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“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke. Are your customers experiencing magic or drudgery?

Alexa, please dim the house lights and lock the doors. Google, what is the capital of Madagascar? Swipe right to like, swipe left to reject. Put these in your ears and they will translate any language you hear into yours. What’s the best route to drive to my appointment? Don these glasses and you will see a detailed diagram of the machine you are working on with advice on next steps needed.

A recent article by one of my favorite commentators, David Pogue – Technology as Magic – got me to thinking about how technology enhances or ruins the customer experience. Pogue’s corollary to Clarke’s quote is: “Any sufficiently magical product will be a ginormous hit.”

He’s right. Think about your best customer experiences. They’re so effortless and empowering to verge on a moment of awe. Touch, swipe, tap, speak and complex chains of actions take place. The explosive success of the IPhone is a great example. Suddenly, a phone, camera, music, directions, email, text maps and an unimaginable library of apps are literally at your fingertips.

We take this for granted now, as it becomes commonplace and the complex technology fades into the background. But, more is coming. Those translation ear buds are hitting the shelf. Goggle Glasses have had a rebirth by augmenting reality on the factory floor, clinic and surgeries. Artificial Intelligence as an adjunct and helper to the human worker promises even more empowerment.

All this is very cool. But what about your other everyday experiences. Got a home warranty? Why can’t you get a tech to address your issue with just a few clicks? Buying or selling something substantial like a car, boat or house – do you like the paper work, time and steps you need to go through? Dealing with the government? Forget it! They are on the bottom of the pile when it comes to any “magic”.

How about in your own company or institution? Are your customer journeys – the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand – magical? Sounds a bit funny, but don’t laugh. If you like, for the term “magical” substitute: effortless, delightful, and even awesome. Ever hear those terms from your customers?

Technology is a big part of the trick. Can your customers or constituents self serve? Do they have access to the underlying information needed to resolve their needs or do they need to go through an agent? Can they access you through any means or device – laptop, mobile, tablet, email, etc. – or have you limited them?

But caution, new technology alone won’t do it. Remember what the guru of design, Steve Jobs, advised: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.” Jobs’ genius was that he made the technology disappear into an elegant object. He sweated the interactions until they became intuitive. Proof: no instruction manuals for Apple.

So what else is needed to create that magical experience? To get there you’ve got to take into account your people, your processes and how you have organized them, as well as technology. Say you have got a sweet CRM implementation but your order management and fulfillment is old school – Oops! Or, how about if you have a great call center system but your staff turnover is mind blowing – so much for customer satisfaction.

Go ahead try the “magic” yardstick. What are your customers experiencing? Chances are that you have some work to do but that’s OK. Few companies today have yet to embrace the full leverage of digital tech. But, don’t get left behind.

Oh, by the way, the capital of Madagascar is Antananarivo.

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