If you work in customer strategy, sales, service or marketing, there is a high probability that you stay up to date on the latest developments in your field of expertise. You read articles like this. You visit conferences. You talk to colleagues in other companies to exchanges hints, tips and practices.
You may even keep up with the latest communication and social technology to understand how they may affect your multi-channel reality.
But how is your state of knowledge on topics like material science, nano-technology, synthetic biology, genomics and artificial intelligence?
In case you wonder where I’m going with this, my thesis is that you should also keep up to date with this more scientific part of life. Not at specialist levels, but enough to stay up to date on what is going on.
The latest technical developments in each of these fields are preparing a revolution which is going to utterly destroy any concept of what we currently consider business as usual. In the coming decade, factories, supply chains and customer expectations will start transforming our reality well beyond anything the internet or mobile phones have done for us (and we thought they were pretty major).
If you don’t believe me, have a look at this 10 minute video from a recent TED talk:
It wouldn’t be hard to imagine how an industry grade version of this technology would affect what today we call customer relations.
Products could be produced anywhere on the planet (in the Amazon warehouses?) and arrive at the customer’s home hours after their production. Designs would become like templates which people can infinitely customise (with or without your help). You would have to manage tens of thousands of individual dialogues to understand your customers and meet their continuously evolving needs. And as your customers would get ever more used to having life exactly the way they wanted, you might have to give them the keys to your design department.
Sure, this won’t happen tomorrow (though if you’re building a factory today, 5-7 years is nothing in terms of amortisation). But parts of this vision are already relevant to today’s reality. 3D printing is reinventing machine tools and prototyping. Tesla is turning the automotive orthodoxies upside down. Big data is a reality. IBM’s Watson does beat humans at Jeopardy.
My suggestion to you is therefore to read up and recognise that most of the parameters you use to design, organise and measure your customer experience are based on reality as we know it and will be outdated in a number of years. This is OK, as we all still need to make our money today. But it shouldn’t turn into a mental straight-jacket which shapes our customer experience thinking. Especially if this straight jacket gets translated into capital expenditures of company infrastructures with a 5-7 year amortisation schedule.
The more advanced brands I know are already responding to this challenge by splitting their customer experience design efforts into two tracks:
· On the first - mainstream - track they focus on experience business as usual. This involves listening to the voice of their customers, market and employees to both improve and innovate.
· On the second, they throw out the rule-book to look ahead and develop 2020 or even 2025 customer experience concepts that let go of today's industry, technology and information constraints. Re-invent the game.
The results of these breakthrough journey maps are sometimes scary, but always remarkable. Also, while most elements are fairly futuristic, there are always one or two aspects which can be applied today.
Just a thought you might want to consider :-)
If you would like to know more about the topic of customer-centricity: get in touch, ask my colleagues at Futurelab, check out my book "So You Want To Be Customer-Centric?" or join the LinkedIn group by the same name.