Under the influence of e-commerce and millennials, customer expectations have reached sky-high levels. Both B2B and B2C buyers now want everything, everywhere, as soon as possible.

On October 10th, the Global Open Innovation Network hosted a TechMeeting aiming at discussing the latest trends on how to Reinvent Customer Relations by leveraging new technologies. The event gathered about seventy people from a large range of companies and sectors.

Our panel was composed of three experts:

  • Nicolas de Kouchkovsky, moderator of the panel, works at CaCube Consulting as Fractional Chief Marketing Officer, Consultant, and Advisor for B2B SaaS companies.
  • Margaret Laffan is Senior Director of Business Development for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at SAP.
  • Rob Lamb is Director at Salesforce and works on Customer Evangelism.

Nicolas de Kouchkovsky launched the discussion by asking the panelists why dealing with customer relations is a key challenge for businesses and how this topic relates to digital transformation. Both panelists agreed that “companies cannot not care about customer relations”: people have a growing number of options and the competition is getting increasingly fierce. In addition to their traditional competitors, businesses now have to compete against giants like Amazon, who are able to leverage enormous amounts of data to optimize their products and their interactions with customers.

The relationship between businesses and their customers has come a long way since the era of mass production. Henry Ford’s famous quote summarizes the approach back then: “any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black”. Since, companies have moved towards a more flexible approach by implementing marketing practices and using customer segmentation.

According to Margaret Laffan, we are now witnessing a new paradigm shift : segmentation is no longer sufficient as customers expect a personalized, individual experience. These new expectations force companies to find innovative ways of interacting with customers, and technology has a big role to play. The implementation of these new tools is not an easy task and businesses need time to adjust to artificial intelligence, machine vision or machine learning.

For Rob Lamb, however, technology is not the hard part. The real challenge lies in the cultural impact of these new forms of interaction as they imply reshaping organizations from within. These changes are difficult and require commitment and  strong leadership.

Nicolas de Kouchkovsky then asked the panelists about the difficulties of dealing with personalization at scale. According to Margaret Laffan, data privacy is the first element to watch. The major risk is to fall into invasiveness and lose customers’ loyalty. While some people are ok with personalization, there is a fine line between using the data and abusing it. One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to create value for the customers by leveraging data to provide a better service and not only to increase profits.

Rob Lamb seconded this analysis and suggested two other ways of preventing companies from abusing data: give responsibility to consumers regarding the use of their data and set boundaries with what is done with AI and data.

Finally, the panelists agreed chatbots and virtual assistants are taking a more significant role in the way businesses interact with their customers as they help reduce costs and learn more about their customers. Some of the biggest changes to come include a larger use of speech and video, and the progress of sentiment and contextual analysis.

The Global Open Innovation Network invited 6 startups to present their solution: SightCall, ForePaaS, Amplify.ai, LoopAI Labs, Dossier and Xbrain.

Check our website for more information on the Global Open Innovation Network. We will have two TechMeetings in November one on November 6th in Boston focusing on Construction Tech and a second one on November 13th in San Francisco focusing on the Future of Work.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us: prime@innovation-prime.com