Enriching the customer experience with technology

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One of my hot-button topics right is how lackadaisical the United States is in implementing chip-and-PIN technology for credit cards. Many years ago, when Europe went over to chip-and-PIN, everybody kicked up a fuss and said the change would be disruptive to the customer experience, and nobody would accept it and how bad it would be.

The same thing is being said here now. Corporations maintain that: “We don’t want to invest in this technology to process chip-and-PIN,” or that: “We consider this a disruptive way of working.”

Now look at it from the customer’s perspective. In most U.S. restaurants and bars, you get one of those little folders with your check, you put your credit card in, the credit card matches, and eventually it comes back with a pen and a check to sign. If you go anywhere else in the world, they bring the charging machine to your table, and you do it there. If you watch professional servers using chip-and-PIN technology outside the United States, they use it as an opportunity to sell to the customer. They are right there with you when you are adding the tip, for example.
Which type of restaurant customer experience would you prefer? One where it’s clear that the establishment wants to get the food out — and get you out — as soon as possible, or one where the restaurant clearly wants to build face-to-face time with customers such that they have a good feeling about the people there and want to come back? The latter is my pick, and it’s also an interesting example of bringing the customer together with a user interface in a way that enriches the experience.

In search of heads-up moments

In the hotel world, we used to call this a heads-up moment. You never want the person at the reception desk in a hotel talking to you with their head down, working a keyboard. That’s not very friendly. You want everything to be automatic on the technology so that the agent can spend time looking at the guest, talking to the guest, improving that one-to-one relationship and personal touch.

The idea is to minimize the amount of time that the employee or the customer is using technology. So at the back end, the requirement is to integrate the systems such that before any interaction between a member of staff and the customer happens, the associate knows what is going to happen and has the information that a good salesperson has to ensure that the interaction goes seamlessly. From that point they should have to do the minimum with the technology while they’re talking to the customer so that the customer feels respected.

How do you not improve the customer experience with technology? Look no further than the health insurance industry. My health insurance changed at the end of the year. It’s so irritating that you can’t talk to a real person until you’ve gone through three or four or five different prompts. And when you eventually get through to a person, they may ask you for the same information over again.

I find this doubly irritating because these companies are precisely the ones complaining that they aren’t making enough money selling through the Healthcare Exchanges. If their systems weren’t so useless and customer-hostile, they might make a bit more. Technology should be able to boost the customer experience. If it’s not implemented correctly, it ends up making customers barking mad. While you wait they also tell you, “For faster service, go to our website.” But do they realize you’re on the other end of the phone thinking, “I wouldn’t be calling you if your site experience was any good?”

Cliff has held a variety of roles with major global corporations including Barclays, M&M Mars, Diageo, Northwest Airlines and Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. These roles have spanned application design and development; infrastructure architecture and operations; and information security.


Excellent Article! You should check out the start up company out of Madrid, Spain called GuudJob! It is basically the Yelp for individual employees. It allows you to rate via phone or computer on an employees service to you, such as a waiter, hostess, landscaper, and any other worker that has extensive customer interaction. The company is currently operating in Spain, but is attempting to join the US/UK markets. Give them a look at Guudjob.com