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Q&A | Auguest 11, 2022 | 1 Min Read

The future of experience

ThoughtLab founder Lou Celi discusses the rapid evolution of digital experience and how it is delivering measurable value to companies

Digital experiences increasingly are the primary way customers interact with companies and employees interact with employers. To keep up, companies are boosting investments to make such experiences seamless. That’s one of several takeaways from a new survey of 1,000 C-level executives by ServiceNow and ThoughtLab.

Surveyed execs said they are creating better, smarter ways to interact with customers and employees, such as delivering great service during “moments that matter”—key points in the customer and employee relationship—and deploying more effective and capable AI-powered chatbots and other tech.

In an interview with Workflow, leading tech and management researcher and ThoughtLab founder Lou Celi discussed the significant progress companies have made digitizing customer and employee experience (CX and EX) and other takeaways from the survey. A shorter version of this interview appears in Workflow Quarterly‘s Summer 2022 issue. The following has been edited for clarity and length.


Percentage of experience leaders who report higher revenue or sales

The pandemic has pushed us into a digital-first world where the way that you interact with customers tends to be socially distant and digital. As a result, companies are increasingly investing in digital customer experiences to meet customers where they are. The result is that customers can find what they are looking for more efficiently and they receive much better service.

That, in turn, drives benefits for shareholders and the management team via reduced costs, higher revenue, and better customer retention. We’re in a new world where digital experience is a true value driver, if companies get it right.

I’ve been doing a lot of work with companies around the metaverse, and that really is going to be a game changer because it will make experiences even more immersive.

Over the next five to 10 years, you will increasingly see it in collaboration tools for employees and also in customer experience. You are already seeing companies use it in social media and marketing campaigns to reach customers.

One financial services firm that ThoughtLab worked with is using it to help investors understand potential investments that they might make in a company by making that company come to life through 3D—so you almost feel like you are visiting the company in person. That’s a powerful way of communicating, because the best experiences are visual—you learn a lot more than you do just by analyzing data

It’s the whole customer lifecycle: how they hear about you, how they explore options, how they evaluate and pick you, how they buy and onboard, and as your client, how they get serviced. Executives need to stay focused on moments that will add the most value to servicing a customer, keep them happy, or close the sale. 

The big change is that total experience—a company’s ability to connect practices for both CX and EX—is moving faster than anticipated. One trend we looked at was steps companies are taking to improve CX. Last time, modernizing IT platforms ranked low in the survey; in the new survey, it’s among the most important steps.

We’re moving beyond the notion that digital experience is hype. A lot of progress has been made and companies understand it much better now. That said, during the pandemic, many companies focused mostly on the front end, —allowing socially distant customers to buy things easily and remotely.

What they didn’t do as well was the back end. Many firms did not give enough attention to logistics and failed to meet customer expectations for delivering and tracking. Our research shows that companies are going to be putting a lot more effort into the back end over the next few years. That’s what digitalization does: it changes the way customers buy and the way companies deliver.

Managers need to realize that digital transformation is not just about technology. It’s really about reinventing your business: your products, your services, your business model, your customer and employee experiences—the whole thing. It means taking a fresh look at everything that previously made you successful.

The pandemic threw everything on its head, and I can’t think of something that’s changed more than experience, how you think about employees and work and how you think about your customers. Some companies are saying that they’re going to go back to how it was before when the pandemic ends. No. People aren’t going back, because they don’t have to go back. You can’t fight digital change.

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