With advancement in technology happening so fast, a lot of companies are struggling to implement at the speed of change. How often have you had to wait at the cash register while a clerk fumbles to input your frequent shopper info? How many times have you seen the shop-lifter alarms sound when a customer tries to exit, only to find that a clerk forgot to remove the magnetic tag? When trying to contact a live company representative on the phone, how long did you have to wait and how many phone trees did you have to punch through to get help? All of these are unfortunate examples of businesses forcing the consumer experience to work around internal processes and technology. While backend technologies presumably afford efficiencies, consumer data, and other benefits for the company, the trade-off is deprioritizing a superior customer experience.

It’s time for a new mantra – no matter how challenging it may be, technology should support the customer experience – not the other way around.

How do you do this? It’s simple, really. Include customer voice into each of your business processes. Let customers tell you how you are doing. Encourage them to share new ideas to increase service levels even higher than today. Hear them as they try to help your business better serve their needs. Advocates are grown from strong emotional connections which typically relate to real interactions.

In the social-scape, consumers are talking – listen to what they are saying.  They talk about you, your competitors, purchase experiences, how they use the product, etc. If consumers are talking freely, it makes sense for businesses to listen in, and also to engage. Several Bazaarvoice clients are even using Curations to bring so many experiences right to the forefront on product pages for other consumers to read. Clinique’s Chubby Stick is a great example of a brand displaying imagery of consumer experiences on the product page. Not only do businesses benefit from joining the conversations, their consumers do as well.

As you design the shopping experience for your business, build real interaction points all along the way. If consumers are seeking out answers about your products or those that you sell, enable questions and answers. More often than not, when one shopper has a question, it’s safe to assume that others have the same question. As consumers need answers during their buyer’s journey, branded responses to questions on product pages account for a 77% lift in conversion. More importantly, businesses can use the most frequently asked questions to adjust products and corresponding messaging. Understanding consumer needs is the first step in a business’ ability to make improvements.

Ratings and reviews are another classic way to garner real-time feedback right down the product SKU-level. Spending less time on focus groups and more on aggregating real input from real customers at the exact moment of purchase could yield more authentic insights. I’ve worked with some clients to pinpoint problem areas by diving into customer feedback and coming up with obvious answers that were not initially so obvious without the input. Some companies may not be aware of issues at all without keen interest in client interactions.

Clarks Shoes is a company that understands consumer experience. Rather than forcing their customers to sift through hundreds of reviews to find one that refers to a specific foot size, they allow shoppers to sort reviews by shoe size, removing a major hurdle in the shopping process. Argos is another innovative company putting their customers’ experiences first. The UK retailer uses customer feedback to refine product offerings and improve the shopping experience in-store by ensuring the same valuable consumer-generated content is available to its retail customers.

Some say that consumer feedback is difficult to process, and even more challenging to act on. It’s worthwhile to reconsider that line of thinking when considering that the alternative is a potentially sub-optimal experience for customers. Advances in technology are not forecasted to slow down anytime soon. If anything, the proliferation of mobile devices, exponential growth of consumer data and pending entry of the Internet of Things will only increase the complexity of demands on business to serve consumer needs. It’s a good time to step back and ask yourself the question: “Is your technology truly serving your customers or is it the other way around?”