Create a Pickle for Your Competition by Solving Tomorrow’s Problems Today
Your Customers Will Appreciate It
Your Customers Will Appreciate It
During a presentation to NEC America in 2018, Tiffany Bova, Salesforce’s “Growth and Innovation Evangelist” defined the customer experience as the “sum total of the human reaction with every component of your brand.” While one can argue that this premise has held true since an early human sold a piece of mammoth jerky to a neighboring tribe (mammoth jerky is for closers), one cannot deny that delivering a positive customer experience is becoming more difficult. Technology is accelerating our world and creating an expectation that answers arrive in milliseconds vice a 20-minute phone call. Therefore, Bova argued that at the end of the day, you are selling an experience that anticipates costumers’ future needs rather than a static product that only addresses today’s requirements.
Bova drove home the point by asking the audience how many people used Uber in the last thirty days. She then asked how many people recalled how much they paid during the last trip. Bova explained that we often remember when we chose a particular service option, but we rarely remember the cost because the preferred experience is the prime discriminator when making a choice. The recent Uber customers certainly had the option of taking a cab, but they chose Uber. Bova posited that people deemed the Uber experience as a more attractive option than cabs because luxuries such as digital receipts and cashless payments addressed future challenges. These future challenges for an Uber customer include everything from submitting expense reports to withdrawing funds from a local ATM. In short, Uber knew about their customers’ problems before they experienced them and offered their customers a solution they did not previously need.
Bova used Uber as an example of how digital transformation drives a customer’s experience. Digital transformation, in this context, implies a business model’s transformation from reactive to proactive with the ultimate goal of becoming predictive of customer needs. Prior to the advent of the internet, Bova explained that businesses would define problems based on customer service calls and only solved the problems the customers told them to fix. They were primarily reactive. However, technology has enabled businesses to analyze a deeper timeline and get ahead of problems before they occur or exist during a customer’s journey.
You can search for YouTube videos on how to transition to a predictive organization and find scores of TED Talks pitching various bottles of AI-fueled lightning in a hip Austin venue. Instead, Bova offered a more pragmatic solution: look at your current customers, identify what they are buying, and figure out how to make more of them. Group think is not hard to discover nor is it difficult to leverage to amplify future sales. We’ve all purchased Christmas gifts and learned that they require an exotic battery that is only available in Indonesia on March 4th during a leap year. Bova’s simple model suggests that if your customers purchased this toy, having a box of these accursed batteries at checkout is a wise move and solves the customer’s problem before they leave the store.
Let us rephrase this approach. Consider writing the following sentences on your team’s whiteboard: “When customers purchase W, they will also purchase X within Y days. They do this because of Z.” Combing through past data to determine these four variables will not only enable your team to establish the necessary inventory to solve your customers’ future problems, but it will also give your team the ever-important “why.”
Understanding “why” your customers make these series of decisions could identify new opportunities for services that build brand loyalty and drive customer advocacy. If your business has the rare batteries from Indonesia while your competition fails to do so, your customers will tell their friends and families about the problem-solving Utopia that is your business and send them your way less they ruin Christmas worse than a Detroit Lions game broadcast (just kidding, we love our friends in the 313).
At this point, you might have rolled your eyes after we sprinkled magic fairy dust over our theoretical white board and solved all the world’s problem with four mysterious variables. True, defining them is not easy, but it is certainly not impossible. Bova explained that every company has past sales data; well, those that have a healthy fear of the IRS at least do. Applying analytics to this data can transition reams of Excel data into information. When a capable team reviews information through the lens of their target demographic and user stories, this information transitions to intelligence and paves the Yellow Brick Road toward becoming a predictive organization.
Too often, companies believe that if they sprinkle some Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning on their problems, opportunities and solutions will instantly begin crashing their way through the ceiling tiles like an elite counter-terrorism strike team. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and we still need human beings attuned to a local customer base to transition information into intelligence. You and your team know your customers better than any machine ever will. That fact leads us to a critical point of understanding: technology is an enabler, not a panacea. Just think of how many times Facebook has recommended a hideous garden gnome or authentic chain mail armor as an ideal candidate for your next online purchase. Machines and technology are excellent at providing information, but it is your team that will transition information to intelligence and thus drive your organization past delivering reactive solutions and products to the magical land of predictive wonders.
In closing, solving problems and delivering products that your customers have yet to consider will create an experience that will become the primary discriminator for them choosing your brand. This is the destination, and analyzing your current customer base and understanding their needs provides the road map. Bova channeled Warren Buffet and anchored her talk on one fundamental point: customers do not always remember how much they paid, but they always remember the experience. Understanding the customer’s needs, goals, and desires is paramount to building the things and delivering the services that distinguish your brand from your competitors. What makes a customer walk through a particular set of doors? The answer to that question often serves as how to pave a foundational effort for any business’ approach towards success.
Want to learn more about how we can help solve your customer’s future problems?