer pour out of an iPad at Oktoberfest, and Houdini escape in 57 seconds from a box weighed down with 200 pounds of lead in New York's East River. 

OK, the last one happened in 1912, but I've heard about it from reliable sources.

These magic tricks rely on a combination of natural behavior, hard work and technology. 

Guess what? So does delivering great customer experience.  

Changing Magic's Focus

Magic used to be about the magician. No longer.   

“The biggest change in our lifetime was David Blaine changing magic from a proscenium to street magic, and changing the attention from being on the magician to being on the audience and how they reacted,” said Penn Jillette, half of the magic duo Penn & Teller.

Like magic, customer experience used to be more about the company and its products than the customers. A singular brand advertising message was broadcast to a wide audience. Customer interaction and service were similarly product-oriented, and “one size fits all.” Demographic targeting took place, but certainly not to the specificity of the “customer of one.”  

With the advent of the internet, and mobile and social apps, things have dramatically changed for customer experience. Customer experience is now truly about the customer. It has become a series of moments, of discrete interactions, that are at once personal and subjective. 

Customer Experience, For Those Who Want to Remain Competitive

The significance of making every customer moment a positive interaction has grown. Microsoft's 2016 Global State of Customer Service Report revealed that 60 percent of consumers have stopped doing business with a brand due to a single poor customer service experience. That number rose to 68 percent for millennial consumers.

Connecting all these discrete personal moments has become the basis for sustained competitiveness.

As I noted in Oz the Great and Powerful, “A company's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart at all times in the eyes of its customers will inspire their brand loyalty and increase customer spend.”

Forrester Research's Customer Experience Index found that the companies providing the best customer experience also lead their business sector. There is a definite correlation with customer experience driving higher revenue growth. 

Customer experience is a competitive weapon, especially in industries like financial services where product differentiation has become difficult, if not impossible. Every industry reaches a point when a product no longer needs or can justify further improvement. 

Forrester Research analyst Jim Nail pointed to P&G’s Gillette 5 blade razor versus Unilever’s Dollar Shave Club (DSC):

“[For Gillette] The model of continuous product innovation hit the wall — certainly a product strategy driven out of a lab and corporate goal to merely increase price and profits hits the wall. DSC listened to customers and innovated not the product, but the pricing and distribution model to solve a different problem than delivering a 'better' shave.”

DSC won by changing and improving the total customer experience.   

Easy as a magician’s wave of the wand you say? Not so fast.

Jumping Through Legacy Hoops 

Digitally innovating for better customer experience is a worthwhile but difficult objective. Whoever you think should own the customer experience — be it CIO, CMO or LOB executive — no one can simply cast a Harry Potter-esque transformation spell and magically create great customer experience. 

Harry had Hermione and Ron to make the magic happen. Likewise, enterprises require a team approach to go about improving customer experience.

Fundamentally, how the enterprise deals with information needs to change over to a customer-centric view.  

One industry struggling to transform and improve their customer interactions are traditional banks, who face increasing pressure from disruptive FinTech competitors. Yet, digitally transforming to become truly customer-centric remains incredibly difficult for financial institutions still mired in legacy technology and operational models.

Delivering a great customer experience for traditional banks means insulating customers and those who serve them from the complexity of the back office.

A digital platform with knowledge-sharing features, as well as dynamic case management collaboration abilities, can sit between legacy systems and the customer experience. Technology like this leaves the separate lines of business systems intact, while simplifying cross-organizational communications and customer-centric information views. With this in place, converging data from across the organization results in far greater flexibility for building the right digital experience ... one that’s meaningful for all the right reasons.

The Floating [Digital] Platform

Flipping to a customer-centric information view is only the first step — you will also need to lift your customer-facing processes up and out of channel silos. 

To achieve this lift — like the famous “floating platform” levitation magic trick — there needs to be some kind of support. 

Customers across industries, including financial services, insurance and even healthcare, now expect omnichannel experiences. These expectations were born in the retail industry, where some magical innovations are starting to happen. 

Case in point, the concept of the “endless store” that, “connects and extends the bricks and mortar and virtual environments within which retailers operate. The potential for dramatically improved customer service and functional development of a unified retail customer experience is now within reach of every retailer.”

Driving process across channels is no longer a nice to have, it is a requirement. Yet despite the progress, most enterprises lack the foundational ability to operate and deliver great omnichannel customer experience. 

In the levitation magic trick, what lies beneath plays a critical part. A steel rod disguised to appear as one of the magician's legs supports the platform. 

In the same way, the underlying digital platform supports the omnichannel customer experience. Business process management (BPM) capabilities in turn support this digital platform. 

BPM not only helps automate processes to span channel communications, but can also assist knowledge workers to make smarter decisions about customer requests and preferences. Gartner posits that BPM holds the potential to “lift an organization's customer experience apparatus, delivering customers a consistent experience regardless of whether they are interacting with a representative on the phone, in a store or online.”

Customer Experience Is (Also) Magic, You Know

We all agree that improving customer experience can be part art, part science. It’s time to admit that it is also part magic … the part that leverages natural customer behavior, works hard behind the scenes and depends on innovative technology. Never believe it’s not so.

Title image "magic" (CC BY 2.0) by  Yevy Photography