What does 2018 hold for consumers and the people who design experiences for them?
Every year I venture to make predictions look at trends and guess what consumers will think, feel and do. This year is different. I am not going to predict or assume. I am instead going to express my wishes for consumers and the people who design for them.
In 2017 we saw more mobile, more virtual reality, more augmented reality but we also saw more reality. We saw corporates struggle to adapt their legacy systems, integrate the myriad of operational systems that enable client service and product administration. We experienced more complex products and digital solutions.
My wish for customer experiences in 2018 is simplicity and de-cluttering.
Corporations need to focus on the killer question they are attempting to solve for consumers. What is your killer question?
Remove the noise from the system. All the hooks, the communications aimed at driving traffic, and start driving real value.
My next wish is for experiences to be meaningful in 2018.
On a recent trip that a fellow customer experience professional, Ian Golding, made to South Africa, we went to a steak restaurant as were taken through the kitchen of the restaurant into the meat refrigerator to learn more about meat. This experience for me was meaningful since it paid tribute to the cooks and the cleaners who served out food with such precision and care. It sent a message to them to say, “You are important” and our customers should meet you and see how hard and how proud you work. For you that have never worked a grill, it is hot, there are flames, things go wrong at times, and it demands your full attention. Plus most of the people earn a living that would not see them buy the meat cuts that they serve place after plate.
My next wish for 2018 is for kindness.
I wish both service assistants and consumers to be kind. Often when I am asked to do something, and I do not have the time or capacity, I am filled with guilt and answer in a not so kind way. I have rewired myself to smile first and then say no with love and kindness. Sometimes in service, we cannot do what the customer wants, but we can be understanding and kind, those things are free.
My wish for brand warriors is to make 2018 the year of purpose.
We engage with so many people that are in roles where over time they have become stuck, and they have no idea how to come unstuck. They have become so comfortably, safely miserable in their stuck-ness. They can no longer imagine finding an opportunity or a role or a brand that they would want to jump out of bed for in the morning. When I look at these magnificent people who have become stuck, it happened gradually over time. Like the story of the frog not realising that he is boiling as the water temperature had increased so slowly that it was almost not noticeable at first. So we separate from our passion and sometimes our values over time and it happens in such a distracted, slow manner that we open our eye one day and wonder, “How did I get there?”
My wish for people in service roles is that they get back to the art of the craft in 2018 and become true artisans of connection.
I genuinely believe this is what the world needs most is for us as humans to become connected again. Not in the Facebook way of having 800 friends who wait for someone to post an embarrassing picture or comment how skinny I have become. Or a Whatsapp group with strings of emoji’s that has no depth and don’t feed my soul. I mean connected in a caring way where we know more about each other, where we take soup to someone who is sick or read to someone who is blind or sit with someone who is lonely. I don’t think social media is going to get us to restoring the care and trust that we need for the next generations to be genuine, proudly and confidently human amidst a robotic workforce that can become citizens of the world and transcend cellular and geographic boundaries.
I wish for customer experience design to become an art in 2018.
For the designers of customer experiences, I challenge you in 2018 to design these fantastic wishes into your experiences. Craft connection, kindness, meaning, and purpose unto every interaction between a human and a human and a human and a system.
Create communication that tells a story. Create websites that engage and are attractive to consumers. Leave your brand ego at the door when you design and strip your logo off and design so consumer know you and feel you in every interaction. Weave your experience essence into every interaction, so consumers feel it under their skins.
Weave the brand DNA into every experience and light the passion in every brand ambassador’s heart to connect authentically in non-perfect, non-standard but authentic ways.
My last wish is for abandoning all stupid rules that are no longer valid in 2018!
Evaluate the rule book, consult with the corporate police whether it is legal, compliance, brand and leave no stone unturned to understand the rules and the boundaries, the organisational protocols that formed and evolved over the years demanded certain things which no-one likes but no-one challenges. Become a ninja of exposing the rules without reason and meaning and the ones that make it hard for people to be genuinely human and to make authentic connections with customers. To give you one example, I worked for a brand that was not allowed to apologise or use the word sorry in their conversations since it was accepting liability, but there was no formal rule… everyone assumed that they would be marked down, or penalised in some horrible way if they humbly apologised to customers.
Let 2018 be the year you stand in your integrity and do the right things for your brand and your company. Be genuinely and magnificently human!