The Future of Work & Customer Experience: People at the Center of It All
by Danyel LaGow, CCXP
Significant shifts are happening in both workforce engagement and customer experience. How well a company reacts to change will play an important role in how successful it will be in adapting to the future. To explore the aspects of these shifts, Strong-Bridge Envision hosted a Future of Work Roundtable with a special focus on Customer Experience.
At this roundtable, hosted in New York, attendees discussed different perspectives driving the Future of Work (including demographic, technological, and sociopolitical) alongside practical customer experience topics, such as understanding the end-to-end customer journey, the role of data, and engaging employees. The discussion provided insight into how companies can adapt equally to both workforce and customer experience shifts, as well as how to bring that change into the customer culture.
We began by sharing examples of companies that are finding innovative ways to deliver differentiated customer experiences, which led to a great discussion on data, decentralization, and generation factors.
The demographics of banking are changing drastically. A new generation of banking customer expects something very different out of the relationship— something more consultative and approachable. To respond to this change in expectations, the company created Capital One Cafés.
You don’t have to be a customer to visit these locations. Anyone can patron these locations, pour a cup of coffee, hook up to WiFi, and have a conversation with a rep about their financial needs. The environment disarms— meeting the customer (or future customer) where they are. It is a bold move in response to changing times; Capital One put themselves out there in the community to forge dynamic, trusted relationships with customers.
FASHION RETAILER, ZARA
With a single measure, the company simultaneously solved a major customer pain point and reduced the costs associated with shipping and returns. If you have ever ordered clothes online, you’re familiar with the dance— buy an article of clothing and when it doesn’t fit, return it and order another size; or order two sizes, keeping the one that fits and returning the other.
Seeing this as an opportunity, Zara created a “Find My Size” tool that allows the retailer to provide personalized sizing recommendations for each article of clothing. In a data-driven world, this perfectly demonstrates reciprocity. People will willingly share data when they see how it is being used for their benefit. So ask for the data, but use it wisely.
The company has been notably progressive for more than a decade now. Their choices embrace both digitization as well as a shifting customer demographic. Their employee-updated online tracking allows customers to track their pizza throughout the process— from dough to delivery. Their system adapts Uber’s transformative tracking, which allows their customers to track a driver’s progress. The focus is on simplifying the experience for an audience accustomed to proactive communications associated with digital and mobile.
After sharing these examples, we led an engaging conversation on the shifts paving the way for new experiences, as well as the practical threads of CX that make these leveled-up experiences possible. Below are the three themes that stood out from that conversation, with direct quotes from various attendees.
1. USE DATA TO UNLOCK POTENTIAL
“Companies need to focus on the data first, before they do anything else.”
Without a doubt, data is a powerful tool in CX. Not only can it can it help you better understand what your customers are telling you, it can also uncover what their key drivers and behaviors are. Like the Zara example, if you show your customers that you’re using the information they provide in ways that are meaningful to them, they will be more open to sharing. And, by consistently demonstrating that you’ll use data in ways that matter to your customer, you are also fostering long-term loyalty.
FUTURE OF WORK TIP: Get your employees involved by plotting your data sources as a part of your customer journey mapping exercise. When involving a diverse group of employees in a journey mapping exercise, address where data lives across various departments, how it is used, and how both customers and employees interact with it.
2. DECENTRALIZE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
“The burdens we place on our people day-to-day have them focused on the constraints of what’s today as opposed to what’s possible. So, greenfield is absolutely important.”
Capital One demonstrated, very effectively, the game-changing ideas that can occur when companies break out of their norm and explore new ways of engaging with customers in the community. Companies can find their Customer Experience niche by bringing their own employees along in their CX strategy.
FUTURE OF WORK TIP: Create opportunities for employees to work cross-functionality together, and teach them experience design so they can bring it into their day-to-day roles. Together, this is what creates a connected customer experience that allows all parts of the company to come to a customer from the same place of understanding. Bonus— employers that are fanatic about their customers are more exciting and attractive for career opportunities.
3. EMBRACE GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES
“Successful companies are about why they do what they do. If a company doesn’t have this clear, a new crop of people may choose not to work there.”
Both workforces and customers are becoming generationally diverse. Millennials and Gen Z (the demographic cohort after millennials) are phasing in to create a dynamic that must be addressed both now and in the future. Especially for Gen Z, there is a need to be engaged.
FUTURE OF WORK TIP: From a workforce perspective, you will need to help employees understand why they should care— what it means to be involved and how they will impact a greater purpose for their organization.
For workforce and customer experience to work together, companies must be willing to embrace change and work to understand it long into the future. By working across silos within your organization, engaging employees from a diverse generational set and deeply unpacking the customer’s needs, you can be sure the changes in which you invest are wise ones.