TS454296797_webAmerican Express conducted a study with 1,620 consumers testing how individuals feel during consumer experiences. The survey showed heart rates increased in 63% of consumers who thought they were receiving great customer service. Even more fascinating was the fact that 53% of the consumers who actually received great service, experienced the same cerebral reaction as if they were feeling loved.

And in today’s digital-first world, the emphasis on customer experience has increased exponentially. So, how do brands differentiate the way they do business?

The balancing act of digital tech and the customer experience

TS75779978_combined_webOne way brands are improving the customer experience is to experiment with new concepts. Drone deliveries, or using sensors to help shoppers avoid queues to pick up click and collect parcels, or using an innovative augmented reality app.  These innovations attract more customers, right?

Sort of.  The basic fundamentals to customer service have not changed. Customers want to be recognized, desire to be heard, valued and treated as if they’re your number one customer.

Companies must think big, but start small to identify strategies to sense, transform, and seize opportunities to deliver the desired customer value. Combining the right blend of customer centricity, complimented by new digital technologies can make a profound impact on meeting new expectations of a customers’ needs, perceptions and decisions. But they must balance it with “table stakes” of getting the basics right.

What happens when customers expect more

As competition with online retailers raise the bar for elevating customers expectations with “more love,” every brand must consider the impossible. A few years ago, consumers were satisfied with a seven-day delivery from an online retailer. Today, consumers expect next day service. Tomorrow, it will be a four hour delivery service.

How do brands interact with customers who demand more or expect priority or VIP-type services? Do customers define how they should be served?

Amazon responds by constantly pushing the envelope. Most recently they have their delivery trucks supplied with 3D printers and Dash Buttons. Other companies are putting their customer data insights to work and adjusting business models to account for the digital experience makeover.

Every organization is different, but the main idea is to think big in addressing these new expectations, but start small to meet them.

A few think big ideas that are running through my mind:

1.  One universal shopping cart:

TS489038468_webImagine a scenario where you have one universal shopping cart to shop anywhere–online, in-store or in another country. As you were walking down the street, a Burberry Double-Breasted Peacoat catches your eye and you have to buy it. You take a quick pic, upload the image to your shopping cart to automatically search for the image on the Internet. The app offers you options to compare prices, or find the nearest store where this coat is available at the best price, or even allows you to check for options from another brand. You decide to purchase and ship the jacket in a matter of seconds with couple of clicks and thumb authentication to verify your bank and delivery details.

Now take this shopping cart to the another level. Imagine you are browsing a friend’s album on Facebook, and see a woman styling a pair of Stella McCarthy floral print ankle boots that you know your wife would love. You click and save that image into your universal shopping cart. This cart also allows you to click on hot spots within the image to investigate more about the product online or purchase it directly from Facebook.

In this cart example, the merchant from whom you are buying and the brand you are buying are all invisible. You as a customer are delighted. You don’t have to browse and hunt for what you want to buy. This cart leverages the love and impulsive nature to shop and helps them buy what they want, anytime or anywhere.

2.  Everyone will have a Jeeves:

TS480175632_comp_webThe data a person generates is making mobile apps more intelligent. Apps will recommend what a consumer should be doing and when. Imagine a situation where you are going on a business trip. A travel app gathers data about your meetings for the day. Then notify’s you of an airline delay and begins to re-orchestrate your plans. Alternative options for travel from the airplane to the ground transportation are provided to get you to your destination safely and quickly.

The app also tracks weather conditions and recognizes heavy rainfall when you arrive at your destination. It will advise you to buy an umbrella in case you are not carrying one. On top of this, the airline refunds you part of the travel fare due to the flight delay and supplies a coupon for refreshments at the airport, while you wait. When you reach your destination, a cab is waiting for you.

And while you commute in the cab, with social and calendar integration, it sends you a notification with social profiles of the clients you are about to meet along with personality traits analysis and recommendations on how you should engage with them.

Now these two sound like dream applications and we all would love to have them. Don’t we? They work because they are personalized, convenient, relevant, serving customers in some way outside o af product transaction. Basically the technology and customer focus, helps elevate the digital experience.

Elevating the digital experience

Every brand that yearns to improve the customer experience should never lose sight of the fundamentals to customer centricity, because frankly, customers just want to be loved.

Then consider the possibilities of how digital technologies can enable the organization in a small or large way to help elevate consumer experiences that may be unthinkable today, but possible tomorrow.

To me, the future always was and always will be in elevating the customer experience. Everything else is just an enabler. As Steve Jobs once said, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”

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Ranjeev leads Business Development & Digital Strategy for ‘Cognizant Agency Services’ Business Unit in Europe. You can reach him at ranjeev.vij@cognizant.com