The 13th Annual Customer Contact East: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange event took place in Fort Lauderdale during the last days of April and featured informative sessions, individual meetings, and lot of networking for industry experts. The following highlights are just a sampling of several ideas and topics discussed during the presentation of my Bostonian colleague, Stephen Loynd.
Presentation: Customer Engagement & Data Analytics in a World of Exponential Change
Frost & Sullivan Global Program Director, Stephen Loynd, explored how technology is imbedding itself into everything, influencing and disrupting our lives in profound ways. Technology is so pervasive and moving so fast that it is altering both business and society. Certainly, this is a time of incredible change. We are experiencing the largest transformation since the end of the Second World War; after the automation of production and the creation of self-driving cars the automation of society is next.
Frost & Sullivan conceptualizes the radical change happening in our world as a swarm of new technologies. Everything from new business models to disruptive technologies is making an impact across business functions, industries and geographies. Each outer ring turns and brushes against the one below it, like tectonic plates.
Nothing less than a new world is emerging, offering immersive technologies and customer experiences. We are immediately frustrated with people and brands incapable of supporting our digital habits and expectations. To achieve a real-time operational tempo, companies must evolve from ‘human time’ to ‘digital time.’ The result: smarter decisions that enable businesses to operate like never before. One of the biggest challenges enterprises face today is upgrading core IT systems that frequently comprise legacy systems incapable of supporting digital time.
Also, our adoption of digital technologies produces oceans of data that are changing the competitive landscape. The amount of data we produce doubles every year. In other words: in 2016 we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind through 2015. These contain information that reveals how we think and feel.
As digital interactions proliferate, so also does the volume of real-time data and required analysis. Most people are already at their limit of coping with the deluge of data, so we must now digitally augment our capabilities to handle the massive increases in the volume, speed and the complexity of it.
So, how to deal with this inhuman complexity? In fact, so inhuman, that perhaps it would be better to not have a human, but a bot. Bots are designed and programmed to react in a prescribed way to data inputs. Data is fed into the artificial intelligence (AI) system within the bot, and the bot responds and takes actions as programmed.
But, add machine and deep learning, and the bot can learn and make decisions faster and better every nanosecond. A bot can take all possible data inputs needed to analyze and make the best decisions as deep learning systems find patterns and hidden meanings. The more data that it can access and analyze, the more accurately it can predict outcomes. In other words, these software robots (or ‘bots’) can be developed to analyze vast quantities of data, make decisions based on codified decision trees that humans design, and then act on in milliseconds.
And so times are changing, consumers as well. Are companies changing fast enough to keep up? Can they deliver a holistic, unified Customer Experience? This is the great question.
Brands today can not only react to customers as they make purchasing decisions but also actively shape those decision journeys. A set of technologies is underpinning this change, allowing companies to design and continuously optimize decision journeys. More important, companies today can use journeys to deliver value to both the customer and the brand. Companies that do this well can radically compress the consideration and evaluation phases—and in some cases even eliminate them—during the purchase process and catapult a consumer right to the loyalty phase of the relationship. The journey itself is becoming the defining source of competitive advantage.
Digital leaders will be those organizations that use business analytics to offer deep insights into customer behaviors, wants and needs, develop new products and services, and ultimately innovate and exploit new business opportunities. Today, algorithms know pretty well what we do, what we think and how we feel—possibly even better than our friends and family or even ourselves. The more that is known about us, the less likely our choices are to be free and not predetermined by others.
The industry is moving toward omni-channel CX – where the Customer Experience is consistent, seamless, and effortless – whether the customer is interacting with the same channel, or moving between channels. Therein lays the next set of opportunities, but also challenges, for most companies. The key to delivering a seamless Customer Experience lies in omni-channel marketing. Effective omni-channel marketing is about taking control of customer interactions by integrating data from all channels (such as the Web, social media, mobile Web, mobile apps, display and search), devices (such as laptops, tablets, smartphones and desktops), and functional applications (such as customer relationship management and content marketing platforms).
Conclusion: Automation & Analytics are keys, but humans are irreplaceable
Automation is a productivity tool, not a replacement, for humans. Automation tools are only effective if leveraged intelligently – by humans.
Or as Beth Comstock, Vice Chairman, GE, explains: “Exponential leaders use technology to their advantage, combining the power of computing and data with human leadership. They must develop collaborations between people and machines, between artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the people operating in their company, their customers and their executives. Teams that don’t do this will be left behind.”