Make customer experience central to Digital Transformation

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The annual customer service event that BT hosts at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition is always guaranteed to show us how fast things change. It reminds us too that the touch point between companies and customers is one of the hottest places on the planet when it comes to the impact of new technology.

Gillian Chamberlain, BT’s General Manager of Marketing and Communications, put it in context at this year’s event – Navigation To Digital Customer Care. “The digital era could also be called the age of the consumer because technology on one hand and economic forces on the other are coming together to put power or control into the hand of the consumer,” she said.

There was food for thought for the CEOs in the room when she said that a company’s performance will be directly related to customer experience and not solely about the product or services they sell. This is why, she argued, customer experience has to be central to the whole concept of digital transformation if a business is to succeed.

Blue Dot Generation

Behaviourologist Ken Hughes would develop these themes in a riveting 50-minute tour of a fast-changing economy where old rules about customer engagement no longer apply. Marking out this landscape is the biggest hospitality brand that has no hotels rooms (Airbnb), the biggest media provider that doesn’t create or own content (Facebook), and the biggest transport company that doesn’t have a vehicle fleet (Uber).

New digital companies are overturning established business models and creating disruption at an unprecedented scale. Hughes described how Google Maps effectively wiped out the market for GPS products. Maps were also a metaphor to show how the consumer had changed. He unfolded one to accentuate the point, saying that people used to use them to find out where they were going. They’re not needed anymore because a new generation of consumers are the blue dot on their smartphone applications and everything comes to them.

Hughes calls them the “Blue Dot Generation”, millennials that see themselves as the centre of the world, with apps and social media at their service to get them what they want, when they want. He showed one video after another of how smart brands are satiating this appetite, quite literally in the case of the fast-food delivery service where all you need to order your favourite pizza is a button on your fridge.

People not botnets

Hughes touched on disruptive global trends including automation, which Nicola Millard, BT’s Head of Customer Insights, explored directly in relation to customer service. The rise in botnets is often seen as a sign that call agents will gradually find themselves out of a job but Millard provided a contrary view. She identified aircrews, nurses and customer service representatives as employees least likely to be replaced with machines.

“ They perform a pivotal role,” she said. “Getting better at that role adds more and more value to the organisation. Having someone who is phenomenally good over years and years of experience actually does add genuine value to the interaction. They are the roles least likely to get automated.”

If the challenges posed by Ken Hughes were sometimes daunting, Millard was on hand to provide some comfort. The world may be changing fast but customer service agents – people not botnets – are still going to be essential.

Watch highlights from the Navigation To Digital Customer Care event

Joseph Walsh


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