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Power Essays 2022: The humanity behind smart and predictive experiences – by Publicis Sapient’s Manja Kurzak

Publicis Sapient’s Group Creative Director Experience, Manja Kurzak, looks at how data working together can transform how a customer relates to a brand

Manja Kurzak, Group Creative Director Experience, Publicis Sapient

First, there was big data. Now, there’s smart data. But the future relies heavily on the nuance of data. What does that insight mean, and what actions can be taken or built from it? On paper, it sounds straightforward, but in the name of transformation, the complexities are front and centre. Let’s look at this from the point of view of telecoms companies that have to interact with their customers on a regular basis, and that have plenty of consumer data to hand.

So, how do you solve for and embrace the nuance? You craft a strategy around new organisational structures, technologies and customer-centric design and experiences. The telecom companies that get this right will spearhead more than just loyalty; they’ll be at the forefront of connected product and services ecosystems that truly enhance customers’ lives – and considerable return on investment (ROI) will follow.

Let’s look at the three major connective tissues behind bringing personalisation to life for customers while modernising operating structures with efficiency, purpose and data-driven incentives.

1. Organisational structures

There are aspects of transformation that are table stakes today, yet are still a challenge for many telecom companies to tackle. Primarily, how you’re set up internally needs to mirror and support how you want to be experienced externally.

Directionally relevant metrics and incentives. Shared metrics across functions create an environment where teams are behaviourally motivated to move toward the same goals. Today, and too often, each function has metrics that aren’t shared and owned by anyone outside their department. The damage in this is that your business is going to market in parts, which creates a disjointed experience for the end user.

Swim lanes can exist for getting stuff done, but they cannot impede the greater strategy.

Today, customer experience is the brand, and this function needs to live and breathe what the brand represents to consumers across all channels.

A look at what going from good to great looks like. Aligning and executing like a technology company will have a foundation that aligns internal business units under the right umbrellas (e.g., marketing, product, operations, technology, etc.). Adjacent functions that have dependencies on one another, like product and marketing, will need to have joint-owned key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure timelines are met and understood when partnering to go to market.

It’s much easier to bring forth transformational ideas when everyone’s aligned on similar and shared goals and purposes—and not in competition with or in conflict with adjacent teams.

This is the human part you must get right so that the humanity in your experience comes to life for customers.

2. New technologies

Next, there’s the tech. Today, companies have new and old systems – some talk to each other, and some don’t. The key to smart and predictive experiences for customers is a trust that your company has the right data points talking to each other behind the scenes, and that’s rarely the case right now. To create smart, data-driven experiences, you need to be smart and data-driven internally, too.

Humanising data and technology. The technology you create needs to behave as smartly and be as contextually aware as a human while also being technologically authentic. Customers want experiences that feel genuine, whether they’re talking to a chatbot or a person in your customer service department, your billing department or retail locations.

Gone are the days when customers want to engage with your brand and feel like they’re being sold to; they want to have good interactions that are easy and frictionless, which will make them want to buy more. They expect the data to pick up on things like the sentiment of their mood and urgency and adapt the conversation respectively (e.g., fluidity in revisiting topics previously brought up or figuring something out for later).

Internally, this means removing data silos and legacy systems to create efficiencies and give you better insights across functions. Externally, this means that your personalised functions, such as chatbots, are working on behalf of the customer and their needs, not the business’ needs.

A look at what going from good to great looks like. This is the delicate dance of striking a balance between what human-like technology can deem as appropriate and informative in a real conversation – using the superpower of real-time recommendations based on and supported by data – while staying authentic to being artificial.

In telecom companies, customer data isn’t always associated across all products and services that the customer has with your brand. A data-backed experience would be able to understand that customer holistically and serve their needs across all product and service lines without the experience being discontinuous – and, frankly, arduously painful.

3. Customer-centric design and experiences

Customer-first narratives aren’t new, but they are the expectation. Telecom brands continue to lag when it comes to creating customer-first experiences. The companies with the greatest customer experience and design practices are working from renewed organisational models and have access to the right data and teams to execute.

And the customer is at the centre of it all.

One of the goals of smart and predictive design and experiences for telecom companies and customers is to create a world where our devices are connected, and telecoms have the possibility to create this magic. How do you personify the digital experience? Make it meaningful.

Purposeful engagements. That’s the recipe for magical customer experiences that’s embedded in ethical and transparent practices. Today, it’s important that your smart assistants and chatbots have the emotional intelligence of a real person. The data and technology need to mimic real interactions that don’t just get the content aspects right (e.g. ‘How much was my last bill?’) but also get the sentiment right. There’s a sensitivity behind these predictive experiences that can drive home purposeful and meaningful engagement.

Engaging with customers in an experiential way that creates purpose means that you’re applying a level of intellect to your design. It means that the data you’re relying on from the back end is accurate, allowing you to personalise interactions. There needs to be a shift from personalising experiences based on an aggregate of data to personalising experiences to an actual person.

You need the intelligence behind the data. As it stands today, internal boundaries and walls are creating choppy and impersonal experiences for the customer, and the silos have to go.

A look at what going from good to great looks like. Take into consideration many of the services we use in our lives; we want to set it and forget it. For example, a customer purchases a phone plan and sets up autopay. They’ve accepted that $200 is deducted from their account each month. Occasionally, the customer notices additional charges, like data usage or international call fees.

Rich data sets can address these customer inconveniences by recommending different plans that fit the user behaviour realised in the backend within the data. Yet, few organisations across industries have mastered sharing real insight over bare numbers. Data and artificial intelligence (AI) can take these common, frustrating user experiences and help the customer make better-informed choices to save them the fees via upgrades or more comprehensive call plans. There’s actual meaning behind the experience; there’s a tied insight to a message that is serving a particular purpose and that the customer can relate to.

Transformation happens every day, not all at once. Being transformational is an evolution, not a one-time thing. Setting up a roadmap now that links the vision back to an operationalised plan – internally and for the customer – is critical. These established frameworks increase shared purpose and accountability, and best of all they authentically create an experience for the customer that’s based on data and human design.

Your challenge is to be so good at data-driven predictive experiences that customers forget you’re their telecom provider and instead think of you as the brand that easily brings their connected ecosystems to life (as a critical and welcome extension to their lives).