The Most Memorable Customer Experiences of 2014

What constitutes a great customer experience? According to The Temkin Group, it's a combination of three aspects of a customer's interaction with a company--functionality, accessibility, and emotionality.
Customer Engagement

What constitutes a great customer experience? According to The Temkin Group, it's a combination of three aspects of a customer's interaction with a company--functionality, accessibility, and emotionality.

The past year has produced some unique customer experience leaders. Of course the usual suspects always top the best customer experience lists: Apple, USAA, John Lewis, Trader Joe's, Southwest Airlines, and Amazon. But last year saw some surprises. Here are some of the most memorable advancements in customer experience.

Apple Pay Revolutionizes the Mobile Customer Experience

In October Apple put its mobile payments stake in the ground with its launch of Apple Pay, joining the ranks of Google Wallet, Square, and PayPal. Apple Pay represents the future of mobile, as Apple Pay supports the credit and debit cards from American Express, Visa, and MasterCard.

Some retailers are already leveraging Apple Pay. Starbucks, for example, will allow U.S. customers to order and pay for their coffee ahead of time, directly from their mobile devices. This means the coffee ordering and buying experience will now fit seamlessly into customers' lives, saving time and creating ease.

But for Apple Pay to really take off, more retailers need to equip their stores with the signature capture devices and they need to embrace mobile payment technology as a means to improve the customer experience--and to truly entice customers to reach for their phones, not their wallets.

TD Bank Uses "Automated Thanking Machines" to Reward Customers

To express gratitude to its customers, TD Bank went beyond sending a simple thank-you. The bank set up ATMs at select locations across Canada to thank customers for their business.

The machines dispensed thoughtful gifts to unsuspecting customers. For example, some gifts included throwing out the first pitch at a Blue Jays game to player Jose Bautista, setting up registered education savings plans for one woman's children, and gifting airline tickets to a mother whose cancer-stricken daughter lives in Trinidad.

The ATMs were part of the bank's #TDThanksYou campaign. In addition to the machines featured in the video, TD Canada Trust enlisted more than 20,000 TD employees to give away envelopes containing a $20 bill to customers in more than 1,100 of the banks' branches across Canada in July. Customers using TD's phone and online banking services were given a $20 direct deposit.

The campaign was a viral sensation, with the video getting more than 18 million hits. It also showed that TD Bank makes authentic connections with its customers.

The Wearable Technology Revolution Is Changing the Game

Worldwide spending on consumer wearable technology was estimated to hit $1.4 billion by the end of 2014, according to the report from Juniper Research, titled: "Smart Wearable Devices: Fitness, Healthcare, Entertainment & Enterprise: 2013-2018." By 2018, the market will hit $19 billion.

Research and development into wearables have been huge, positioning the technologies as important areas of progress over the next few years. From monitoring our health to streamlining contact center operations with headsets that can enable video chat, to improving the flying experience with faster boarding options and the ability to find lost luggage, and to streamlining the omnichannel customer experience by equipping smart watches with payment features, wearables are poised to become a game-changer for customer experience in 2015.

Lowe's Enlists Robots to Improve Customer Service

Lowe's, the chain home improvement store, is experimenting with robots in select stores to help with customer service. The robots dubbed OSHbots are equipped with 3D cameras so they can scan and identify items. Customers can research items they want to buy on their screen and the robot can lead them to the aisle where an item is located. The robots also have a database of what inventory is in stock at the store, so they can let customers know if something is out of stock or not.

The Lowe's robots may sound like science fiction, but I'm sure organizations will be watching the Lowes experiment closely, as robots can provide a valuable service to a wide range of industries.

Turkish Airlines Mobilizes the Passenger Experience

Turkish Airlines is trying to change the perception of flying an industry ridden with angry passengers and customer service mishaps by making social media and customer care a priority.

Turkish Airlines has launched a suite of apps that allow the 39 million passengers that fly with it annually to completely mobilize their travel planning with the airline. The new apps can take the customer from planning and purchase through to boarding, all via mobile. Users can view offers from the airline, purchase tickets, check-in, store mobile boarding passes to a passbook, choose seats, order meals, access their flight status, and track baggage. The apps also sync with other smartphone functions to allow users to purchase tickets for their contacts and add flights to their calendar.

The World Airline Awards named Turkish Airlines "Best Airline in Europe" and with a 300 percent increase in passenger participation in social media last year, Turkish Airlines is successfully distinguishing itself from other airlines.

What was your favorite customer experience in 2014?