With technology enthusiasts still reeling from Apple's latest announcement, it's hard to imagine the day when such devices don't elicit some sort of buzz. But, as brands continue to saturate the market with the latest gadgets, fatigue may soon outpace innovation.
Today's technological ecosystem resembles an arms race, for every company strives to integrate and offer the hottest tools available so they remain "cool" to the mainstream consumer. Unfortunately, however, in their effort to claim the competitive advantage, many companies forego superior service in pursuit of the bright, shiny object that supposedly holds the key to continued success.
"Success isn't about being cool-It's about providing amazing service and value to the consumer," says Gabe Greenberg, chief strategy officer at Delivery Agent. "An offering or product becomes cool in the consumer's eyes when it's useful and helps solve his or her problem in a unique or helpful way. Often times, in trying to create something cool, companies over compensate and fail to deliver on service and value. If a company provides a product or service that gives consumers what they need, simplifies their everyday lives, and adds value to their day-to-day tasks, then the brand will easily surpass expectations."
While the ability to evolve alongside the consumer remains essential, as businesses must constantly serve the changing needs and desires of their customer base, companies must not lose sight of the underlying experience. Harley Manning, vice president, customer experience at Forrester Research, emphasizes that brands shouldn't disregard emotion when it comes to developing effective engagement strategies. Forrester's recent "2014 Customer Experience Index" highlights that, of the 17 industries surveyed, emotion stood as the primary driver of customer loyalty for 11, demonstrating that consumer perception plays a pivotal role on the road to retention.
"Even in the industries where emotion wasn't dominant, it was equally significant compared to ease and effectiveness," Manning adds. "How something makes you feel is at least as important, and often far more important, than whether the product actually works and whether or not it's easy to use. Coolness, though easy to dismiss and brush off as trivial, cannot go ignored."
Instead of hopping on the technological bandwagon, however, brands must blaze their own trails if they wish to stand out above the chatter in the space. Whether basic or advanced, technology must be employed in ways that drive value and simplicity, for the old "razzle-dazzle" may generate that spark of interest, but only careful strategy will ignite the flame of loyalty.
Manning suggests that companies embrace customer journey mapping so they may understand and recognize when customer needs arise and the steps necessary to fulfill these desires. Once they can pinpoint the path to success, brands can then begin to integrate the technologies that will improve the customer experience at every step on this journey. Ultimately, companies must avoid tools that, while seemingly useful to the brand, are essentially useless or interfering in the customer's eyes.
Here we examine how three of today's biggest brands are using technology to boost loyalty and enhance the customer experience:
Delta Airlines Develops Mobile App to Prevent Travel Troubles
In an industry plagued by frequent discontent, Delta Airlines decided to embark upon an ambitious journey to become the first no-cancellation company of its kind. Though the brand understands that cancellation-free isn't the realistic way to be, Delta recognized that, by embracing mobile app technology, the airline could provide proactive assistance and reduce frustration to effectively shrink its current cancellation rate. The Fly Delta app will alert travelers when their flights have been cancelled or delayed, while also notifying customers when said disruptions will cause them to miss their connecting flights.
However, this tool doesn't stop there. Once it has informed travelers of any inconveniences, Delta's app will automatically offer the individual alternate flight options in an effort to minimize dissatisfaction and boost customer experience. Fly Delta suggests multiple flights that will deliver the traveler directly to their end destination, resulting in shorter wait times and improved brand perception. With just a few taps, customers can rebook, check in, and claim their boarding passes via a QR code. Since its creation, the Fly Delta app has helped the airline lower its cancellation rate from the 2 percent industry standard to an average .3 percent cancellation rate overall. Said outcomes approach perfection, allowing Delta Airlines to recover quickly from such unpleasant situations without seeming intrusive. In this instance, technology enhances experience, earning its "cool" credentials by adding value and resolving issues that may otherwise detract from the customer journey and hinder brand advocacy.
USAA Redefines the Customer Problem to Encompass the Entire Journey
For financial institutions, emotion carries great weight throughout the customer journey. Therefore, by approaching service from the consumer's viewpoint, banks and lenders allow themselves to transcend technology by integrating said tools with their core mission. USAA, for example, has redefined the customer problem by reconfiguring its approach to customer service. Instead of taking the customer's current situation at face value, such as their mortgage application, the organization looks beyond the product in order to delve into the consumer's thought processes. USAA doesn't simply want to sell home insurance policies or provide mortgages-the brand wants to become an essential partner on the customer's home buying journey.
Using an array of online tools, such as its mortgage loan calculator and property search capabilities, USAA's Home Circle expands upon the typical banking relationship. By offering unconventional resources, such as its month-by-month home protection guide and its tutorial on how to choose a real estate agent, USAA positions itself an ally throughout the customer journey. USAA also readily supplies customers with the resources necessary to aid their future moves. Such resources may include professional contractors, home security providers, and moving companies. Though subtle, USAA's use of Web-based technology brings added value to an already loyal customer base, ultimately simplifying the overall customer experience, for the institution's guidance and proactive support enhances and improves an otherwise stressful, life-changing event.
Mercedes-Benz Drives Satisfaction with Improved Safety Tools
Over the years, Mercedes-Benz has established its reputation for trust and dependability by always being on the cutting edge of innovation. But, as technology becomes increasingly troublesome with regard to distracted driving, dedicated engineers continue to prepare for the worst by developing breakthrough tools that lessen the severity, potential damage, and likelihood of accidents. For instance, Mercedes-Benz recently integrated its PRE-SAFE technology in its vehicles, which feeds off a network of sensors that can detect conditions in which an accident may occur, such as extreme skidding. Such circumstances will trigger mechanisms that automatically tighten seat belts, adjust front head restraints and passenger seats, and close windows and the sunroof all in an effort to brace occupants for collision and minimize injury.
Attention Assist also provides proactive support by detecting the early warning signs of driver drowsiness. The system takes note of more than 70 parameters within the driver's first minutes behind the wheel in order to familiarize itself with his or her driving style. Once established, the technology can then detect steering corrections, which may suggest the onset of drowsiness, as well as crosswinds, road smoothness, and vehicle control interactions. If all indications add up, the system will sound an alarm to alert the driver and encourage rest. Such technologies carry an innate "coolness" as they add value and provide safety. When technological innovation personalizes, as well as protects, consumer desire begins to shift from want to need, thereby breaching that invisible threshold and reigniting customer loyalty and advocacy.