NexGen Speaker On The X Factor For Customer Centricity

Nancy Rademaker tells attendees of The Channel Company event that winning loyalty is about making the engagement experience simple and fun. Customers will reward you for not stealing their time

In the battle for customers, experience is a game-changing factor, but that concept is changing rapidly as the world is disrupted by artificial intelligence and big data.

Nancy Rademaker, who speaks around the world on the impact of digitization on customer behavior, discussed the “X Factor of Customer Centricity” in a keynote Wednesday at the NexGen Cloud conference in Anaheim, Calif.

In a world where we're all "drowning in a sea of information," Rademaker told solution providers gathered for the event organized by CRN parent The Channel Company, the lesson for companies is to keep customer engagement simple.

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[Related: Futurist: Channel Has To Remove Friction To Cloud 2.0 Adoption]

"You should never steal time from your customer," Rademaker said. Time is their most-important asset, and they will evaluate competitors based on that factor.

Convenience and speed are attributes that inspire loyalty, she said. And technology is extremely useful in removing friction from the engagement process.

"If you want your customers to continue being your customers, you better make it a low effort for them," she said. And beyond that, make the experience fun, or "pleasant at the very least."

So many companies are competing on price alone, but that "emotional piece" of a pleasant experience, which often gets lost in the shuffle, can be a greater differentiator in driving sales.

Companies like Apple prove you can charge high prices for long periods of time if you crack that formula, Rademaker said.

It’s a complicated endeavor, however, as at least half the experience is driven by emotions.

"What most companies will do is what they think the customer wants, but they don’t really know what the customer wants," Rademaker said.

And surveys aren't very good at revealing their true desires.

Instead of surveying customers, "you should take a look at all of the customer behavior, without starting from your own assumptions, but just monitor what they are doing," Rademaker said.

Artificial intelligence is already revolutionizing how we predict customer behavior.

In the last five years, with new techniques like deep learning, and with more computing power and storage, predictive technology has really taken off, she said.

But companies must remember the difference between analytics and the algorithms that deliver AI—analytics lends insight into what's currently taking place in the business, algorithms give insights into the future.

The emergence of AI and big data should enable companies to better monetize their data, as only 1 percent of industrial data is being used today.

"AI powered technologies will be huge opportunities for any sector and industry," Rademaker said.

That includes the home assistants from Amazon and Google that have become prevalent in our lives, and increasingly become "gatekeepers for all of the retail brands."

Ten years ago businesses asked if they should build a mobile app; now the question is should they build a voice app.

"The answer is yes," Rademaker said.

She told partners they need to innovate in the now, in the next, and in the beyond.

Now is their current business model; next involves finding new markets; and the beyond, or "day after tomorrow,” requires imaging how technology will change customer behavior.

John Hill, CEO of Tech Sage Solutions, a San Antonio-based MSP, listened carefully to Rademaker's presentation, as she directly addressed issues that his company has sometimes struggled with.

For a services provider, it's challenging to figure out how to make engagements sticky, inspire employees to stay interested and engaged, but also ease the experience for customers and reduce the time they must devote to worrying about IT.

Clients of MSPs mostly just wants things to work, to be frictionless, and for the service provider to mostly be in the background, Hill said.

Rademaker "drilled that home to me," Hill said. "We need to be in front of them, but by the same token, more of our stuff needs to be in the background so we're not in their face all the time."