Is Your Business Ready For Machine Customers?

When was the last time you wondered why you needed to stay on hold, waiting in line for a customer representative to pick up your call? Would you prefer asking a virtual assistant to contact your doctor and set up an appointment for you – or better yet, monitor your health and pre-emptively suggest a checkup? Wouldn’t it be nice if your loyal assistant would book a table at a nice restaurant for you when your anniversary is coming up, so you don’t have to remember to do that yourself? Would you rather do anything else than deal with bookings, purchase orders and receipts for the flights you are taking for your next business trip?

Well, you are in luck – Machine Customers can take care of these and many other recurring, preference-based, health monitoring and home or office automation-driven activities on your behalf. They can perform many tedious and time-consuming tasks that would otherwise need your attention.

That is if businesses and organisations are prepared for the Rise Of The Machine Customers.

Machine Customers live everywhere but inside your organisation

Essentially, Machine Customers are intelligent bots, algorithms and processes interacting on customers’ behalf to reach out to businesses independently. Be it digital assistants, wearables or home automation devices, various machines may soon be autonomously engaging with your organisation to help their masters lead healthier, less busy and more productive lives. Some of them may already be out there, doing the bidding, booking, ordering and shopping for your customers, without you even knowing about it.

While you have been busy automating your processes and introducing “AI” strategies (more like machine learning) through chatbots, so were your customers. They have armed themselves with powerful and intelligent devices, and now they are playing the automation joke on you, whilst you were only just hoping they’d start using the self-service portal you invested in for your business to save on costs. So it’s back to the drawing board.

Machine Customers are not chatbots. They don’t live inside your organisation. Neither are they processes that you bundle into your own services, such as printers ordering more ink cartridges from your supply. They represent to your company another layer of external unpredictability and randomness, just like their human counterparts. Their only desire is to provide effortless experiences to their owners, in the speediest manner possible. Their buying decisions are data-driven, based on rationale, with zero emotions. Machines do not have feelings.

The promise of Machine Customers to Customer and Employee Experiences is tremendous. However, it is only within our reach if CX leaders and teams truly understand the shift that is already underway – and ACT on it.

– Sirte Pihlaja, Shirute

A market shift like no other

Machine Customers are not hype. The likes of Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri impact our lives every day. They are abundant and omnipresent on our mobile devices, in our homes and cars, and even in businesses. There are already more machines that can act as customers than humans. Billions of IoT devices are ready and smart enough to become your customers. From a business point of view, they might even become better customers for you, as they are reliable and do not forget to make purchases. They represent the single biggest growth opportunity for all businesses in almost any industry.

According to a Gartner study, nearly 40% of customers will try using a digital assistant to interact with customer service on their behalf by 2025. Executives believe a good fifth (22%) of their total revenue could come from Machine Customers by 2030. That would signify a market shift about twice as large and fast as the arrival of eCommerce in the past. Almost half (49%) of CEOs expect Machine Customers’ demand trend to become significant in their industry by 2030. But people notoriously underestimate the pace of change, as well as the time it takes to prepare for that very change.

A Machine Customer is a machine that fills the space for a customer to do stuff so the customer doesn’t have to.

– James Dodkins, PEGA

The best customer experience in the future may be no experience at all

The potential to deliver lower customer effort cannot be fulfilled if CX leaders and customer services teams are not ready and committed to planning and acting in the best interest of their human customers – by welcoming their digital representatives. It’s time for CX teams to start delivering on that promise, even though a better customer experience may mean having no experience at all for the customer – or rather a machine customer experience – when the customer is no more involved in the transactions. Wouldn’t it be a great CX if your Machine Customer took the initiative to proactively resolve an issue before you even knew it existed?

Machine Customers set many new requirements for designing and delivering your business processes to support your customers and employees using these machines to interact with you. Do you understand what your business needs to know about planning for and dealing with this new target group? Or how will the notion of effortless customer experience change when your competitors start to deliver on this new playing field? Will your organisation be leading the pack or be left behind? Who is in charge of and supporting your team facing this new breed of customer encounters?

To ready your business for an influx of Machine Customers, revisit the needs of your customers (and your new machine customers) in very practical terms. Follow up by defining your Machine Customers’ journeys so you can manage them. Define the points of the Machine Customer journey where a human may need to be involved. Decide whether you should send Voice of Customer surveys to your Machine Customers, and consider how their responses may affect your results or the research questions.

Put people always first and get the balance right

Remember to take good care of your employees. This is especially critical in the wake of the pandemic. Think about how Employee Experiences get affected, as it becomes increasingly more difficult for CSRs and other customer-facing employees to know for sure whether they are dealing with a human being or a bot. Imagine how the content of their jobs might evolve.

Could you perhaps find a way to identify Machine Customers reliably and have them handled by other machines at your end? Can you foresee how our digital assistants will interact with chatbots, which originally have been designed with human customers in mind?

You must prepare for a time with more machines doing the bidding for us. The business potential is massive if you do things right. Gather a team of talents who understand what demands this new thinking poses for your business. Start experimenting. Innovate. Be creative. Stay curious. Most importantly, talk and co-design with your customers to create the future for lower customer effort today.

Whatever you do, do not forget about your human customers. People will always want to deal with other people. As a CX professional, you must get the balance right. Being customer-centric means that you will have to convince your organisation of the role Machine Customers are going to play for your business and plan accordingly. This will require a new mindset for us all.

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Sirte Pihlaja is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP), Trained LEGO® Serious Play® Facilitator and the Founder and CEO of Shirute. She is also Head of Team at CXPA Finland. When she is not playing with LEGO bricks with her customers, she is passionately evangelising people experiences in the Nordics, Europe, Caribbean and South East Asia.

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UK’s #1 CX Influencer James Dodkins, CX Rockstar & CX Evangelist at PEGA, together with Sirte Pihlaja (CCXP), Head of Team at CXPA Finland and CEO at Shirute, will discuss the essence of Machine Customers, their impact on CX/EX, and what the rise of the machines will mean for your business. Tune in to the LIVE CXPA Finland webinar on December 8th at 3-4 PM Finnish time (EET), 1-2 PM UK. Register now to learn more!


This blog article was originally published on LinkedIN. It has been reposted on CXPA Finland website with permission from the author.


Join webinar

More insights on Machine Customers at the CXPA Finland webinar on December 8th, with guest speaker James Dodkins.