The future of customer experience

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Customer experience future AI2018 has been the year of customer experience and satisfaction.

While a lot of discussion surrounds technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), under the hood, it’s all about customer experience. Provide a great one, digitally enhanced and frictionless, and you win. Provide a poor experience burdened with a last-century look and feel, and you should beware.

The value of a great customer experience

One example is my recent experience purchasing a custom-tailored shirt using an iPhone app by a men’s tailoring company.

It works like this: the app uses the camera on your smartphone to scan your body rather than using a traditional tape measure. All you have to do is stand in front of your camera with your hands raised and rotate in a circle. You’re done in 30 seconds. They say that the measurements are 20 percent more accurate than using a professional tailor; and, in my experience, it was pretty darn close. Now, simply click to order your shirt, pants or suit. If you don’t like it, they’ll remake it or refund your money.

I can never find a shirt that fits correctly off of the rack, so the app sounded great to me. For a starting price of $69, it was a pretty easy sell. I’m no fashionista, but I know that getting a custom-made shirt using a traditional tailor can cost upwards of $200 or more. I ordered a shirt, complete with my choice of fabric, collar, buttons and length. The shirt arrived quickly and the quality was great. However, it didn’t fit exactly right. I didn’t love it. It was just okay.

I was pondering what to do when, the next day, I received a well-timed email asking how I liked the shirt. The company reminded me that if I didn’t love everything about it, they would be happy to remake the shirt until it was perfect. I responded and the remake process was easy. Again, taking about 30 seconds. I simply sent smartphone photos of me wearing the shirt along with my description and the company’s tailors implemented specific recommendations regarding measurement and fit.

“Shirt 2.0” arrived about a week later and it was perfect. No hassle, no charge, no problem. Now all future shirts will use my updated measurements. I didn’t see a human being in the entire process. Everything was done digitally: the measurements, the order, the changes and the payment.

Digital disruption isn’t going away

Can a smartphone app possibly replace the time-honored practice of tailoring? I believe it already has, for me, anyway. I predict that digitally transformed processes will be used to create all tailored clothing in the future. The old-school notion of visiting a tailor in person will be as antiquated as going into the bank to deposit a check.

The implications of digital transformation and customer experience have already had a very real and measurable impact across industries. According to the World Economic Forum, the global flow of gross domestic product (GDP) is now 51 percent digital.

For the first time in history, the way companies make money is more digital than physical.

What’s next?

Companies of all sizes and types are digitizing customer experiences to one degree or another. They’re automating and streamlining customer-facing processes, investing in foundational and emerging automation technologies — such as those included in automation platforms — to reinvent their business models to match customer expectations.

In the future, the businesses that win will be the ones that create entirely new experiences for entirely new categories of customers. Every leader should ask: what digital experience could replace us? Or, better yet, how easy are we to do business with?

Expect to see continued reinvention of products, services and experiences being delivered to the market as a result of digital transformation. How can you do it too? It will take creative vision, the courage to try something new, and thoughtful technology strategies and information management to make it work. Look for partners and suppliers with the right mix of expertise, capability and technology that will help you make the most of digital transformation.

Editor’s note: Learn more about the IBM Platform for Digital Business, encompassing a range of solutions that enable customers to effectively automate business operations at speed and scale.

Author’s note: I was provided a fee in return for this post. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own and not influenced by the developing company or its affiliates.

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