To get anywhere in 2018, you need to forget about your customer!

Everyone knows it, and you don’t need to come from Harvard stock to understand the merit. It’s the first rule of business and has become a business imperative: “The customer is always right.” But is this really still true? Does it still hold sway in today’s rapidly changing business landscape?

A few short years ago, Steve Jobs hinted at the possible collapse of the mantra, famously stating that “It isn’t the consumer’s job to know what they want…”

In 2018, creating value for your customer is going to be all about understanding their customer. Put another way: if you were designing a new iPhone (because there’s always a newer one on the way) for the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, you’d do well to forget Tim Cook completely and focus on the iPhone users.

The danger of “I want what they have…”

When it comes to technology, “We want what they have…” is an all too common brief. But when it comes to cutting-edge, people often become sheeple. In the race for success, we won’t all win if we keep choosing the same path.

Put simply, big business would do well to look for service providers who won’t only serve their needs, but more importantly, strive to anticipate what their clients may need – thereby ensuring they stay those critical few strides ahead of the competition.

I want AI, and I want it now!

The University of Melbourne’s Marketing Professor Mark Ritson says, tongue in cheek, that to win in 2018, we’ll all have to “Be artificially intelligent…” After visiting dozens of conferences, he offers this gem to those wanting to employ artificial intelligence (AI): “Plug your virtual reality into your AI and machine learning will be boosted so much that your marketing will improve exponentially. Probably.” It’s funny, but it’s also not funny. An understanding of the power of AI is only just emerging, but not everyone ‘gets it’.

Stories about ‘AI fails’ abound, already. From Alexa allowing a toddler to order an expensive dollhouse or starting its own party at 1:50am, to Australia’s visa processing robot rejecting an Asian man’s passport pic because ‘his eyes are closed’. These are minor blunders, but as uses for AI increase, the stakes (and risks) will too. Cue: self-drive cars with AI ‘chauffeurs’ vying for place on the road together with conventional cars; or the replacement of entire HR departments with virtual employees tasked with empathising, supporting and serving the workforce of the future. 

Artificial intelligence, or intelligence that is artificial?

But the customer is always right, right? When it comes to artificial intelligence – this may just prove our biggest downfall.

In 2018, lots of companies are going to be joining the AI race. Lots of big corporates will be ordering up AI as part of their future-ready strategy. Amidst a sea of tech partners who supply just that – i.e. out of the box AI – an enhanced focus on the actualusers of AI (the customer’s customer) is going to prove key to being artificially intelligent; or realising your intelligence is artificial.

Transforming the customer experience in 2018 will take more than a lifeless chat with an off-the-shelf chatbot. Key to the (successful) mass movement away from human interaction to automation and robotics will be – you guessed it – understanding the human. Let’s not forget who we want to be ‘artificially intelligent’ for. Building the robot for the human will mean we need to focus a great deal of time on humanising AI.

To make 2018 your most successful year yet, make sure you resolve to choose those technology partners who value you enough to deeply understand your customers’ needs (not just yours!) and to deliver solutions to match.