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Guest Blogger

Phil Durand, Director, Customer Experience Management, Confirmit

Have you noticed that there’s a lot of talk about the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on our daily lives and business in general at the moment? Discussions about the Internet of Things, automation and artificial intelligence – to name just a few – are rife. There is no doubt that as technology gets smaller and smarter, the opportunity to log data about almost anything and everything is getting larger and larger.

What does all this mean for CX?

Emerging technology is set to change every facet of our lives, from the way we work and the type of jobs available, to the way we learn and the forms of transport that we use, for example. Billions of people connected by mobile phones, wearable devices and all manner of ‘app-cessories’ will increasingly monitor and provide information about our daily activities, purchases, location and activity on social media. But one thing, fortunately, seems likely to remain constant. The customer will continue to be at the heart of business success. In an increasing customer-driven market, this means it’s likely that customer experience could be the only KPI that really matters.

Far greater effort will need to be made to improve the way an entirely customer-centric workforce can harness increasingly large amounts of data to understand and predict the cultural and personal interests and preferences of every customer. Only by doing this will organisations be able to compete in a ‘customer first’ marketplace.

The challenge is going to be how to make sure that we truly understand what customers think by gathering insight from a growing number of data sources in order to reverse engineer the perfect product, service and experience for each individual.

And let’s be clear – the customer should have a part to play in this. They should not be the unknowing focus of overly sophisticated observational mechanisms, monitored and tracked by corporate giants in order to increase the chance of a sale.  I can’t imagine consumers going along with that – or being happy if they knew! So there needs to be some quid pro quo – give and take. An answer to the age-old question of ‘what’s in it for me?’  This is an issue that the CX world has already started to tackle by ensuring that organisations deal with the impact of the customer voice on product and service design.

Some might argue that there will be ‘too much data’ to sift through, much of it gathered and stored in silos, in order to be able to find the truth behind each customer story. But the answer to reducing the noise created by vast amounts of data will lie in deciding what data is most important to each company, based on key business objectives, at the outset. In this way you can decide what to focus on and what to ignore, and identify who are the main ‘characters’ or influencers in each customer’s story. You’ll also be able to set alerts to track key ‘themes’, such as revenue or churn, and prioritise data from sources that contribute to significant ‘plots’ or business objectives.

All of this will make it easier to identify, track and interrogate patterns that will enable hypotheses to be tested and support decision making.

For this to work, and for organisations to be able to corroborate ‘the evidence’, there will undoubtedly need to be far greater integration between structured and unstructured, solicited and unsolicited, written as well as audio and video data. More effective use of text and predictive analytics must be made in order to harness the science behind CX.

The advantage of free text responses, for example, is that it allows the customer to provide feedback in any way they want. Text analytics can be used to draw patterns and quantifiable data from customers’ actual voices, which is invaluable. Not only do you get to hear the customer telling you exactly what they think, you can process their words and correlate with quantitative data, further extending your insight.

Predictive analytics is another thing entirely. With enough data, patterns from previous, observed behaviours married to customer opinions can be used to predict outcomes. This could include anything from likely uptake rates for promotions or the success of new products, to the impact of changes to services on business metrics. Just as with all research prior to this, knowledge takes some of the risk out of decisions, but predictive analytics promises to model differing options and reveal the most beneficial option overall. The sophistication of these tools continues to develop year-on-year, which means the ability to make informed decisions will also improve.

Regardless of how insights are gathered, just as critical will be the clear and concise presentation of insight that has been gathered and the ease with which executives, managers and employees can drill down into data to find the patterns or issues that are most important to them. The user experience provided by dashboards will become more important than ever, since the data gathered will only help them to make better decisions if it can be displayed in a clear and concise way that is easy to understand – and take action on. If the insight can’t be provided in a memorable manner that can be easily passed on to key stakeholders and team members, lessons won’t be learned, it won’t go viral and business critical action won’t be taken.

CX dashboards and programmes really do need to go further than merely presenting or disseminating insights. They should play an  active role in shaping the actions needed to resolve the issues they uncover, not overwhelm CX professionals with too much data to handle that they haven’t got time or energy to close the loop or change the direction of the business.