DX2018: Technology & Customer Experience

Posted by Gavin Stone on 6 April 2018

I recently attended the DX2018 conference in Auckland and came away pondering several key notions that resonated with me as I noticed common themes appearing through the day.

  • Firstly: There is a significant and widening gap between the development and real-world adoption of technology.
  • Secondly: Technology providers (and technology business units) need to understand the customer better.
  • And lastly: The technology is not that important, it’s how it can help that really matters.

All these points are to some degree related, and shed light on the salient opportunity before technology providers in today’s market.

Conference speakers and delegates talked openly about a significant gap in understanding between the customer, any organisational change needed (people, process, technology), and the executive / stakeholders.

The crucial point for me was that stakeholders need to better understand how technology would both; positively change the experience of the customer, and benefit the organisation.

Working in the technology sector, you’re confronted with the immense speed at which the market develops and releases new products and services. It’s impossible to match this with change in any organisation without taking actions to drive a step-change in behaviour and adoption, and even then, any organisation can only adopt a fraction of potential.

Back in 2016, Scott Brinker (Chief MarTec) coined a maxim aptly named martec’s law [1] in which he described how technology changes are exponential in growth, but organisational rate of change is logarithmic, or linear at best. In light of this, it becomes apparent that good technology management is about choosing which changes to absorb and doing so selectively. So back to the gap, the real opportunity for technology providers is to help organisations to determine which technologies are the right ones to absorb, and then to help them to execute.

Martecs Law

To do this, technology providers must understand the customer, and perhaps more importantly, their customer’s customer.  And to a far greater extent than most providers do today. Every organisation is continually trying to redefine its path, to shape itself, to carve out a position in what is a highly competitive market. In doing so they are attempting to deliver a service that meets or exceeds their customers’ needs and by delivering a fantastic experience, one unique to them. A 2017 MarTech Today [2] article noted that without engagement and the right application of technology, you’ll fail to deliver a customer experience that keeps consumers coming back for more. It’s no longer feasible to assume that any group of customers is the same, or to treat them the same, as their needs and motivations may be very different. To help a customer take any step-change in technology adoption you need to know how the customer’s customer could have a better experience and have their needs better met, before you can determine any technology solution.

It’s easy in the technology market to get caught up in the hype, to start talking about blockchain and AI, and it’s easy to make generalised comments to customers to educate and inform them on these technologies. But the customer ultimately doesn’t care! The customer cares about the experience that results from the technology, and the follow-on impact of that. We all, as customers of someone, have reasonably simple needs, and it’s about determining how to better meet or exceed these needs, aligning any change to these, and using technology where appropriate to bring this about. I have no doubt that most customers are thinking about their customer’s needs – the technology providers need to think less about pitching the merits of technology to their customer, and more about how it will better the customer’s customer, and their needs.

Technology vendors are still perceived as having difficulty in determining how to help. They are great at driving technology development and release, however not so good at relating how this development will help any organisation or their customers, and even worse at communicating this. The widening gap between technology development/hype and reality / implementation does however provide opportunities for those organisations that can develop an intimate relationship with their customers such that they are trusted to understand their customer’s customer and how to address their simple needs.

Technology organisations that can demonstrate that they are the safest pair of hands in delivering customer-aligned innovative thinking, through to technology adoption / operations are well positioned to take advantage of the widening gap.

[1] https://chiefmartec.com/2016/11/martecs-law-great-management-challenge-21st-century/