Cashing in on the Customer Experience

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted Monday, August 12, 2013 00:01 AM

By Samuel Greengard

One of the nagging problems with information technology and automation—particularly with consumer-facing systems—is that they don't always improve things for all of the parties involved.

In the past, customers called a support number and spoke with a person to obtain an answer or solve a problem. Today, many companies offer limited support options—sometimes only a Website or an e-mail address. In some cases, the lights are on but there's nobody home. There are long waits in queues, messages go unanswered and inadequately trained reps work off scripts that lead them down a resolution path that has absolutely nothing to do with the problem.

Way too often, automation benefits the business—at least in terms of costs and managing human resources—but it does very little to improve the overall customer experience. IBM reports that U.S. companies lose $83 billion annually to poor customer experience. That's not exactly pocket change.

Ironically, a lot of the problem has to do with systems that are woefully inadequate for today's business environment. Poor integration is also a culprit. The sum of all the technology parts doesn't necessarily add up to a solution. It adds up to a lot of technology pieces that automate discreet processes.

CIOs must do a better job of adopting new technologies and integrating existing technologies more holistically. Tech vendors must also conjure up new and improved features. For example, MSNBC reports that banks are turning to next-generation ATMs that connect to human tellers. The system, built by NCR, relies on two-way video and remote control functions to engage in a personalized interaction. If a customer loses or forgets an ATM card, the human teller can view a driver's license and verify the individual's identity on the spot. If a person forgets to endorse a check, the human teller can catch it. It's also possible to withdraw any combination of bills.

But the benefits don't stop there. Robberies essentially disappear and the bank can operate fewer high-cost branches. So far, customers have lavished praise on the system and a growing number of financial institutions, including the likes of Bank of America, are adopting the technology.

There's a lesson here for CIOs and others. It's not only about deploying technology, it's about deploying the right combination of technologies in the right way. It's not about automating processes that make efficiencies and inefficiencies take place faster, it's about creating an experience that solves real-world problems and benefits everyone.