Technology in Service of the Customer
The aftermath of the global tech domination
Technology has helped humanity make leaps in countless areas of life, including but not limited to healthcare, manufacturing, agriculture, banking and finance, transport and logistics, education, and even space travel. As it advances, we are seeing people’s health and well-being improve, longevity grow, goods become less expensive and work processes optimize, among the countless other benefits we are collectively experiencing.
New tech like automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things, and virtual reality are making it possible to devise unique experiences that surprise and delight customers, helping companies stand out in crowded spaces and establish a competitive edge.
All in all, it’s impossible to avoid technology today, or not to embrace it to varying degrees, especially when digitally transforming an organization. For the most part, organizations can use it to their advantage but only when they’re clear and realistic about the reasons for implementing it. Nevertheless, technology is sometimes deemed the answer to any challenge an organization may be facing. Even more often, it is used as a gimmick or looked at as something ‘cool and trendy’ that can make a product or service shine, without truly improving it.
The customer has always been and still is, king
In a world dominated by technology, it’s easy to forget about what technology set out to do in the first place – namely, solve real-world problems and make people’s lives better. When adopting technology for the sake of it, there is a risk of it failing to realize a positive long-term impact on customer satisfaction, sales, or revenue. This less-than-desirable result is often due to the technological solution in question missing an important objective – meeting the very needs of those it was meant to serve in the first place – the customers.
Due to the ubiquity of technology and its relatively low barriers to adoption today, it can be really tempting to develop a cool new chatbot, app or portal and release it to the public as soon as it is ready. Digital strategy, marketing and IT teams often focus on evaluating new tech when deciding whether the organization should adopt it. Evaluation criteria typically include its ability to meet internal needs, its integration with existing solutions, the cost and complexity of the potential implementation.
Unfortunately, in many instances, customer needs and the likelihood of user adoption are last on the list of considerations. However, the age-old rule has never ceased to be valid – the customer has always been and always will be, king. Businesses that stick to this rule, rather than adopting the latest technology to fulfill a digital goal checklist, will ultimately realize the biggest gains.
Focusing on the right metrics
Although digital success metrics and KPIs vary largely across the board, a general guideline when deciding which ones to track and optimize, is to choose those that demonstrate customer success and satisfaction with a degree of certainty. Are your customers fulfilling their needs and goals while using your products or services? Do they find them easy to use? Do they genuinely make a positive difference in their lives? Does this impact make it unlikely they would switch to an alternative provider?
For example, rather than measuring the number of app downloads, companies are better off measuring app usage and user-friendliness. How useful to a customer is an app that’s downloaded once, only to be promptly uninstalled and never looked at again? Utility and value are delivered through habitual vs. one-time usage.
Serving B2B customers with technology
When it comes to business-to-business tech solutions, it’s important to note that the ‘customer is king’ rule still applies in every decision to adopt new technology. This criterion should be used as a litmus test even when considering internal solutions or applications that are not involved in customer interactions. That’s because the implementation of any internal system has an indirect but often sizeable impact on customers and even third parties, like partners, resellers and suppliers.
The questions to ask, in addition to those related to profitability, when revamping or implementing new internal enterprise systems, include:
- Will customers notice a difference in efficiency, quality or speed of service, as a result of the new system?
- Will implementing this system result in higher customer satisfaction and loyalty?
- Could the new system or way of working result in customer confusion?
- Is there a need for customer- or supplier-facing communications to explain the change in processes or interfaces?
Once the above questions have been answered, tech-forward B2C and B2B organizations will be in a better position to fully understand the consequences of the technological implementation on their most important constituent – the customer.