Picture this. You’re at a Gourmerican burger joint chomping a cheeseburger, when an outspoken vegan friend starts preaching that you’re killing the planet. Last week, that same vegan downed a pricey glass of pinot before their flight to a far-flung destination, armed with their strongest mossie repellant and first aid kit. Anything amiss?
According to Capgemini Consulting’s senior VP and global practice leader, Didier Bonnet, business success today relies on collaborative customer experience, a marked shift from the traditional marketing model of simply conducting surveys and running focus groups.
“Customers never stop to surprise you, even more now than ever before,” he told CMO in a recent interview. “And because everyone’s approach is very linear today with respect to design, production, marketing, distribution and sales, you’ll find a lot more customer participation in the overall process.”
While product development used to be R&D focused and secretive, today’s focus must be on transparency and having ongoing conversations with clients, Bonnet said.
“The communication is a lot more open,” he said. “The risks are not that high for the companies doing it right and you ultimately come up with better solutions because you’re having the customer involved from day one.”
And that requires data. One example of leveraging data for a more seamless customer experience is the parcel delivery sector, Bonnet explained. Customer data and collaborating with customers are both being used to completely transform the postal process.
“There’s nothing more annoying than when you have to use UPS or DHL deliver a parcel and you have no clue when it is going to arrive,” he said. “But there’s an easy solution to that, because UPS does know where your parcel is, they do have the data and can geo-localise the actual lorry to tell you exactly when it will be delivered. Today, you can actually access that data.”
Balancing info with sensitivity
But while data insights can be a good thing, Bonnet warned of the dangers of being too intrusive. One example is Facebook’s new functionality of retrieving your ‘memories’ to share, which may not always be positive if the memories involved ex-partners or broken down relationships, he said.
“Then it can become too intrusive and become a negative sentiment, which can have huge implications for the brand,” he claimed. “Companies like Facebook are responding to it, but I think they are pushing the limits of the data that they’re collecting, because in a way, it is more than what you volunteered.”
For organisations, Bonnet believed the key is being creative when being more collaborative, without pushing the boundaries towards negative sentiment.
“Customer collaboration is great: You can decrease costs in the long-term or reduce the pain points in operations, brands will get more information from their customer, and the customers like it – they want to be involved if they like your company,” he said. “But the data side of course, is a bit more tricky, because it’s all about balance. If you utilise more data than your customer feels comfortable with, you could venture into negative territory.”
As a result, Bonnet expected transparency to become hugely important for brands.
“Customers want to understand what you’re trying to do with their data, why are you asking for something or how you’re using data to provide a more positive or seamless experience?” he said.
“If you provide a service that is very useful or a service that the customer totally trusts, transparency shines through. So the whole notion of customer journey needs to be seamless and positive, but executed in a non-intrusive way.”
For Bonnet, Uber’s ‘wow’ factor is based on exactly that concept. While the technology used is not mind boggling, the magic for Uber was to discover the pain points for the customer and then leverage technology to make the experience far more seamless, he said.
“What is interesting is how this then becomes the de fault benchmark customers expect across all other industries,” he said.
Emotions in a faceless environment
Whether it is online or offline, emotional connection is still key in building customer engagement, Bonnet continued.
“Take an example like banking,” he said. “If you have a positive and efficient relationship with your bank because it offers you a seamless and positive online and mobile experience, you will have a close relationship with your bank, even if you rarely have face-to-face contact.
“The interesting thing about digital is you can have a good emotional experience and attachment that is actually faceless.”
But this may be a complex notion for brands to embrace who are more accustomed to doing billboards and 30-second ads for 30 years in marketing, he admitted.
“It’s important to remember that even if you’re marketing online, the emotion hasn’t gone away - the story telling and engagement is more important than before, because you have to create authenticity for the customer in more creative ways using avenues like social media and online community participation,” he concluded.