Create Moments of Magic By Engaging with ‘The Virtual You’

September 17, 2014 (Wed): You can almost hear the growing chorus of “Why can’t everything work as seamlessly as Amazon?” and “Why does Netflix know me better than my bank?” In fact, customer expectations for engagement are changing even more rapidly than the technologies that make it happen.

So what should decision makers who orchestrate customer engagement do to unlock new value? The first step is to see the customer experience through a Code Halo lens. What does that mean?

Think for a moment about the technology in your own home – laptops, tablets, mobile devices, gaming consoles, health sensors, and so on. Now think about all the things you do with your gadgetry: connect with friends, play games, manage your money, read books, work, watch movies, listen to music, monitor your fitness, get directions, buy any number of products, and so on. Over time, every click, swipe, “like,” buy, comment, deposit, jog, and search produces information that creates a unique pattern of accumulated data and information that becomes your virtual identity. This virtual identity is your personal Code Halo.

If you use any device more sophisticated than a toaster, chances are good this sounds familiar and makes sense. But what’s new is that the concept of Code Halos is now playing out in the corporate world. People, organizations, and things – basically any noun – can now have a Code Halo, and this phenomenon is changing how organizations – and not just the digital native companies – create economic value.

At first glance, this can seem like the Big Data story with a new label, but that’s only partially right. Data, algorithms, and analysis are essential, of course, but it’s their ability to wrap Code Halos around people, processes, organizations and things is what is creating a sea-change in industries where upstarts are usurping market dominance from historical leaders. (For a painful litany of those who have already missed the shift, see Blockbuster, Kodak, Myspace, HMV, and too many others.) When used to re-shape customer experiences, Code Halos can mean the difference between a successful product (the iPhone, Nest thermostats, the Nike+ FuelBand) and flops (Nook, Blackberry, Zune, Yahoo Mail).

Digital leaders such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix, and Pandora use technology to forge deep human connections and create aha moments informed by our unique needs, wants, and history contained in the digital information we share. They are leading the charge toward new levels of customer engagement that transcends Silicon Valley digerati and hipster-tech users.

  • Philips is wrapping its consumer products with information
  • Vodafone is working with car makers such as Audi and Volkswagen to convert the automobile into a rolling code generator with an embedded SIM chip (in addition to many other sensors) to improve navigation, safety, and even entertainment
  • Disney provides personalized park experiences via its MagicBand
  • Insurance companies such as Allstate and Progressive offer individualized coverage based on data from their telematics devices

In each case, these firms are using data and information to re-code and re-shape customer relationships. Many more companies – in banking, life sciences, retail, transportation, retail and insurance – are now actively investing to re-imagine moments of engagement.

So what to do tomorrow? Every company is different, so there is no single “right” answer. However, there are a few simple constructs that can jumpstart your organization’s Code Halo thinking.

  • Recognize the value of signal. Competing on insight now stands as a potentially large value-creation lever for most organizations
  • Make design central to your value proposition. This is not just about making beautiful applications and Web sites. That’s still vital, but beauty needs to be embedded into the end-to-end customer engagement process and user experience
  • Compete on trust. In our world of unprecedented information and potential insight, how can companies deliver personalized goods and services while they avoid being evil (and creepy)? Companies should allow customers to opt in (or out) from sharing code
  • Make IT Your Halo Heroes. The SMAC Stack – social, mobility, business analytics, and cloud-enabled solutions – is changing how people, organizations, and devices interact. IT will still be responsible for basic technology operations, but will add design, behavioral science, and even sociology to shape how technology is used. Organizations that win the Code Halo race will have no barriers between IT and the business, and leaders who navigate this shift will become true Halo Heroes

As the digital economy expands, industry leaders across sectors worry whether their companies could face the same extinction events that sunk Borders, Kodak, HMV, Blockbuster, and others. The truth is that many are already at the crossroads of digital business change. Therefore, these leaders have tough choices to make. They must come to grips with the notion that winning companies will be those that see customers as more than just physical entities. They will see “the virtual you.”

To win at the crossroads, to attract and retain customers in a world of digital transformation, it’s time to unlock value by applying Code Halo thinking to your business.

Contributed by: Paul Roehrig, co-authored Code Halos: How the Digital Lives of People, Things, and Organizations are Changing the Rules of Business, a book that describes the “crossroads” model for winning in the digital world and offers insights, new data, and real-world cases. Based in Washington, DC, Paul is also the Global Managing Director of Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Florida and graduate degrees from Syracuse University. His doctoral research was on decision-making related to quality improvement in organizations.

Author: Terry KS

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