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Catherine Thomas, Director, Customer and Partner Experience, Microsoft Australia
A digital transformation journey can take many different directions and for many organisations, digital transformation starts at the same place: with the customer.
Digital technology has changed customer expectations and organisations now need to provide fast, readily available and personalised ways for customers to interact with their businesses. That means creating new websites, electronic contact channels and mobile apps and undertaking deeper upgrades to core systems.
But what’s next? If you wanted to truly transform the customer experience you offer today and be ready for tomorrow, what would you consider?
Gather feedback in real time
Digital transformation is about creating systems of intelligence that allow your business to learn and act more quickly. When it comes to customer experience, there is an enormous opportunity to use digital technologies to gauge customer behaviours and responses in real time and modify your operations on the go.
At Microsoft, we no longer rely only on surveys to gather customer feedback on products. Now, we have feedback capabilities digitally built into our products that give us instant insights into customers’ interactions. This has dramatically accelerated our ability to improve our products. In fact, Windows 10 was developed in collaboration with millions of customers from the Windows Insider Program, whose digital feedback helped shape the product during development.
WorldSmart, a retail technology specialist, is also leveraging digital feedback loops to improve customer experience. It provides sensors that retailers can use to measure customer behaviour in their stores, including emotional responses and how long they spend looking at a product. Retailers can use this data to evaluate marketing campaigns and change them as required.
Integrate employee and customer experiences
Employee experience and customer experience are often intertwined with one having a profound impact on the other. Using digital tools to benefit customers and employees can deliver powerful results.
For example, Qantas has realised the connection between a better employee experience and improved customer service. It empowered its employees with instant digital access to customer itineraries and flight schedules so they could follow customers in real time and respond quickly to any issues, such as providing an incorrect meal on a plane.
Use robots to automate service
Alongside capturing real-time insights, automation also offers a powerful way to improve the quality of the customer experience and automated tools, such as robots, will be a highly disruptive force in the future.
Microsoft uses software robots or ‘bots’ to automate some of our customer service interactions, such as answering technical support questions online. These virtual assistants answer customers directly and when a problem needs to be escalated to a real agent, they remain in contact to help. Through a process called reinforcement learning, they not only help the real agent get better but they also get better themselves. This makes customer service more efficient and helps improve customer satisfaction.
The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, which runs the Royal Easter Show, is also combining automation with powerful personalisation capabilities. The understanding of a customer’s location at the show can be used to automatically display nearby events, or other helpful information, via a mobile app.
Explore virtual reality
Finally, virtual and mixed reality provides an exciting opportunity for businesses to empathise with their customers. Employees can use a mixed-reality device such as Microsoft’s HoloLens to simulate a customer’s experience; for example, an employee could learn about the experience of an individual with a disability in a health care facility. Walking in a customer’s shoes makes it much easier to understand their experience and improve it.
Many organisations are already leveraging these smart systems to build an experience today that customers will want tomorrow. Those organisations that are not may well soon be left behind.