The length – or lifetime – of customer service interactions and experiences

Interview with Thomas Reby, Senior Strategy Manager of Google in Ireland

Thomas Reby is a Senior Strategy Manager at Google in Ireland. He is an internationally experienced CX professional, with a proven track record of leading multi-national teams and business programs in the service and commerce industries.

I met Thomas at a conference in Dublin and we had a conversation about the length of the modern customer experience. Thomas is originally from Denmark and he used the Norse Legend of the three norns of fate to explain his own ideas to me. In short, we need to be thinking of CX as something that plays out over a lifetime and not just a 2-minute phone call. I should stress that Thomas spoke in a personal capacity for the podcast interview and that he is an industry expert with a focus on CX but this is not an official statement from Google although we do of course associate Google with deep minds so they should be publishing more ideas on Norse legends – in my opinion.


Q&A Interview

Mark Hillary: we were having a conversation at the conference about the difference between customer interactions being timed – like a single interaction for a phone call for example – and companies are often measuring that and trying to reduce the call time. But you were talking of a different mind-set/thinking of a lifetime of interactions and perhaps the interaction never stops. Can you repeat some of those points?

Thomas Reby: so I think today interactions are typically transactional in nature, you may have a problem and you contact the company and you interact and you close that down when a problem has been resolved or when an agreement has been made – whatever the case may be. However, I think we moving to a point where people get deeper interactiions with brands. We have seen that happen with certain electronics manufacturers where people buy one product and then they are eagerly waiting for the next generation, and the next generation, and the next release of software for their device.

What we are seeing is that people are developing longer brand relationships. So I am thinking customer service and the way we interact will be something similar. We are moving from a world of phone calls and chats asynchronous conversations. Think WhatsApp, think methods where you communicate with someone and they pick up the tread later and you don’t have to cut off the conversation.

I believe we going to have the same interaction with brands where you are going to have an open (always-on) channel with your favourite brand and you reach out to them every now and then when you have a need. Just like you interact with a friend; the friend knows you and retains information about you. I think systems are going to help with this – particularly AI – which is going to help make the brand seem like a friend in the sense that the CRM system will be surfacing data about whoever you are speaking to at the time and the system will remember and know past interactions and therefore you are building a deeper relationship in conversation through other generations.”

Mark Hillary: We have seen this in marketing, you mentioned some brands and I can think off the top of my head companies like Nike, Harley Davidson and Apple where people are looking for the next product and building almost like a lifestyle around that. But I think you are going much further and saying it is not just about selling the product or selling the next item or the next release. It is really about asynchronous communication – that is the big change isn’t it?

Thomas Reby: it is, and I think a lot of products have tacked on services that are integrating wider in lifestyles. There is a reason why a sneaker manufacturer might buy a company that sells devices for tracking activities, or might buy a platform that educates runners to become better runners. We are seeing the movement from a product to more of an experience or trying to achieve the customer’s goal.  A goal transcends an interaction and is typically something that is long and there is a journey in achieving the goal and there is a journey after the goal. During that time there will be many touchpoints leading up to a goal or attainment or an achievement where you will want to dip in and out just like you might have a performance coach that you talk to every now and then. I think the interaction with a company will be similar to what we have with WhatsApp chat – and it will be ongoing. I can easily imagine that there will be places in the offline world as well where you will be interacting with another brand that will give you that. I think of home improvement services, I think of furnishing where the companies will be aware of what stages you have been transcending through in life. For example “we helped you furnish your house and now you are coming back saying that you are expecting a child. So what does this room for the child look like and how do we interact around that?” I can see that becoming asynchronous communication but being continuous in terms of relationship.

Mark Hillary: Do you think that is largely driven by the fact that many individuals are moving to asynchronous communication in their personal life?

Thomas Reby: I definitely think so. I see a younger generation now where it is not expected to always be online but to always have a channel open and there is a big difference there. I wouldn’t be expected to always pick up my phone at any hour when people call, but I will be expected to receive a message through say WhatsApp and then I can respond to it in my own time. And I am seeing the generation of teenagers now where WhatsApp by far is the primary forms of communication as opposed to voice or real time chat.

What do you think?

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