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Nearly 30 years ago, Mark Weiser, a computer scientist at Xerox PARC had a prescient theory. He suggested that in the future, computers would become so ubiquitous and cheap that they’d become invisible—a part of our everyday lives that we rarely thought much about. Today, with mobile phones rarely out of reach, our homes’ thermostat and security systems controlled by an app, our entertainment accessible by a simple spoken command, our cars equipped with smart technology to keep us safer on the road, there’s little doubt that computers have found their way into our everyday lives.
With tangible interfaces, the path to understanding the customer experience is much easier to trace, understand, design, and improve upon—you can see it, good or bad, for yourself. Yet when traditional interfaces are removed from the equation, the customer experience becomes more fleeting and potentially harder to capture. Scan through a sampling of CX trends and predictions for the year, and “virtual experience” is bound to be a feature that makes most lists. While desktop and mobile aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, the question many companies may be asking themselves may shift from “how do we improve our desktop or mobile experience” to “how do we improve our voice or gesture experience?” The success or failure of emerging technologies—and established brands—will depend on how well those companies tailor these new experiences for consumers. And while none of us can predict the future, it’s safe to bet that a few key principals will apply to the brave new world of invisible experiences.
Love them or hate them, screens provide a valuable medium to communicate with customers. They can, when done right, clearly communicate, reassure, encourage, delight, and most importantly, empathize, with those interacting with them. Without those screens, however, making customers feel understood and valued becomes a bigger challenge. As companies continue to navigate their digital transformations, there remains the risk of a widening empathy gap between the advancements in digital technologies and the people who use them.
As of this writing, screens are still an essential component of most people’s personal and professional lives. But what changes when we become less dependent on those interfaces? What could once be conveyed with customer-centered copy, personalized and triggered by a specific event, must now be explained by a digital voice, for example, that may have no context for the specific situation a customer may be in. The best way to understand this new dynamic is through qualitative, human insight. While quantitative data probably won’t ever disappear, the importance of more qualitative measures will likely increase as our interactions with devices and technologies become less tactile. Human insight has always been important. The companies that have embraced customer-centered philosophies far outperform those that haven’t. The key to the next generation of experiences is adapting to the ways in which people interact with technology and crafting products and services based on real human feedback on those experiences.
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