I recently attended a seminar where some of the brightest and futuristic looking people set out their vision of the world in 2025 and beyond. A world where driver less cars were the norm, where city centres are people-only zones as silent tube-like machines ferry shoppers around, dropping them at their pre-programmed zone. A world where there are is no longer the need for pilots as fully automated planes drop vertically from the sky to lock on to a landing pad as the waiting passengers eagerly anticipate their 1 hour journey to New York from London. Oh, and by the way we all live until at least 200 as the robots in our blood stream zap any disease before it begins to have its wicked way. We’ll certainly be living longer but it doesn’t sound like fun.
I came away depressed. Is that the world we really want to live in? A soulless technology driven world where the thrills of the roar of a V12 engine has been replaced by the eerie silence of an electric automated car? Perhaps, but not for me.
It occurred to me the same type of tension between technology and human interaction applies in the business world. A tension that is caught between the inevitable progress of technology with the deep -rooted need for maintaining human intervention.
A recent survey showed that 54% of retailers put Customer Experience (CX) as the most important priority for their business, way ahead of cross-channel marketing (16%), data driven marketing (14%), mobile (11%) and programmatic buying / optimisation (4%). The research shows that retailers will focus on making the experience as ‘easy, fun and valuable’ as possible, with technologies such as virtual and augmented reality coming to the fore as consumer uptake increases. Is this a paradox?
The technology at the fingertips of retailers and the like is exciting, what’s not to like as a marketer about the potential of augmented and virtual reality, AI, Chat Bots, mobile wallets E-receipts and whatever else the innovation lab is about to reveal. Supermarkets are soon to unveil a Google Maps type app which will guide you to the correct aisles and alert you to the special offers as you shop, sounds great but no doubt we’ll still feel the need to ask the staff why they have stopped selling tapenade.
Despite the thirst for technological advancement, still at the core of the future is Voice, the time-honoured act of speaking to a human being. The demise of speaking to customers in the contact centre was greatly exaggerated a decade ago and, despite the rumours, it’s still alive and well.
Of course it’s now part of the Omni-channel experience rather than the single channel it was two decades ago, but ask any business what channel they choose to communicate with their high value customers and voice is still their No1. So we should be cognisant that as the technology drives us to greater efficiency and insight into customer behaviour, it will be the people we speak to that will define our engagement with that brand.
And to prove the point, as I was locked out of my iTunes account last week, it was good old Conor from Apple Support who rescued me and left me feeling good about the brand. A brand built on technology has the nous to know there is still a place for people.
Voice is dead? ………not quite yet.
To read more of my thoughts on consumer experience download our most recent whitepaper here. We’re also holding a seminar event to talk more about customer engagement on the 24th May at Carpeo in Newport.