Globally recognised marketing authority on customer relationship management, Don Peppers shares the secrets of extreme trust and dealing with social media, transparency and the new customer.

Moore's Law says that every 20 years computers get a thousand times more powerful. This means your customers are more informed by themselves and they want real time interactions with companies they do business with. Technology and automation, when properly configured, delivers a better customer experience. However it is not possible to automate empathy and human emotion and automation cannot interpret customer emotions.

In the future, in business, there are likely to be fewer human interactions due to automation, but those future interactions that occur with customers will require greater skills to deliver humanity to the interaction. Creating customer trust will be critical, and only people trust people.

Technology is accelerating so fast that it has become almost impossible to anticipate and this is driven by; the number of existing innovations, the number of connected creative people, the efficiency of people’s connections and the level of openness and trust among them. As a result, we have seen the emergence of hundreds of disruptive startups.

Smart startups are recognising that customers are the biggest disrupters, and in many instances they are the only real asset of a business. Just think about airbnb - by the end of 2015, they will be the largest hotelier in the world with a valuation greater than Hyatts, and yet their only real asset is their customers. But customers create more value, more quickly than any other single kind of asset.

When competing for customer value you need to consider it from a different dimension of competition. Think about what portion of the customers’ needs are you meeting? This will define the customer experience.

To successfully manage the customer experience you need to meet their needs, make it easy for the customer to do business with you, and you need to make the customers’ experience enjoyable. This needs to be at the core of what you do. To meet customer needs you need to remove customer friction – remove the obstacles of doing business with you which will drive customer loyalty.

And you need to minimise friction in your business one obstacle at a time. This will require hunting down these obstacles. Technology can be used to eliminate customer friction and eliminate customer obstacles, but many employers choose not to do this as they are generally more concerned with the cost of the technology rather than the customers’ problems.

Like electricity and water, your customers will choose the path of least resistance. So their experience needs to be reliable and relevant to their business; it needs to be valuable, with good service at a fair price; and it needs to be ‘trustable’. Realise that the customer wants to know you have their interests at heart and that you are authentic and human in your interactions.

There is a new standard applying to business today which Peppers calls “trustability”. Employers need to be proactive in demonstrating trustability for clients. In the past, entire businesses have been built on the basis of taking advantage of their customers - think about credit card companies who see the most value in customers who are late payers, or companies who issue gift cards knowing that 10-15% of cards will never be redeemed.

Research shows that 70% of people trust their friends, 50% of people trust the online reviews of complete strangers and only 10% of people trust advertisers, so generating “trustability” is essential to customer retention and growth.

Trustability is based on empathy, and empathy is a deeply human experience and an expression of humanity. So the more automated your customer experience, the more important it is to make it human.

Humanity however needs to extend beyond customers in order to deliver the ultimate customer experience and in order to deliver humanity. In organisations you need to trust and engage your employees, enabling them to accomplish their mission. It’s about delivering humanity to employees so they will deliver humanity to their customers.

If you focus on delivering humanity to your customers, they will treat you like a friend not like a vendor.

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Don Peppers

Recognised for more than 20 years as one of the world's leading authorities on customer-focused business strategies, Don Peppers is an acclaimed author and a founding partner of Peppers & Rogers Group, the world's premier customer-centric management consulting firm. The Times of London has listed Don among their "Top 50 Business Brains," Accenture has included him in its global list of the "Top 100 Business Intellectuals," and the U.K.'s Chartered Institute for Marketing put him on its list of the "50 most influential thinkers in marketing and business today". In 2013, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers were inducted into the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame. Don has a popular voice in the worldwide media, and as a top 100 "INfluencer" for Linkedin.com, he has more than 100,000 followers (and growing) for his regular blog posts. With co-author Martha Rogers, Ph.D., Peppers has produced a legacy of international best-sellers collectively selling well over a million copies in 18 languages. Peppers' and Rogers' newest book, their ninth together, is Extreme Trust: Honesty as a Competitive Advantage. It argues that social networks and rapidly increasing transparency have combined to raise customer expectations regarding the trustworthiness of the companies and organisations they deal with.