The future is all around us – it just isn’t evenly distributed yet, observed futurist William Gibson, the seeds of the future are already sown and, if you look carefully, visible today.
As soon as you lose interest in the future you are consigning yourself (and your business) to the past
— Sir Richard Branson
The two most significant factors influencing the future customer experience are “insight” and “technology”, indeed it is the fusion of the two that, in our view, will shape every aspect of consumer life for the next decade.
We are entering a world where we will manage our lives on technology platforms, portals that are gateways to resolving life issues, making purchases and managing and scheduling our everyday lives. With the information we provide through these platforms firms will be able to predict our needs and prepare us to meet them before they arise. Automated concierges and bots will provide a linguistic gateway into an advanced world of consumer technology where AI and machine learning based functions get to know more and more about us so they can anticipate what we will need next and make sure it is at our finger tips when required.
From the global research programme conducted by the KPMG Nunwood Customer Experience Excellence Centre we can see the first vestiges of this around us today. Monzo Bank’s current account monitors spending patterns and offers real time advice as to how we might use our money more effectively. “Flipper” monitors energy usage patterns in the home, compares this to energy supplier’s tariffs and terms and conditions and automatically switches supplier when lower cost more effective solutions become available. Their promise is that you will never need to check whether you are paying the lowest rate for energy ever again.
In the US, the bank USAA has developed a voice activated smart bot which is highly educated in the lexicon of financial services and can conduct a number of activities via voice control. They state that they have never had to programme it, AI based, it learns from every interaction. They claim it is unlike any other bot and that you can talk to it like a person.
Alongside this USAA use customer understanding to predict an individual’s needs before the customer even realises they have a need. They are focused on life events as being the primary driver of customer needs and the trigger that brings them into the market for financial services and advice. USAA describes it thus, “in the past we were able to deduce when a customer had experienced a life event, now with our predictive technologies processing vast quantities of customer data we are able to determine when a customer is about to enter a life event, it means we can get to help them before the needs arise”.
In China the platforms of WeChat and Alibaba have become an indispensable part of everyday life for millions of Chinese consumers, combining social media, shopping and financial services.
“Know your customer” has always been solid advice, however, to deliver an outstanding experience individual customer insight is now more critical than ever. Firms such as QVC and Boden have such a deep and profound understanding of their customer that they are able to think like their customer, to experience the world through their eyes and, as a consequence, meet their needs more quickly and more fully than competitors.
This understanding goes way beyond traditional demographics and behavioural data, into a deep understanding of how their customer’s minds work, their psychological needs as well as their physical and transactional needs.
The experience of tomorrow will be based on technologies that both provide insight and consume insight. Insight and data will be the raw materials that will power advanced technologies to deliver ever more personalised experiences.