Claire Robinson on why brands need to collaborate for great customer experiences

"Adapt, adapt and then adapt again," says Claire Robinson, the customer experience director at Kin + Carta. "In the future, change will be the only constant.”

In 2020, this certainly proved to be true. But Robinson, like many of the other digital leaders we spoke to for this series, believes it's only the beginning. We're heading into a time where tech, and how we use data, is changing exponentially. And a brand's only armor for change is to invest in agility, adapt quickly, and crucially — be ready to collaborate.

And Robinson would know. As head of customer experience at Kin + Carta, an established leading digital transformation consultancy, she's shepherded some of the world's biggest brands through digital transformation. Brands such as Lexus, Unilever, and Visa have partnered with Kin + Carta to create exceptional digital experiences.

Partner to create seamless customer experiences 

While brands are getting better at owning and optimizing their own customer journeys, Robinson thinks that it might be time to take it a step further. "Consumers are expecting seamlessness like never before," Robinson says. "What's interesting is that brands aren't always delivering against that. I think there are some huge opportunities for brands to start to partner with other brands and businesses across broader customer experience to deliver real value." 

In other words, it's time to reach across the divide and build collaborative customer experiences with other brands in the ecosystem. Robinson points out that this is at present a large, untapped source of value for brands, but it can't be a superficial partnership. Robinson argues that brands should connect on a deep level — going beyond skin-deep promotions and into delivering true value while respectfully and transparently sharing customer data. 

Robinson gives an example of a person traveling from country to country — a process that potentially involves hundreds of brands. The person will pack their belongings into branded luggage, use airport parking, check a weather app for the destination and shop duty-free. There's also the airline, the immigration process, and the hotel or Airbnb they've booked at the destination. Imagine if all these different brands were connected and worked together to create a seamless customer experience. Perhaps the weather app is connected to the airport shops and prompts you to buy an umbrella because it's raining at the destination. 

If the idea of working with other brands — and being transparent with data — leaves you aghast, Robinson says you don't necessarily need to work with competitors. Instead, look for brands that complement your specific experience. Creating a seamless experience isn't just about playing well with others. The more connected a customer experience, the more valuable and loyalty-generating it will be for customers.

The perfect blend of human and machine 

It's hard to go past AI when talking about the future of digital. Like the other digital experts we spoke to in this series, Robinson is wary of the idea that it is a customer experience panacea. Instead, she points out that we still need to work out where machine learning and conversational UI will improve the customer journey — and when we need to take a more personal, human approach. It's about finding the perfect blend between human and machine. Robinson puts it beautifully: "I have not yet seen AI-generated poetry that I find moving." 

AI does shine when it takes away mundane tasks like resizing images, proofreading and even customer service tasks like consolidating customer information for a human interaction. If the customer is angry and unwilling to deal with a bot, Robinson has a solution for that too. "Machine learning and AI are able to understand the natural patterns in language where you can see someone is becoming incredibly frustrated. And we're able to triage that to a person," she says. 

Adapt, adapt and then adapt again 

For Robinson, a brand's ability to adapt and reinvent will be essential, saying "brands that cannot keep up will fracture." But Robinson is adamant it's not just about technology. When you've set yourself up with flexible and customizable tech, it becomes about embedding a healthy culture of adaptability and experimentation into teams. 

And Robinson is quick to remind that transformation isn't a destination — they are never complete. Instead, it's helpful to think of them as a journey, or even as reinvention. "The best way to be on that journey is being able to adapt quickly, ... celebrate small failures, work together and work in an adaptable way — for all employees to understand what the core DNA of the brand is and make the right decisions," Robinson says. "And invest in agility."

To hear more from Claire Robinson and other experts, subscribe to our digital forecast YouTube playlist

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