November 15, 2018

How Customer Experience is becoming Customer Science

I spend a lot of time looking into the nature of Customer Experience. What’s happening now, what’s going well, and how people can do a better job. But one part of Customer Experience that’s just over the horizon, is the transformation of Customer Experience into Customer Science. This is the merger of several different technologies and platforms and insights that is going to be able to give companies a level of contextual understanding of their customers completely unmatched by anything that has come before.

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One example comes from one of my trips to New York and San Francisco, where I had the opportunity to witness the progress being made with self-driving cars. But what really got me thinking was looking at the LiDAR device on the roofs of these cars, and the other kinds of applications they’re being put to. Now, obviously, these devices are the “eyes and ears” of the driverless car, helping it see all around. But in retail, LiDAR is being deployed to understand the customer context - where the customer is looking, what parts of the packaging, etc. Now, even normal brick-and-mortar stores like Carrefour have the same level of detailed knowledge that Amazon does, and can start to refine their customer experience accordingly, and scientifically. It's fun to see how a technology that was invested for autonomous driving, is now used in an offline retail environment to better understand customer behavior. 

Another recent example comes from the micro satellite company, Planet Labs. These guys launch dozens of shoebox-sized satellites into orbit around the earth, and take hundreds or thousands of photos a day of all kinds of places. And one of their biggest customers is the insurance industry, especially in agriculture. Because where you used to have to send in human assessors after a storm to guess at the value of crop damage, now it’s so cheap to take photos of everything, that insurers can simply compare before-and-after photos, and make objective, neutral assessments about losses. This is an evolution from a kind of sophisticated guesswork into a science.

These, and technologies like these, are quickly turning Customer Experience into Customer Science.