How CX changes when your customer is a 'thing'

This is a future where thing customers will outnumber human customers and the two will have to interact effectivelyDon Scheibenreif, Gartner

Digital society is emerging around us. It is the collection of people, organisations and things that are engaged in persistent digital interactions.

What’s more, internet-connected things and ambient artificial intelligence are gaining the ability to act on behalf of human customers. But what does CX (customer experience) even look like for a thing?

How Customer Experience Changes When Your Customer is a Thing, is the latest research note in our ongoing series exploring what happens when Internet connected things and ambient artificial intelligence act as customers.

In this research note, part of Gartner’s year-long special report on Digital Society, we will examine how the fundamentals of human-based CX will change in a digital society.

This is a future where thing customers will outnumber human customers and the two will have to interact effectively.

To make our point, we tell the story of an intelligent soft drink vending machine and its human owner. We consider how organisations need to create experiences for things that lead to the same outcomes we want for our human customers: satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.

Changing CX fundamentals

  • Developing customer understanding: A “thing customer” has a voice when it can provide an opinion on the experience. This insight can be mdash; likely should be mdash; used to improve the human CX. If a thing customer is satisfied, so will its human owner.

  • Crafting customer experiences: Creating customer journeys for thing customers must address the thing and its human owner, as well as the owner-thing interface (how the two interact). Think of a three-dimensional persona.

  • Creating a culture of “thing”customer-centricity: Thing customers will challenge organisational culture to become more thing-centric, requiring an enterprise to prioritise understanding and responding to this new segment of customers. How will you train your employees to serve thing customers?

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What to do next?

Seems too futuristic, right? Possibly.

However, the foundations are in place – especially the growing use of virtual personal assistants from Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

Overall, we believe this future will be inevitable, as these technologies and human acceptance of them advance.

This is one of many ways the emerging digital society will challenge humans.

Existing ways of working, serving customers and day-to-day living will continue to change as new technologies emerge.

Organisations that recognise this early will be well positioned to capitalise on the shift. CX that includes thing customers is one way to prepare.

Don Scheibenreif is a distinguished VP analyst with Gartner's Customer Experience research group.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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