Shiny Toy Syndrome – thoughts on Technology in the Customer Experience

In this short article I share why I think shiny toy syndrome is an ineffective approach to improving the Customer Experience along with some thoughts on how to consider the role of technology in the Customer Experience.

Last year I spoke at a government event

Last year I was invited – along with other Speakers – to talk about technology change in the Contact Centre industry in particular.

On the sidelines I had a chance to catch up with the other Speakers.

Each one told me the same thing.

In the brief received before the event, they were instructed to incorporate the topic of drones into their talk.  Whether or not drones were part of what their profession, it was a mandated requirement to participate in the event.

And it was painful to watch as each Speaker grafted on a shiny toy slide or two at the end of their presentations.

It didn’t ring true and you could see the look of apology on each Speaker’s face as they tried to sound like futurist geniuses.

Shiny toy syndrome can blind you

Being anti-shiny toy syndrome doesn’t mean you’re anti- technology.

I can already hear some of the villagers gathering their pitchforks and torches to come burn down your Luddite castle.

It means that you’ve been around the block enough times to know that technology without purpose can be a mess.  Or that technology should be in the ‘service’ of something bigger.

The key is to put the technology in context.

In Customer Experience programs I like to talk through the following steps when considering the role of technology in the Organization.

1.  Your Customer Experience Strategy

I always begin with our Customer Experience Strategy.

Who are we?  What do we promise to our Customers either explicitly or implicitly?

Because ultimately our Customer Experience strategy will be the filter through which we make decisions on the kind of experience we are going to offer.  And that includes the role of technology.

It also unifies our thinking across disparate job roles and locations so that everyone knows what kind of experience we deliver around here.

Our North Star – a superb first step.

2.  What do Customers expect?

While we would have considered this in Point #1 – the Customer Experience Strategy – it’s worth blowing this out into a domain of its own.

Sometimes referred to as Customer Understanding, Customer Insight or Voice of Customer, understanding what Customers expect from us serves as a great guide to what we offer to them.

Obviously quantitative and qualitative research have a big role to play here.

And the good news is that important learnings around Customer Expectations have already been codified and are well understood.

For example, let’s look at Customer expectations related to a frictionless Customer Experience.

Don Peppers in his terrific book, “Customer Experience: What, How and Why Now” lays out the four attributes of a frictionless Customer Experience.

These are:

  • Reliability
  • Value
  • Relevance
  • Trustabiltiy

So if your Customer Experience strategy is heavily weighted towards delivering a frictionless experience, you’d work through these four attributes to establish how to bring them to life in your Organization.

And you’d look at the technology that helps you achieve these things – particularly at scale.

I read a wonderful case study for an insurance company in the U.S.

They allow Customers to make claims by shooting a short video on their mobile phone and uploading that directly to the claims department for approval.  Apparently approvals are issued within minutes.  Wow.

3. The role of Customer Journeys

If you’re rolling your eyes now I’m with you.

Some folks want to make Journey Mapping as complex as possible so that it seems beyond the grasp of mere mortals.

I’ve found that the difference between a successful journey mapping program and one that is not so successful is the calibre of the people included and their willingness to take action based on what they learned.

Because a pretty map is just that – pretty.  If that’s your goal just buy a painting.

There are a couple of things that are wonderful about Journey Maps.

Firstly, they cross functional boundaries – so they require cross-functional collaboration to serve a higher purpose.

Secondly, McKinsey noted years ago that Customers don’t think in touchpoints – they think in journeys.

When you mix that up with the ‘Peak-End’ construct (Kahneman & Tversky) on how Customers remember their experience you’ve got a compelling case for working through your most important Customer journeys.

And as you do your mapping, ask yourself.

Where would technology enable this journey?  Not just save cost (which is too often the catchphrase) but how can it create a new ‘opportunity’ for Customers that they never had before?

When you apply this mental discipline to the role of technology in your Customers’ lives you’ll find many more relevant opportunities than just saying “let’s buy a chatbot!”.

Read this marvelous case study shared by Bill Gates on how chatbots improved enrolment into higher education:   (you will need to copy and paste this link)

4.  The role of Imagination

You can’t talk about technology today without talking about the role of imagination.

Think of something, prototype it, test it, try again till you find something that works.

Not everything is going to come out of the mouth of a Customer nor can everything be copied from somebody else.  Or, heaven forbid, look at ‘best practices’.

I think imagination at work is a trait that is highly under-rated.  And in many command & control style Organizations it’s actually squashed.

You shouldn’t win an industry award because you implemented a chatbot

I’m not a fan of shiny toy syndrome. I’m a big fan of technology.

And I’m a bigger fan of learning about the context of how technology created a better Customer Experience.

No – you shouldn’t win an industry award because you implemented a chatbot.

But perhaps you’re an Awards candidate if you can explain the context of what led you to the use of your chatbot and how that chatbot supports your Customer Experience strategy overall.

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