CEB Technology Summit - Boston, April 22-24, 2014

describe the imageCEB is the leading member-based advisory company. By combining the best practices of thousands of member companies with its advanced research methodologies and human capital analytics, they equip senior leaders and their teams with insight and actionable solutions to transform operations.

The theme of this year’s technology summit was “The Realization of Service”.  My company (CEDAR Document Technologies) is a sponsor and a participant in this summit as well as other CEB-sponsored events. There were many highlights of the three days with the focus on the following topics.

  • Operating a Service Business: The New Realities of Talent, Productivity, and Organizational Models

  • Delivering Technology-Enabled Service: The Rise of Analytics, Data, and Service-Focused Roadmaps

  • Realizing New Service and Product Models: The Wave of Social, Mobile, and Multichannel Experiments

As with so many industry and technology forums, conferences, white papers and other thought provoking points of view, the underlying game changer in 2014 is the “consumerization of technology”. Now that the availability of smart devices has become widespread, the impact on all industries and customer interactions is profound. Most business-to-consumer companies are trying to gauge and adjust to the long-term impact on their business models.
The CEB sessions, which were facilitated by CEB analysts, presented compelling evidence that technology alone will not guarantee superior customer service. This has been true before the advent of smart devices and still holds true today. Technology is no substitute for a client-focused culture.  This was reinforced by the many examples given of Amazon, Zappos, Starbucks, and others who have redefined customer service and interaction. All of these companies were in existence before the smart device explosion, so there is definitely more to this story than technology (hardware, software, analytics etc.)

An often overlooked technology is voice communications and “call center” attributes. As a matter of fact, the Zappos call center (now located in Las Vegas) and the culture of personal attention, client choice and a liberal return policy speaks more to the customer relationship than to technology. The call center associates at Zappos are an integral part of the client relationship and their well-being is documented in the founder’s book “Delivering Happiness”. Most business-to-consumer companies created their cultures through re-thinking the customer experience. For instance, Starbucks replaced the “coffee shop” with their own definition of the coffee/beverage, food purchase and consumption experience.

During the CEB Technology Summit, CEDAR Document Technologies was privileged to host a dinner with Rick DeLisi, the author of The Effortless Experience. Rick was the keynote speaker at the end of the first day of the conference and his topic was “Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty”. In his discussion, Rick made the following claim, “maybe customer service should be less about offense – bending over backwards to please customers – and more about defense, in the sense of preventing frustration and delay.” Rick made the point that customers have a sense of relief and loyalty if they feel that they have an advocate.  This advocacy is cultural and can be facilitated with the help of applied technology in the mission to expedite service and solve problems when they occur.

After speaking with other participants at the summit, I came to the conclusion that much of what is occurring in customer relationships is still very new and that very few have found all of the answers. Our interaction with our customers is very much in transition. The CEB summit was helpful in that it provided a forum to share ideas and consider the possibilities. I would like to thank the many CEB Technology Summit attendees and analysts who worked hard to create a learning experience for all of us in the business of creating and providing “The Realization of Service.”