Disruption. Game changing. Customer Experience. Innovation.

These are words we’d usually associate with start-ups. They’re the traditional torch-bearers for elegant and convenient solutions. They’re hungry, agile teams with a singular vision to improve our lives through technology.

Some brands have also taken the leap into this space, but it’s only when they can shift their entire organisational formula away from product and towards the customer that they succeed.

One such example is Hilton. For decades they’ve centred their thinking around being first in market; they were the first to put TVs in hotel rooms, and the first to build airport hotels.

And now, they’re pioneering the use of IoT and automation to create frictionless experiences for guests.

Hilton’s CX-first approach

In a feature on the Think With Google blog, Hilton CMO Geraldine Calpin explained how embracing the CX mindset and improving guests’ experiences is fundamental, not only to remaining competitive, but also to pre-empting customers’ ever-shifting expectations.

Hilton’s approach revolves around the concept of removing friction from the customer journey, in three key areas:

1.     Digital check-in

If a customer is accustomed to controlling their life from the palm of their hand, why not meet their expectations?

Digital check-in and room selection and smartphone-activated locks make the arrival process as seamless as online booking.

2.     Removing silos from the marketing team

Calpin rebuilt her marketing and guest services stack around the customer, not around their operational function.

She united her brand, digital, ecommerce and demand generation teams and gave them one shared goal: to deliver an outstanding end-to-end experience throughout customers’ journeys.

3.     Anticipating future customer expectations

Calpin set her sights on keeping Hilton ahead of the pack, moving first and doing so at scale.

Recognising that consumer expectations will only advance as tech improves, her team is constantly looking for ways to raise the bar and be first in market as new possibilities such as voice activation become available.

Leading disruption with CX

At its core, this CX-first approach is simply an organisational shift towards customer service, where optimising the buyer’s journey supersedes all else.

Spencer Rogers, iProspect Melbourne’s Business Development Director, points out that the Hilton CMO’s strategy is no more complex or revolutionary than what many brands already do: putting customer satisfaction first.

The difference is that Hilton moved first and created a uniquely good experience, and others are likely to follow suit, he says.

“On the surface it appears that Calpin is merely adding to what air travel already offers. When airlines started giving people the option of self-check-in and seat selection, the whole industry saw how effective it was at combating the rising costs of running an airline.

“By simplifying the check-in process for travellers and airport staff alike, they reduced their demands on employees while improving customers’ experience. The airlines automated what travellers probably thought should already be automated, and the results speak for themselves,” he notes.

Other disruptive brands all do a similar thing, from PayPal simplifying money transfer for web commerce to Uber taking the main pain points out of taxi travel.

The running theme is the removal of friction for users.

Find the friction, improve the experience

Brands seeking to shift from their existing model to that of CX-led disruption will face challenges, both internal and external.

They’ll need to begin with a vision, not to pursue disruption for disruption’s sake, but to objectively identify where their process creates customer friction.

They must ask themselves: at the deeper level, what does friction look like to customers? Is it difficult information gathering, troublesome communication, complex processes, or not getting what they think they’re getting?

Going even further, do we eliminate an existing friction point, or do we create a smoother experience in a space where they haven’t even realised there’s a better way?

Whichever option brands choose, the CX-first framework can be applied to any industry where friction occurs, and where organisational structure doesn’t reflect the customer journey.

But considering that this friction often comes from human touchpoints, does this mean we should remove humans altogether? Not necessarily – it means freeing up human staff’s time to focus on solving customers’ problems, rather than performing repetitive tasks that might be better if automated.

Even traditional industries can do it

Let’s look at a few ways in which a CX-first initiative might help traditional industries raise the bar.

In banking and personal finance, providers have optimised their processes to make it easier than ever to open an account, get approved for credit or have your credit limit increased.

Getting in is easy, but once we’re in, it’s very hard to leave.

Aggregators and comparison sites like Compare The Market show us what other rates we could be getting, but the churning process is so difficult that we rarely do it, even if we know we’re paying slightly higher fees.

What if switching banks was as simple as switching which petrol station you fill up at? Would a new era of competitive value-adding emerge, with providers fighting it out to earn our business, rather than trying to work out how to dissuade us from leaving?

Or what if moving house became frictionless? What if there was no more shopping around for quotes or having to coordinate multiple service connections and disconnections, but instead there was an uber-esque service that did everything for you?

Imagine if the service not only identified your affordable removalist, but also incorporated all your mail being redirected, switched your rego and insurance addresses, notified your electricity and internet to be connected, and made sure you had all the right info to pay your rates and bills on time?

Take a leaf out of Google’s book

If there’s one standout in the anti-friction space, it’s probably Google.

The search giant appears to dedicate much of its effort towards being the world’s all-in-one life helper, from your phone’s OS (and all its app integrations) to smart homes, and even cutting out the aggregator sites to make travel planning as easy as possible.

But what if they went even further? What if we could not only plan a flight, but also book an AirBnB (or a Hilton room), get picked up by an Uber, make restaurant reservations and create an entire few days’ itinerary, all from our Google Home app?

Maybe it’s in the works, in which case you heard it here first.

Original article on the Think With Google blog, by Jason Spero (VP Global Performance Solutions, Google): 

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Craig Gibson

Craig Gibson is Senior Manager of Client Strategy at iProspect Brisbane. He specialises in uncovering consumer insights and creating audience-driven strategies for key enterprise clients.