The Customer Experience is alive and well

“Take good care of your customers and they will take care of your business.” ― Biju Paulose

Recent discussions with a Managing Partner of a legal company and a Senior Director of a telecom’s provider were prompted by the question “Is Customer Experience dead?”

No, it is not. It is the most critical aspect of the world we live in today. Let me explain.

Firstly, let’s set something straight. We are all customers, every single one of us. We consume some product, service or event experience. This occurs nearly every day of our lives. 

Whether you are trying to buy a parking ticket at the train station (and get frustrated when the machine keeps rejecting all the coins), buying a coffee to ‘go’ at a popular coffee chain (and the colleague mixes up your order), or even if you are trying to book a holiday on your companies HR leave booking system (and get rejected for trying to book a partial day). [N.B.  I write more detail on these examples in a later article.]

Even when we sleep; we are customers of the bed and linen companies where we bought the products from; the curtains or blinds that block out the light and outside sounds; even the bedclothes we wear, etc.

Ok, so what then is customer experience? 

It boils down to the perception the customer has of your product / brand and the difference between that and the interaction they have with you. Even if you think your brand and customer experience is one and the same thing, if the customer perceives it as something different, that is what the actual customer experience is. You may think you have high-quality products and strong customer service, but if a customer gets a broken product that isn’t fixed or a service that falls below their perceived level of expectation, their perception of your company as lower quality then becomes the reality. That is Customer Experience.

Why is Customer Experience important?

In today’s hypercompetitive and customer-centric world, it is those who know the most about their customers; the experiences that their customers have and harness this knowledge to effect changes in their business model; will achieve the greatest success in retaining those customers; extending the revenues from those customers and grow their business.

This is fact, not fiction.

Take, for instance, a 2019 report on the state of Customer Experience from Pointillist (links at the end of the post), where they surveyed 700 plus CX, marketing and analytics professionals worldwide. 87% said customer experience was extremely or very important to their organisation. When the 700plus were asked if their organisation was a high achiever on customer experience, only 24% reported that their own organisations were. What a gap between expectation and reality of their own companies!

In 2018, a global survey of CEOs conducted by KPMG International (a global business consultancy company) reported that 70% of CEOs felt a responsibility to represent the best interests of their customers and 67% wanted to focus on building trust (one key aspect to customer experience). The survey was also reflective of views of more than 54,000 consumers across 14 different markets globally which were added to the final report findings.

Customer Experience is the key to growing business today.   

B2B and B2C Customer Experience is dead. No, it has become one.

With the technology advancements and collapsing of the gap between corporate and consumer tech; service delivery changes as the service economy has grown; the exponential growth of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google (FAANG) and their service models; the gap between a B2B (business to business) and the B2C (business to consumer) customer experience has collapsed. I would contend that there is no difference any more between the B2B and the B2C worlds where people believed that there was a distinct difference in the “customer experience” between a business user and a consumer (please feel free to challenge this, with comments at the end of this post). 

Instead, there are multiple customer experience channels

It is the alignment of the customer experience with the channel that the customer is engaging with. The moment by moment experience that a customer has as they manoeuvre the sales; consumption; service or lifecycle experiences. No single experience is the same. 

Take a well-known fast food restaurant chain. You can pre-order on their own app, the food you want and a time and place to pick it up. You can self-order in the restaurant itself and have table service. You can walk up and speak to a sales colleague to order your food and then take the food with you and leave. You can even order whilst sitting in your car in their drive thru. Multiple experience channels, same basic product – fast food.

Another example is a high street bank. As part of the service provision provided by their outsourced service partner, the bank’s user community can use a self-serve application to request changes and low end IT Services. Users can use a self-help portal to help them with their IT issues. They can be guided through more complex issues using a virtual reality chatbot. They can even pick up that most ancient of things, a wired phone, and call an IT Service Desk and speak to a human being. Same service requirement, different experience channels.

So, how do you start to understand what Customer Experience is all about?

The starting point is to recognise that your business, service or function is there to serve a “customer”. Whether that is an internal customer, (part of a supply chain), or an external, paying kind, they are all customers of what you are providing or offering.

Once you have identified your “customer”, the next points are critical to understanding and improving their experience. Don’t just assume the traditional customer feedback survey is the answer. It isn’t. Key elements you need to focus on include: –

  • Customer Journey Mapping – How the customer flows through your organisation / service / sales interaction and at key points in that journey, what experiences and feedback occur.
  • The Outside-In Approach – How do you create a service or solution model that starts with what the customer wants, rather than what you need the customer to have.
  • Moments of Truth – How do you recognise, identify and capture those moments of truth during the customer experience that truly make a difference. 
  • Employee Experience – How your employees/colleagues feel, experience and serve customers, is as important as the customer experience itself.
  • Continuous Monitoring, Feedback drives Actions – Customer Experience is not a one-off exercise. It should be at the core of your business strategy. One of the top 3 items that everyone talks about. Analysing, reporting and surveying fall into this section. Direct customer feedback also comes into play here.

I’ll come back to each of these elements in more detail in follow-up articles. Please feel free to comment and feedback on this article. Even disagree if you wish.

I leave you with the following quote, which really made me think about the impacts of Customer Experience:

“Nobody can tell you what to stand for, or how your values, wants and needs should intersect with those of your customers and then manifest as a business, an idea or an experience. Figuring out the destination is hard—but recognising it is more valuable than knowing exactly how you’re going to get there.” ―

Bernadette Jiwa, Marketing: A Love Story: How to Matter to Your Customers

I chose the photo as it really represented those moments of flight that we all take as we experience those customer experiences…

Photo by Richard Kasperowski on Unsplash

The article references are here:

KPMG Customer Experience Report 2018

Pointillist 2019 Survey Report

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