Theo Papadopolous

Too Many Companies Are Planning A Tech-First, not Customer-First Strategy

Ian O'Donnell

COO & EVP of Business Development

06/08/2018

Brian Solis is the principal analyst at research and consulting firm Altimeter, which focuses on helping organizations understand and take advantage of disruptive technologies. I read an interesting interview with him recently where he talked about the way that many companies are becoming confused about the link between customer experience (CX) and technology.

Principally there are two sides to what Solis is arguing:

  1. Many executives just can’t understand the possibilities that the mobile Internet offers them. They are just applying their existing business model onto a phone without thinking how the always-on-always-available culture of smartphones changes how customers want to interact.
  2. Many executives are getting lost in the complexity of digital transformation programs and ultimately creating strategies where the technology used is becoming more important than the processes improving the customer experience.

During the interview, Solis said:

“The irony of customer experience today is it’s a technology-first discussion. Think more about customer’s experience. Focus first on helping people and understanding where to add value, and then technology becomes an enabler.”

This is important advice. If you search online for ideas on CX strategies today then you will almost certainly find your search results filled with information on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation, Chat Bots, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and many other experimental technologies that all overwhelm the focus on improving the customer experience.

It is true that in 2018 many of these technologies are an essential component of a robust CX strategy, but as Solis said, this needs to be the strategy that defines which technologies you need rather than the technology driving the direction of your strategy.

Solis cites a couple of interesting examples of companies that are well-known to everyone, but are now applying their deep knowledge of CX to new technologies supporting them in their desire to form closer relationships with their customers. The primary strategy of Starbucks is a business model that is 100% on understanding what customers want and then using those insights to deliver a great experience – both in retail locations and on mobile devices. Domino’s Pizza has the same approach. They are analyzing customer behavior on mobile devices and using these insights to create innovative new services, such as their outdoor delivery hotspots.

It would be easy to think of Domino’s as just a pizza delivery company and Starbucks as just place you go to for a coffee, but both these companies have similar attributes. They are using their close customer relationship to innovate and change their business model. This requires great data – you must have insights into how the customer is behaving so you can form strategy from this behavior.

In both cases, as Solis suggests, these companies are putting the customer at the heart of defining their strategy. Where that involves technology it is because this is what the customer wants rather than because of a strategy cooked up by the CIO. Constant analysis of customers gives robust insights that are backed up by real data, not assumptions or guesses about which app might be hot next year.

Photo by Theo Papadopolous licensed under Creative Commons.

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