passage of time in Time Machine

The film "The Time Machine" illustrated the progress of time using a mannequin in a store window. We watch as the same mannequin's style of dress changes as the years unfold. The time traveling lead character comments, “thus I was able to see the changing world in a series of glimpses.” 

This is exactly how customer experience happens in our new digital world: in a “series of glimpses”  that over time create the customer journey.  

Here’s three ways companies in different industries — retail, banking and healthcare — are using customer experience glimpses to foster positive customer journeys.

Retailers Start with Customer Motivation 

The customer journey is a clear priority for consumer-obsessed, digitally advanced retailers, who see every touch point as an opportunity to engage and learn.  

McKinsey’s recent article, "What it Takes to Understand Your Customers Today," discusses some interesting research approaches for customer insights that lead to new growth opportunities. Approaches include: observing consumers ‘in the field,’ active listening with social media and co-creating with customers on digital platforms.  

The article notes that Amazon and Netflix, while very different businesses, have something important in common — they both drive growth through research that enables them to understand and meet consumer needs better than their competitors do. And with this focus on understanding customer motivation, it is no accident that Amazon and Netflix perennially score some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings.  

It would seem these companies have it all figured out. Each glimpse of their customer is an interactive opportunity taken by them to improve understanding and build loyalty. 

Banks Create a Digital Unified Customer View 

Banks are also increasingly focused on the customer journey. They want to capture discrete customer glimpses, and then build them into one meaningful, contextual view.

To paraphrase a colleague of mine from the sector, the institutions without a unified customer view will constantly struggle to catch up, but for them it will be like trying to run a race with their shoes tied together.  

Imagine the hurdles: information silos across multiple systems; no ability to pull together all information for a given customer; no true knowledge of customer behavior, activity or needs across channels or products; and wasted time and money spent by employees searching for information rather than just applying it.

Transforming to a unified customer view, though difficult, is possible. McKinsey shares an outstanding example from the world of financial services in the article "Using Rapid Process Digitization to Transform the Customer Experience." 

As the article explains, “Transforming the customer experience requires a level of speed and precision that traditional approaches can’t meet. The best practitioners do it in real time.” It shares the story of a retail bank that, based on customer feedback, knew it needed to make significant improvements to the process by which customers open accounts. The bank did so through a balance of people, process and technology. Here’s what happened:

  • The CMO took nine seasoned business and IT staffers for a period of four weeks and convened a rapid-digitization workshop
  • Team members listened to call-center exchanges that pressed home the issues customers were experiencing
  • They brainstormed creative ways of addressing those customers’ complaints and drafted a new process design 
  • To deliver on the design and keep the project scope from spiraling, the technology team attached the new processes to the bank’s existing IT environment

In my opinion, this is exactly how Agile methodology with a supporting digital platform can make a big difference to help quickly digitize, improve processes and information flow, and then iterate for continuous improvement. I am seeing banks and insurers use the digital platform approach to improve customer experience for everything from onboarding to claims processing. 

These initiatives to improve customer experience in financial services institutions are well worth the effort. In fact, “for every 10-percentage-point uptick in customer satisfaction, a company can increase revenues 2 to 3 percent.” 

Healthcare Delivers Personalized Customer Care

In the healthcare sector, digital needs to drive not just monetary business impacts, but also better care outcomes. Are we seeing any glimpses of progress in the healthcare customer experience?

Let’s take the time machine back to the 1950s, and imagine how patients used to interact with their healthcare providers.  

Doctors knew their patients, indeed their whole family, and treated them for everything from a skinned elbow to pneumonia. You could call your doctor at home after hours and he would make visits to your home. The doctor-patient relationship progressed through a series of face to face personal encounters. 

Compare that to today. Very few of us have a personal relationship with a family doctor. Instead we have a variety of disconnected and often isolated experiences with many doctors, specialists, laboratories and hospitals. 

Digital is the new promise to transform healthcare and to help connect these touchpoints. It has impacted how we experience health care, and has driven our plans and our providers to digitize in an attempt (in large part) to restore the personal relationship of days gone by.  

The priority is clear. As "Embracing Digital Transformation in the Pharma and Healthcare Sectors" tells us, “We are witnessing a shifting focus towards health and wellness, and digital is presenting new opportunities for companies to get closer to their customers and enhance the customer experience.”  

And PwC forecasts “as patients transition from passive healthcare recipients to active value-seeking consumers, it is the health sector’s turn to master digital tools.”  

Indeed, we are increasingly seeing attempts to improve customer experience through digital means — from digital patient portals that help us communicate better with our physicians and other care providers, to digital tele-medicine that is helping to extend affordable medical care. For example, Cigna has just announced it is expanding tele-health for its members enrolled in medical and behavioral health coverage in 2017.  

Yes there is progress, but there is still a long way to go to connect all ‘the glimpses’ in multiple portals, EMRs and EHRs, and in person and tele-sessions to ultimately restore the personal care relationship that once was the norm.

Customer Experience, Time after Time

Retailers and now more and more banks are successfully using digital to improve customer experience. And for healthcare, it’s increasingly become not only an opportunity, but close to a medical necessity. 

Forbes tells us, “Every touchpoint matters, and those leading the transformation should constantly be asking how are we removing friction and enhancing the experience for every customer regardless of where they are in the journey.”

As we work to achieve this new customer journey, let’s just hope that our customer experience glimpses don’t lead us to the digital relationship equivalent of the (spoiler alert) flesh-eating Morlocks in the Time Machine. Rather let’s hope the journey results in a rewarding relationship — for customers and for business.

Title image The Time Machine, George Pal Productions