Technology has profoundly changed the way companies deliver customer experiences. No longer will customers tolerate waiting endlessly on hold for someone to answer a question (or for anything, actually). For speed, for ease of access, for control---technology is playing an ever-increasing role in strengthening customer experiences.
Customer experience is about solving problems for customers. So when the experience you offer doesn’t move customers faster and farther toward a problem solved, you’re just creating barriers for them and leaks in profit for you. Customers are demanding more than updated, interactive, fast-loading websites.
Below are four emerging technologies that are transforming customer experiences across a number of industries.
The airline industry is a goldmine for tablet usage. You have thousands of people needing to check travel information, talk to loved ones (increasingly via video), or simply pass the time. Travelers at Minneapolis-St. Paul, JFK and LaGuardia airports in New York City using Delta can now rent iPads to view content during flights. A prepaid postage box received at the time of rental is used to return the iPad, so, like all top-performing
experiences, it’s easy for customers to participate.
American Airlines also has joined the fray, allowing first-class and business travelers to borrow Samsung Galaxy tablets to watch movies on select flights. Anyone who has traveled in the air knows every item in the bag counts towards taking up space or slowing you up at security, so giving customers a way around bringing their own pricey tablet---and skipping the boring in-flight movie---is commendable.
Airlines are also transforming how they handle customer relations in the air, too. Passengers on British Airways benefit as flight attendants are now equipped with iPads. The iPads track seat assignments, meal requests, and more. With Wi-Fi in the air, real-time data could let flight attendants help identify those with connecting flights, too.
Banks are also taking advantage of tablets. More bank mobile websites are geared to the wider screens of tablets ; Bank of America and Citigroup were among the early adopters of tablet-optimized mobile banking apps. That’s because surveys show that 40% of U.S. homes will have a tablet by the end of this year. And of the people who already own a tablet, 45% are looking to use it for online banking.
Apps are becoming a must-have feature for banks and other industries as well. Did you know the average iPhone user has 67 apps? In banking, customers want to deposit a check on the go, and ING, among others, has made that possible by simply allowing customers to take a photo of the check. That’s significant for ING, which doesn’t have brick-and-mortar branches. Now ING can perform one of the main services most other banks can do for customers---without those customers ever needing to drive up to the bank and use one of those vacuum chutes.
U.S. Bank and RBS Citizens Bank are among those that have developed apps for customers to manage their money on the fly.
This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Apps can truly be catered to nearly any customer need, and when you match a need with a service, you’re getting to the heart of customer experience performance. For example, Swedish furniture giant IKEA, recently introduced a new app to let customers access stock availability, check a store map, and create shopping lists. That is huge progress toward the “holy grail” of a truly channel-integrated customer experience.
Nearly half of the people in one survey said information they look up on their smartphone influences their purchase in the store, with price comparisons the most likely research. That’s probably what led to paint manufacturer, BEHR, giving customers the chance to check out paint options on their app to help them while they are browsing in a store.
In the restaurant industry, restaurants ,such as Chipotle and Dominos, give customers the ability to order food right on their app and pick it up locally. It doesn’t get much more convenient, does it?
Mobile payments are booming these days. The Consumer Payments Survey shows 33% of people have used some sort of mobile payment, and most people use online bill pay. Some believe cash and credit cards will be a thing of the past by as soon as 2020, although much more needs to be done to alleviate concerns about privacy and security.
PayPal’s app continues to lead the way in mobile payments, with a whopping $4 billion in mobile transactions last year. Google Wallet, one of the services that allows you to tap your phone and pay at the register, is another unique—and easy—way for customers to make a transaction. No wallet required!
But that might not even be the biggest news in mobile payments. Square, which lets businesses use a small, plug-in device on smartphones to swipe credit cards and record transactions, is taking off. It has 2 million users so far (including every taxi I’ve been in over the past month) and now do $6 billion in processed transactions annually. PayPal is trying to launch a similar product.
Feeling under the weather but don’t feel like rolling out of bed to see the doctor? E-visits are just for you. This relatively recent technology trend in healthcare is slowly revolutionizing the doctor-patient relationship.
Many health systems now offer email and chat-based visits as an alternative or follow up to in-clinic doctor visits. Did you know nearly eight of 10 patients say they want the ability to interact with their doctor online? Check out the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where more than 4,000 e-visits have happened in the last three years. This transforms the patient experience through convenience and in many cases, lowers the cost of care.
Or how about a virtual visit to an online doctor for minor conditions, when you don’t have a regular physician or need to act fast? A virtual doctor visit can include the diagnosis of a myriad of simple or everyday illnesses—from sinus infections to sore throats. Consumers in Minnesota are using a service named Virtuwell for the online diagnosis of 30 common illnesses. Patients can even upload photos for doctors to review. Insurance is accepted, too. This is the start of an interactive, integrated experience in healthcare.
As with most things in health care, getting insurance companies on board and compliance requirements that differ state to state are big challenges, but we’ll see more of this transforming experience.
What do you think? What other technologies are transforming the customer experience?
Linda Ireland is a partner at Aveus, a strategy and global operational change firm based in Minneapolis.
Photo courtesy of Jetstar Airways via FlickR Creative Commons.