The answers to these questions may be some of the most important competitive differentiators in the industry to come. The client has become ever more discerning in their approach to technology partners and supply chains, and with emerging businesses upending traditional markets, and a pandemic upending historic relationships, the door is wide open to any brand bold enough to take their clients and customers on a journey beyond 2021.
Bridgid Nzekwu, former Channel 4 News Newsreader and Moderator, leads Ian Cohen, Chief Product and Information Officer, Acacium Group; Jacqui Lipinski, Head of Products, Imperial College London; Charlotte Baldwin, Chief Digital & Technology Officer, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Richard Newsome, CTO, Sainsbury’s; Michelle Brown, VP Digital Products and Analytics, United Airlines. In partnership with Okta.
“There are so many, better ways to understand what clients need, whether they are internal or external,” said Ian Cohen, “but what’s worrying is that many businesses still act like broadcasting houses, engaging with customers only with what they want customers to hear, and, if that doesn’t work, shouting a bit louder.”
It was an interesting opening for a conversation about customer experience. The term has become a catch-all phrase for messaging, design and technologies that claim to improve how customers or clients interact with businesses and their services. Some do, in fact, improve that experience, but many fall short. For Ian, the answer is simple.
“The question we should be asking ourselves is how do we listen better to our customers? Their input should shape how we engage with them and vice versa, and we now have the tools to truly do that,” he said.
Sainsbury’s CIO, at the time of filming, agreed, but added that the concept of language does much to inhibit good levels of engagement.
“Language can get in the way,” said Richard Newsome. “This is particularly true for internal customers, or staff, as misinterpretations mean people work differently to how you expect or don’t curate a culture that best aligns to your business.
“As an example, when we say ‘business, and the rest of business’ when we discuss technology, it doesn’t allow us to build those cross-functional teams that help deliver good experiences for customers.”
Good customer experience may also mean pivoting your own business to accommodate their new needs. No other industry knows that better than aviation.
“At United Airlines we made a pivot to truly consider the end-to-end welfare of our fliers,” said Michelle Brown. “Because of the pandemic, we had to safeguard them so they felt safe to use us; that meant managing the rules of how and when and where to fly, how to navigate testing, what other regulations apply? This end-to-end paradigm is the future though.”
Pivoting to data
Pivot was certainly the word of the debate. Just as customers themselves have had to re-learn new ways of working and living, so have businesses taken sober decisions to change their business models in response. It means technology leaders have very busy schedules.
“Imperial College has moved from a project methodology to a product methodology,” said Jacquie Lipiniski. “This switch is allowing us to align to customer needs and change the conversation from what the technology does or can do, to understanding their business drivers and collaboratively working on a partnership.
“Three important things come to mind when one considers the future of customer experience: collaboration with customers, governance and prioritization.”
Within the legal sector, transformations have been forced, not least encouraged, and for Charlotte Baldwin the onus of these improvements fall on data.
“We have to build data and insight around the solution we are building and into the product lifecycle,” she said. “We need to know we are solving the right problems for our customers, otherwise, it’s a lot of data and not much insight, and not a good experience.”