by Dov Rosenberg –
Albert Einstein once said that imagination is more important than knowledge. So, it’s no surprise that industry-leading companies in the consumer marketplace are obsessed with capturing their customers’ imaginations. Theme parks, leisure brands, and product companies have been focused on the customer experience from their very founding, and that near-obsessive focus upon the customer experience is embedded deep within their corporate DNA. It guides their approach to every aspect of their business.
But even these paragons of customer experience have had to deal with the gradual evolution of customers’ expectations over the past 30 years. Not one of these companies’ business models have remained unchanged – primarily because their laser focus on customer engagement has forced them to adapt to the way their customers interact with them.
Change or Die
Consider these three examples of how some leading consumer-facing organizations have evolved…
Customer Engagement in Travel & Tourism
The first time I went to a theme park as a kid, my dad had to buy books of paper tickets. The best rides required the scarce “E Ticket” to ride. Today, these same theme parks engage their customers in many different ways, all supporting the singular focus of making it easier for a guest to do business with them. Whether it is through websites, mobile applications, partners, or wrist bands, their goal is to be part of every second of a vacation to ensure that they meet or exceed expectations.
Another current industry leader did not invent the leisure cruise industry, but they invested billions of dollars in creating the largest ships in the industry. Their ships have redefined what a cruise can be (and, in the minds of many consumers, what a cruise should be). From restaurants offering fine dining to world-class health spas, and even parks with trees and grass onboard, the goal is to engage their guests in new ways to deepen their relationship.
To keep pace, the cruise industry has been forced to recognize that cruisers of today are not like those that predominated even a mere 10 years ago. Everyone wants to be connected 24/7 no matter where they are in the world – including in the middle of the ocean or on a tropical island. Their ships must accommodate this modern-day desire. And the profile of cruise industry guests continues to evolve, forcing a simultaneous continuous evolution of a world-class cruise experience.
Engaging Customers in the Tech Industry
Starting out as a computer company, one brand leapfrogged over all of their competitors to become the preeminent technology and digital experience provider. This company didn’t expend massive resources in creating a huge number of different products. Instead, they focused on ensuring that the products they did create were focused on how customers wanted to do things. They didn’t just focus on a product; they delivered a game-changing ecosystem with the entire customer experience in mind.
Each example noted above (and every other profit-seeking company) has learned that it is impossible to dogmatically stay the course with their tried and true business models. They learned that they must
embrace change within their business models, evolving as necessary to adapt to changing customer demands and expectations. To do otherwise is to risk fading into irrelevance.
Customer Engagement Models Don’t Evolve by Accident
These three companies continue to invest heavily in improving their customer engagement models (and their profits) based on new capabilities that they introduce to consumers. Some prime examples include:
- Use of artificial intelligence (AI) – Customer self-service is a huge focus for companies. It can save millions of dollars by minimizing the amount of time a customer service agent must spend on the phone solving problems. It also empowers customers to help themselves WITHOUT having to talk to someone, improving their attitude toward their overall experience with the company. Using AI-powered approaches to solving common customer service issues can simultaneously and dramatically improve both customer satisfaction and profits.
- Mobile first strategies – Today’s consumers and workforces are always in motion. Jobs don’t end after 40 hours a week, and they rarely require everyone to be in the same location in order to be functional. Digital transformations that recognize and embrace those trends effectively expand the footprint for customer and employee engagement, moving beyond the bounds of traditional brick and mortar locations to anywhere and anytime in the world – and for even the smallest of companies.
- Retiring old business processes – Many early implementations of digital transformation simply placed digital versions of the same old paper forms online. Customers were required to fill the forms out so that the company’s back-end systems could do their thing. Apple revolutionized retail when they eliminated cash registers from their stores. Now, no Apple customer is forced to stand in line to pay for anything; every associate in the store has the ability to process a transaction. This type of transformation required that new approaches and technologies be applied to solving old business problems.
Digital Transformation Is an Action, Not an Occurrence
Digital transformation cannot happen by itself. If a company’s business processes are not updated to embrace the new capabilities that software advancements have provided, then that company is not going to realize the full potential of their investments. Conversely, creating a lot of new capabilities using software and fancy hardware will all be for naught if the customer must continue to use the old ways of engaging with the company after the fact.
Effective digital transformation requires a complete evaluation of ALL of the customer engagement touchpoints. Processes that are not optimized must be replaced. Do that, and you’ll be on the pathway to true digital transformation and successful customer engagement.
Do you know how your customer engagement initiatives stack up against your competitors? Download our customer engagement self-assessment.