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Technology and the Customer Experience

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Technology choices made for the right business (CFO) reasons, focusing on efficiency, don't always create long-term revenue; especially if the customer experience changes and results in a lost customer.

In this age of technology we're all addicted to the next shiny thing, not only the shiny apple, but mobile payments and social connections. We often focus on the positives of technology; where technology is making our lives easier, more access, more opportunity. 

As consumers and marketers we tend to jump on technology because it’s new and exciting. Because of this excitement, I suspect we may sometimes misjudge the real value of the technology at hand. Although, this may go against consumerism at its core, I’ll say it anyway, “Just because it’s new, doesn't mean that it’s something that we need, and something that will enhance our lives and experiences.”

One of my favorite experiences is going to the grocery store, strange I know, but I love to eat and love to cook. To me going to the grocery store is like being a kid in a candy store. All of the different options, fresh produce to explore, treats to sample…A loyal customer, I still go the grocery store every other day, but now I often dread the experience. 

I may be feeling nostalgic, but the entire customer experience has changed. In most supermarkets the sample ladies of the past have disappeared, the friendly produce assistant has vanished, deli-counters are often rushed with little time to make suggestions or answer questions. And, the big chain stores have cut staff to the point that often the only option to check out within a half hour is the “do it yourself” lanes. But lately, even these DIY lanes have been three or four people deep. I now have to check myself out and bag my own groceries, and the grocer doesn’t even bother to give me a discount for my DIY experience. I walk out feeling like a fool. Cut costs, cut staff, cut the customer experience. I’m not feeling so loyal any more.

The other day, I sat and watched the DIY lines. The customers checking themselves out ALL had a problem. Many had to wait three-plus minutes to get the attention of an attendant in order to help them complete their four-item purchase; looks of disgust and frustration were etched on these peoples’ faces as they walked out the door.

Of course, this technology saves these large brands a good deal of money on HR but what is it losing them in customer revenue? There are other options available; smaller stores which held onto the customer experience like Whole Foods and Trader Joes, and popping up more and more, local mom & pop type stores. By me, Mr. Greenbean, once a small fruit store, now offers a strong meat selection, limited bakery and in four aisles covers 90% of what I used to need from a larger grocery store. Plus, they’ve been able to do it with full check out staff (!), and it seems no matter what I buy, I never exceed $50. 

Not all technology is good for the customer and the customer’s experience, especially when used as a cost savings measure. Be careful. As good marketers we have the responsibility to ensure we’re selecting technology for our customers (and ourselves) that really provides a value and an enhanced user experience.

 

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