Digital vs Physical: Who Drives the Customer Experience?

​Today's consumers expect an effortless and personalized experience; they are used to digital experiences provided by the likes of Google or Facebook, and feel frustrated by the fact that speaking with their bank is a completely different story. With the current focus on customer experience, and the continuing gap between digital and human interactions, there’s a growing need to adopt a digital data driven approach, for a ‘digital transformation’ of the entire customer experience.

Digital interactions vs. Physical interactions

It seems like the digital giants of Silicon Valley have it all. Companies like Google and Facebook provide service to billions, yet seem to provide an excellent experience. Perhaps it’s easy to provide a good experience with such popular services, while banking and mobile providers for example, offer a much more complex - and much less ‘sexy’ - service. 

Still, providers of such complicated services can learn a valuable lesson from digital service providers. A phone call with the bank shouldn’t be tiresome; a customer shouldn’t wait on the line while an agent is looking for the right information, nor should the customer have to explain their request again because the call was transferred. 

Digital giants cannot afford to let people invest such effort and have such impersonal experiences. Serving billions successfully, without the option of speaking with a human being, who can solve difficulties, requires ingenuity in designing the experience. Digital service providers create an effortless and tailored experience, which they are able to do because they understand deeply how people use their services; they know where they’re coming from, understand their intent, and generate meaningful insight about each of them.

Digital service providers don’t hide the fact that they’re obsessed with customer data and work very hard to gain insights about customers and their behaviors. There’s even a new prestige title for the people who do this; they are called “data scientists”. 

By adopting an extremely data-driven approach, these companies are able to design and constantly fine-tune the customer experience. It’s perfectly suited to customer desires, everything is simple, and whatever solution the customer wants is only a step or two away.

On the other hand, human interactions have a power to be exceptional in a way no digital interaction can. Take Ritz-Carlton for example, famous around the world for providing exceptional service. The Ritz moto is "We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen." At Ritz-Carlton employees are empowered to build strong relationship with customers and to be responsive to their expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs, driving Ritz-Carlton to be one of the most successful brands in luxury lodging.

Connecting the dots

Both digital and physical interactions can provide a satisfactory customer experience but people’s experience requires addressing the comprehensive customer journey across digital and physical as one. The journey forms the entire experience, from the moment the customers first engages with the brand, to when they purchase at the branch, call up for service or renew their program. 

To win in today’s customer-focused environment, business leaders need to transform their thinking for the digital age. Any customer-focused organization must have the ability to adapt, taking an analytical approach to driving the customer experience across both the digital and physical worlds.

Of course, connecting digital interactions with human interactions and using a digital data driven approach to the physical world is not an easy task. Most human interactions are unstructured, making an analytics-based approach to understanding customers and designing their journey experience much harder to implement. But the technology for connecting and designing physical and digital experiences as one is already here, and organizations that will move fast will be able to provide a superior customer experience and gain the most important competitive advantage in today’s business world.