I was a guest on the CX Files podcast a couple of weeks ago. The theme was around the transition from outsourcing to orchestration that has been taking place for a few years now in customer experience (CX) design. I have been talking about this for as long as I can remember, but it is good to see that the media and analysts are finally agreeing.
My main point was that designing a CX solution today is about much more than just outsourcing an individual service – it requires a strong partnership to effectively deliver an excellent service.
There are several reasons why this has changed – beyond the obvious ‘it’s more complex than it used to be’ – but here are a few of the most important trends or changes in my opinion:
- Customer journey length: remember when planning a customer service interaction meant planning how to manage calls or emails in a contact centre? Now you need to think about where customers learn about your products, how they find more information, how they can easily make a purchase, and how they stay in touch afterwards. It is like your entire marketing, sales, and service operation has merged and needs to work as a single customer-facing team.
- Channel complexity: it is not just calls. We have seen the evolution of social media, live chat, and texting – and now the asynchronous messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are becoming really important as customers tire of waiting for agents to answer their questions on live chat.
- Omnichannel and Predictive Analytics: the ability to interact with a brand 24/7 using any channel and then to be able to seamlessly switch channel as desired and the ability for a brand to view all these different interactions and to be able to draw some insight from them. This could be a personalised deal, recommendation, or even a prediction of customer behaviour that allows an intervention to be planned. Examples might be a bank estimating who might struggle to repay a loan this month, so they can offer help before the customer defaults, or a TV streaming service detecting a reduction in viewing hours.
All these service changes are being combined with a different approach to service contracts. Instead of asking a CX specialist to charge based on how many people are working in a contact centre it is much more common to design outcome-based ‘gainsharing’ contracts where everyone wins if CX improves. This kind of flexibility is also being aided by the growth of Gig CX where the agents work part-time and are rewarded for each customer interaction. We need to think more about paying for CX outcomes and not the underlying technology or employees.
What we are really talking about is the entire customer service industry embracing the ‘as a service’ cloud concept. Nobody buys PCs for their office and installs hundreds of individual copies of Microsoft Office today. You just get your team a Microsoft 365 subscription and pay as and when you need to use business software.
It is the same with CRM software – in fact, most software or online services are paid for today as you use them. Even the storage systems your company uses can just be paid for when you need space by signing a deal with AWS or Microsoft. It seems strange that CX as a Service has not been embraced before, because as you look around there are industries everywhere that are already doing this.
Automotive is one example. From what was a fairly conservative industry focused largely on increasing market share you now see auto manufacturers competing on which year they will move 100% to Electric Vehicles. The promise of autonomous vehicles continues to hover around and in urban environments many young people are finding it easier to just use Uber rather than ever buying and owning a car.
Brands like Volvo are embracing the ‘as a service’ philosophy. Look at their Volvo Care product. For a fixed monthly subscription, they will deliver a car to your home, the maintenance is paid, the insurance is paid, the tax is paid… that monthly fee is your only cost for car ownership. Of course, you only ‘own’ it for as long as you pay the subscription, but this is like a long-term easy to manage rental. Why tie up your savings in a rapidly depreciating car or ask the bank for a loan when you can just pay a fixed monthly amount with no surprises?
I think the insurance companies and auto brands will take this ‘auto as a service’ idea even further by using predictive analytics. Imagine if Volvo contacts you to say ‘we can see you rarely drive at night and you don’t speed, so we are discounting your monthly subscription…’ That sounds great for the customer. Likewise, if they can see a pattern of lower usage before a customer quits the contract then that is an opportunity to offer an upgrade or discount in return for a locked-in period – an intervention that can maintain the subscription.
Across the entire range of customer interactions, I am seeing a move towards ‘CX as a Service.’ It is clear that other industries are seeing the same trend – and not just those directly buying cloud-based IT services. CX as a Service is coming soon.