Smartphone, social networks, data: the new face of customer experience

In 2016, mobile traffic increased by 59% compared to 2015, and Google recorded more mobile than desktop searches in 2015. In this context, the multichannel customer experience is destined to develop, but what does that mean? Is it the end of human contact? What’s the impact for businesses? From coffee enthusiast to smartphone user, Julien Morel, Sales Director at Nespresso France and Marc Rennard, Deputy CEO, Customer Experience and Mobile Financial Services at Orange, work out how customer relationships will evolve in the multichannel era.

How do digital channels disrupt traditional customer relationships?

Marc Rennard: In the telecoms industry, the relationship has become massively digitized. Today, when a customer wants to access a product or service, the first thing he does is search on his smartphone. The digital experience must be interactive and immediate. A customer must be able to watch a TV program from his coach at 2am and get answers to his questions.
Julien Morel: In a multichannel relationship, digital reduces effort for the customer and offers new solutions, while the point of sale provides a differentiated experience, tasting a coffee for example. And perfection is required at all levels on all channels. Added to this is an additional challenge: joining up the channels to create personalised customer journeys.

Is it possible to shift to 100% digital customer relationships?

MR: At Orange, the current goal is to reach 50% customer interactions via a digital channel in 2018, and we’re on track. Customers benefit from greater simplicity and efficiency online. Digital technology does not replace a human relationship, it complements it. It enables the customer to benefit from greater simplicity and efficiency. And digital is already integrated into our shops, increasing fluidity, interactivity and time-savings.
JM: 100% digital is neither an objective nor an issue at Nespresso. However, we’re working every day to improve our omnichannel capability, because the customers who mix their physical and digital experience spend more with us. It’s worth remembering that our physical channel is still very important: we have 33 boutiques in France, and the analysis is clear: in all regions combined, after a shop is opened, our local market penetration doubles.

Julien Morel, Sales Director at Nespresso France
Data plays a crucial role but the customer experience comes down to our commitment as people first and foremost, with a place for error...
Julien Morel, Sales Director at Nespresso France

How does digitizing the customer experience transform the way companies operate?

MR: All sectors are affected. Home network virtualization trials are underway. With digital network access, we can inject greater speed, to download a film for example, before returning to a lighter throughput, according to the customer’s needs.
JM: The way we design services has evolved. Nespresso is committed to continually improving the customer experience, based on their feedback. We have also innovated in terms of home delivery, and guests have a much wider choice of delivery timeslots: they can request a 2-hour window until 10pm.
Obviously, the way we interact with customers has also evolved thanks to additional channels such as our mobile app and social networks.
Moreover, consumers are more and more interested in the company behind the brand or product. We’re therefore improving our employee experience, so we can go on to offer an exceptional customer experience.
MR: At Orange, we’d like the customer to eventually be able to dictate the service he expects. The "Essential Voices" program joins up the ideas of our customers and our employees. Sometimes needs emerge that we had not thought of. We’re conducting numerous workshops with our customers, and all of our products are tested upstream in Customer Test Centers (CTC). After each launch, we modify and adapt our products efficiently.

What role does data play in the customer experience?

JM: At Nespresso, we started out through distance selling, so we are natively omnichannel and are fortunate to have a unique customer information system. Data is centralized so it can be easily analyzed and processed. In parallel, digital technology has enabled us to offer new solutions. For example, a few years ago, our shops were busy on a Saturday resulting in long queues. Some customers didn’t need advice on which coffee to buy, so we have now equipped our shops with walls of capsules and RFID chips. Customers can choose the coffee they like, scan it into their bags, pay for their purchases and leave. The number of shops has not been reduced, because their role has evolved more towards advice and support.
MR: Orange has an abundance of data. The problem was to make it more efficient and accessible for the adviser. We’ve made substantial progress through a management system that enables us to understand the entire customer journey. Today, we’re making important steps to anticipate problems our customers may encounter. Providing proactive solutions will help us to keep them.
JM: If the customer journey is simple and effortless, customers stay with the brand. Data plays a crucial role but the customer experience comes down to our commitment as people first and foremost, with a place for error. A few years ago, we trained new call centre coffee specialists around the relationship rather than the tools. Satisfaction scores proved to be excellent.

Marc Rennard, Orange Deputy CEO, Customer Experience and Mobile Financial Services
At Orange, we’d like the customer to eventually be able to dictate the service he expects...
Marc Rennard, Orange Deputy CEO, Customer Experience and Mobile Financial Services

What’s the next revolution in the world of customer relationships?

JM: The first revolution is around partnerships. Companies must partner to enrich the customer relationship, for example by providing in-store WiFi or connected machines. The second revolution is already underway, to understand that the most valuable resource for the company is the employee, before the customer.

MR: The next revolution will probably be artificial intelligence, which will allow us to better respond to the needs of our customers through a real dialog in natural language. At Orange, we’re also facing another major evolution: network virtualization. Tomorrow, the Group will become an information services company.