Tech V Teams: The most effective points in the customer journey

5th February 20

With the development of amazing tech that can carry out complex tasks, such as driving cars and completing delicate medical operations, it would seem logical that many elements in the customer journey could be switched to tech. The reality is that most tech isn’t quite good enough to deliver a great customer experience yet and there are strategic considerations – so, should you switch to tech even if you could?ReThink spend a lot of time measuring customer journeys and processes, and use work study analysis to derive insights from the data we collect. These analysis methods can provide a practical framework for looking at the ‘Tech vs Team’ conundrum.

In work study, we separate the elements of work that are being done into two categories;

  1. Customer facing – the consultation, product recommendation and human interaction of the transaction
  2. Essential tasks and processes – the things that the business must do such as, putting stock on the shelves, cashing up, cleaning and admin

We think that introducing tech to your essential tasks and processes is the best place to start. Taking out non-essential process work makes good commercial sense and is lower risk as any tech added is not directly customer-facing. Tech can be part of delivering tasks that support the customer offer rather than being central to how the brand delivers a differentiated experience. The good news is that there is well-established, tried and tested tech available for many of these processes.

Cleaning is an area where there are multiple providers of robot vacuum cleaners, both commercial and domestic versions. You can try it at home with everything from a Dyson supermodel, to a more modestly-priced one in an Aldi’s Specialbuys. Robot vacuum cleaners are already in use in offices and hotels, and are deployed alongside a human to clean the floor while the human tidies, dusts and wet cleans. Robots aren’t quite up to wet cleaning of floors yet and it won’t be long before effective dual cleaners are available and whizzing through quiet offices and shops in the middle of the night.

Other examples of tech applications include automated picking in warehouses and drone deliveries. Tech has even been successfully applied to the very human activity of recruitment.

A less successful start in robotics was “Flippy”; the burger-flipping robot introduced in Cali Burger in 2018. Flippy can detect when a burger is cooked on one side and is ready-flipping, alerting a human when both sides are done. Flippy even knows to keep separate spatulas for raw and cooked food and does a great job of scraping the grill between batches. What Flippy can’t do yet is keep up with the humans working alongside it. Super-efficient burger-flipping is a lot more skilled than derogatory comments about quick-serve restaurants might suggest. It seems that, so far, humans can cope with more burgers at once and integrate cooked ones into completed customer orders more quickly. Lots has been learnt from Flippy to date, and given the volumes of burgers cooked every day, it looks like a sure-fire tech application for the future.

Looking hard at everything you do to support and enable the customer journey will help you spot the opportunities to switch to tech.

If the question to ask yourself on tech switching for tasks and processes is “Could you?”, it is a much trickier “Should you?” question when looking at customer-facing activities.

There are a few brands that are all about innovation and automation. For example, Google’s Go stores, where tech has totally replaced the teams. For most brands, part of their DNA is tied up with how they interact with the customer.

If customer interaction is at least partly how you deliver value, you need to consider your journey maps combined with a deep understanding of customer missions and what they want at each point of the journey – bearing in mind that not all of them will want the same thing.

When you spot that ease and convenience are what the customer wants on their journey, you have found the golden point to consider switching to tech.

There has been successful adoption of customer-facing tech where it genuinely helps the customer do what they want to do. The retail industry has been a leader with the adoption of online shopping and multiple fulfilment options, self-checkouts to reduce queues and going further to scan, pay-go technology, where your loyalty is rewarded as you breeze past all the queues.

Quick-serve restaurants have taken the simplicity of online ordering to enable app users to pre-order their food for fast pick-up. If you want to see this in large scale operation, take a trip to Walt Disney World and experience how fast you get food ordered on the app compared to time spent in slow-moving, grumpy queues to order at the counter.

Self-order terminals are increasingly being added in quick-serve outlets; they reduce the scrum at the counter and make it easy for customers to look at the menu without being pressured into making a snap decision while squinting at a hard-to-read board. Outlets have found that, as well as tech reducing the number of team members needed at the counter, it also drives sales. Customers who look at the offer on a terminal and make decisions in their own time spend more.

In service industries, there have been great applications of live chat with chatbots to help customers get the information they need quickly, exactly when they need it. When done well, it is much better than trying to navigate a long string of FAQs that don’t quite cover what you want to know, or waiting in a queue to speak with a contact centre agent. Yet, too much tech makes it annoying in those situations when you just need to speak with a person and can be difficult for people who are less tech orientated. Getting the balance right is essential, including consideration of customers with disabilities.

Customers are demanding, and being offered, more choice than ever before. Not just in the range of products and services available to them, but in how and when they interact with brands too. If you have multiple customer missions and journeys in your business, the answer is tech AND teams – the trick is knowing which to use when.