My Car Had a Conversation with
My Car Had a Conversation With My House Last Night When My Office Interrupted
Everything is a computer—your car, phone, television, music player, radio, etc.. And now, with the expansion of WiFi, even more common objects will not just be computerized; they will be networked. You know that security doohickey that stores attach to clothes, expensive items, and controlled substances? Imagine your Blackberry and Outlook calendars simultaneously updated with times and days for taking your new prescription the moment you cross the threshold of your home, or your calendar automatically reminding you when to take your medication through a text sent to your car, cell phone, computer, and music player.
Now, imagine that all of the technology that surrounds you—your PC, phone, radio, car keys, PDA, car, and television—is monitoring your activities and controlling key aspects of your life (depending, of course, on the settings and who set them.)
Your phone flashes: “Take X pill.” Ignored, your phone flashes and rings five minutes later, “Did you take your X pill today?”
Customer experience is the source of the next big thing. Inanimate objects are getting smarter. Remember when TVs had dials and clocks had arms? Now, your TV obeys your command and plays the shows you want to see when you want to see them in the order you dictate and without commercials. But look at your bathroom scale. Look at your car. Look at the security tag in the box of aspirin. The experience is different because there is intelligence around the customer built into everything, constantly shaping the way customers see and interact with the world.
“The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”
– From the movie, The Matrix
Caller ID, Transparency, Physical Household, and Addressability
All customer processes—business, consumer, and government—are subject to overhaul. Companies and customers are still trying to figure these things out. Products are also communicating with one another. The vast improvement in cars and computer usability through USB ports points to the ease of computer components and user adoption. It’s the emergence of The Trifecta, the next stage of the evolution, where products are speaking to each other on behalf of the customer and are becoming self-configuring based on a customer’s profile. This goes beyond the car that adjusts to three users. It speaks to design function with such questions as: “Do I hit a 1,2,3 button?” or “Does the seat measure me?” or “Does the car hear a voice command, or does it simply respond to my voice and adjust my seat accordingly?”
This type of awareness is one in which a person is defined by their devices and services configured as their personal network with a digital fingerprint representing their various connections, connection patterns, activities, and user preferences. This is the next wave of technology and of societal and business development. It will vastly change the nature of the way products are consumed, repaired, purchased, reused, and resold. This also has tremendous implications for customer privacy, security, and governance.
The CxC Matrix represents a preliminary step for companies and customers to understand and adapt to the capabilities and conveniences made possible through technology and improved service designs. The Matrix inventories and arranges current interactions and functions in an effort to inspire and support innovative approaches to meeting customer needs and exploiting communications and technological advances.
The emerging business ecosystem is quickly becoming a reality, where contacts and actions spawn automated guides, tips, reactions, alerts, and transactions all conducted through a customer-purposed network. Early adopters, savvy technology geeks, and children expect technology, communications, and trusted companies to flawlessly work on their behalf with minimal disruptions or inconveniences. In this new environment, information and trust are rationed out to companies that contribute to the customer’s network and respect the customer’s boundaries. They also proactively protect and represent the customer’s values and best interests, often without the customer’s acknowledgement but always with the customer’s permission.
In this new environment, the customer is regarded as the arbiter of business decisions. The primary criteria for business success is this: Is the result customer-worthy?
Scene: Standing on the light rail train, heading into the city, my folder vibrates, and I see the light flashing through the unzipped space in my backpack. Tilting back, I try to glance at the message. The light is green, so it might be home. I reach through the unzipped corner and pull the screen half-out, bending the screen back just enough to see the address line.
The Wall Street Journal I grabbed at the train station must have had an interactive RFID coupon for 30% off the new combo meal at the Starbucks across the street from my office.
I double tap the “Y” on the coupon with my index finger, and the confirmation message alerts me to pick up my sandwich at counter 3. The flashing link below the confirmation also displays a message telling me that I have been entered in a contest for a travel mug with an SD chip and wireless connectivity to play videos and news clips. “You must be present to win. Your current odds of winning are 71:1. This could be your lucky day!”
I jog across the street, gnawing at my sandwich, tasting the melted cheese, ham, and a bit of brown paper.
As I approach the lobby, my folder vibrates (I’m sure it flashes), and I hear “37 days consecutive on-time attendance. 23 more days to a new golf putter, day spa, flowers home, or grab bag gift, care of Human Performance Resources. Would you like to choose your gift now?”
“Oh, crap!” I mutter as I grab for my ear. I forgot to turn off my office earpiece channel again on my way home. I push the toggle back twice. I think that’s how I “mute all.”
As I walk into my office, I quickly look left and right and softly say “Holy stubby Santa!” I pause. Nothing. As I grab my ear and fiddle with the toggle, I hear a soft tone in my left ear and an even softer click on my right. “There you go.”
I repeat “Holy stubby Santa,” and my desk’s half-panel wall begins to glow almost completely green. “Looking good” I say out loud to no one. I hear three quick beeps in my left ear, and a soft, female voice whispers, “3 urgent, 6 exec, 13 office messages. 31 unknown.”
I plop down in my chair and run my finger across the green screen. Tiny text blurbs pop-up and disappear as my finger moves along. My eyes focus on the red brown blotch just left of the center of the screen. I tap the blotch and spread my two fingers apart to zoom in and open the under-performing area.
The screen light shudders. Then, a list of “recommended actions” appears in a window overlaying the area. The list, numbered from 1 to 6, includes actions and probable outcomes for each item presented as percentages. At the bottom of the semi-transparent window where “7” would be, the screen highlights “New” and “Other.” Hmmm.... I quickly drag my finger across actions “1,2,3” and hold it. I pause for a second, and the screen flashes “confirm” as the female voice whispers “Confirm?” in my left ear.
“Good sign,” I think to myself as the lower traffic light-looking gauge has a “97.5%” next to the green signal and “2.5%” hovering between the yellow and green.
“Not bad, 97.5% of processes running on plan 7 months before the big day. 2.5 out of alignment.”
I push my index finger down on the 2.5% and drag my finger to the lower right “Me button.” I can’t help but smile as the “Me” pops up “$48K $6k $26K” in blue, red, and green respectively, representing my projected earned bonus, potentially forfeited bonus, and potential group bonus slice.
7:10pm: I lean my backpack against the car, and along with the sound of the door lock opening, the car’s dashboard screen is already flashing. I slide in and look at the pulsing message. “MUNICIPAL ALERT MUNICIPAL ALERT” is scrolling across my dashboard in red, bold letters against a sky blue background. I tap the screen, and a message flashes in black letters, “Spring Baseball? Justin Y N Hillary Y N Confirm”. I quickly tap both “Y’s” and “Confirm.” “Confirm debit $625 Citi Y N” pops up on the screen, and I tap “Y, Confirm”. The screen then flashes some message about verification among 4 registered items blah, blah, blah and a touch box below that says “Accept Not Accept.” I tap “Accept” and “Start Car,” cleverly using both hands. Nothing happens, and the warning light flashes in synch on the dashboard and the dome light. “External Screens Must Be Turned Off To Start Ignition.”
“C’mon, you know what I meant!” I holler back. Nothing.
I tap the now flashing and enlarged “Screen Off” button and then, “Start Car.”
As I turn to enter the mall on the way home, the car’s in-dash, yellow message light flashes quickly, followed by a high-pitched man’s voice asking, “Offers? Yes? No?” Just as I say “Yes,” the voice changes to my wife Eve’s voice and says “Groceries” in a soft calming tone.
I say, “No groceries” and hear a beeping phone ring tone fill my car, then Eve’s real voice, “Hi, Neil. Honey, are you going to be home soon?” Not really paying attention, I respond, “I’m not picking up groceries.”
I park close to the hardware store and tap “CAR OFF.” Simultaneously, the car windshield screen projects a lightly flashing message “Offers? Yes? No?” to which I say “Yes.” The screen then pops two large buttons: “Some” and “All.” I say “Some” out loud, and the names and images from stores in the mall from my preferred list pop up. They are numbered 1-5. I say “1,3” for the grocery store and the liquor store. Another message then pops up with “1. Bank $25 OK 2. Chinese Restaurant $10 OK?” “No,” I grunt as I step out of the car.
As I enter the store, I hear a faint voice in my left ear saying “Coupons?” I realize that I forgot to turn my ear phone off. “No, thank you” I say quickly and tap my phone off.
I just hate being tracked as I go through the store.
The previous pages are an excerpt from the short story, Evil Twin, by Michael R. Hoffman
The Future is Now
This “day in the life” excerpt provides a window into an evolved customer to company relationship and a set of experiences that are pervasive, intelligent, highly personalized, multi-device, and multi-member.
The full spectrum of technology used in the excerpt is already available today. Everything from:
- Customer profile-driven personalization, self-configuring, rules-driven marketing and sales offer systems
- Visual business performance dashboards with touch screen reporting
- Multi-media, network-connected cars
- Multi-device coordination and synchronization.
The story depicts a higher evolution of networked customer, where the buyer’s experience, activities, environment, human-to-device and human-to-human interactions, movements—and even occasionally thoughts and reactions—are digitally recorded (either by mistake or intentionally) and stored in distributed connectable databases.
How does a company participate in this network? Who is in charge of coordinating the contacts, messages, offers, and customer service?
Companies must begin to think about and plan how they will participate in this highly interconnected, always-on, highly personalized network and whether not participating in a customer’s network is an option.
The answer to that is probably not. A company that chooses not to participate in the customer network is today’s equivalent of a company choosing not to have a phone. It’s worse than not having a web site and not using email because the purchase transaction and the execution mechanism will become more tightly linked—like the Municipal Recreation Department transaction that was extremely convenient. Automatic payment, service, and payment reminders that follow customers around and are delivered through every form of device and medium will become standard practice.
Customers are morphing marketing, customer service and product usage contacts at light speed. WiFi, intelligent devices, and personal communication networks (your laptop synchronizes to your phone/PDA/GPS which synchronizes with your car computer and GPS).
Of course all of this information circulating among devices, passing through airwaves and passed from system to system and company to company, poses a series of new challenges and problems.
The Evil Twin excerpt presents a number of service, delivery, and product fulfillment challenges for all of the companies and parties involved. Let’s call them customer promises. For example, one of the challenges of the Starbucks’ Wall Street Journal interactive offer plus sweepstakes entry is coordinating the messages, resources, and products to create a highly successful, attention-getting, impulse offer. The offer’s success requires coordination not just across companies but across devices, media, channels, systems, departments, and functions.
What if Neil shows up at Starbucks window 3, and they don’t have his sandwich? What if the worker at window 3 has no record of the sandwich order, which, incidentally, was debited from his account automatically when he walked up to the counter?
No sandwich = a bad experience. Account debited = a worse experience. Spending time to retrace the offer, order, sweepstakes entry, debit, and credit creates a still worse experience for the customer and the Starbucks employee caught in the middle.
And what happens to the Wall Street Journal pay-for-performance ad campaign results? Should Neil’s response be pulled out? Just how do you do that when the WSJ system checked that Neil responded … and he did?
Is Neil still entered in the contest for the mug?
You might say “who cares?” Well, Neil does! And so do the paid sponsors of the mug and advertising promotion who were going to give Neil a mug regardless of the sweepstakes drawing results simply because Neil has a high projected lifetime value for their financial services. They want a piece of Neil’s attention, and they funded the Starbucks discount, the Wall Street Journal advertisement, the mug design, the delivery, and the service. The mug also ensured that the financial services company could promote its services by sending messages programmed to appear on the mug’s screen. The financial services highly valued and specifically targeted Neil, and the entire effort was focused on creating a dedicated channel to communicate specifically with Neil.
The Cost of Privacy
In 2018, privacy has a price—or a value. In exchange for verification information, customers share personal information with trusted advisors. In fact, it’s very likely that a whole new industry will spring up in the personal network identification business with businesses responsible for insuring and monitoring networks, personal data exchanges, commercial transactions, and risk mediation.
As customers and citizens, we will all have to decide whether we want to give up this level of “privacy” in exchange for convenience, entertainment, stimulation, and attention.
How will companies configure systems and processes to manage customer demand for personalized offers, logistics, pricing, packaging, delivery, and service? How should companies decide which technologies to pursue and which processes to change, adapt, and invest in? What profit gains and cost savings should they expect?
This is the role of the CxC Matrix—a methodology and framework designed to help companies plot, visualize, analyze, monetize, prioritize, and optimize all customer contacts customer-by-customer and contact by contact.