Customer experience is the perception the customer has of your brand. However that perception is shaped by many things other than the simple purchase transaction.
Imagine a bakery. A customer experience is not purely shaped by the transaction of a customer buying a muffin. The bakery must create unique and delicious recipes. They must hire bakers that know how to create a perfect muffin. Employees need to show up fresh and ready to work. When they do the quality of the baked goods goes up! What are the ingredients provided to the bakers? These bakers need special appliances and tools to create the muffins such as a measuring device, a mixer, and an oven.
The bakers need to collaborate with the front of the shop — those who are selling the items. And how do people find out about the bakery? What is the experience of the customer purchasing the product? Are the frontline staff happy to be there? Do they smile at the customer? Is the transaction easy or painful for the customer? What happens if there is a problem with a muffin sold? A customer experience is not simply one transaction — a customer experience is defined by much more than that.
Sometimes one bakery comes along and changes the game for all the other bakeries by providing the best customer experience possible!
For example, customers have very low expectations when it comes to customer experience. So when a company like Amazon comes along and makes customers lives easier and better, customers are blown away. When it comes to customer experience, more really is more. Companies that work harder to create better customer experiences will ultimately thrive.
Thanks to Amazon, customers today are used to immediate gratification, of getting an item in under 48 hours with the click of a button. In fact soon — thanks to technologies such as those exhibited in the Amazon Go store — customers don’t need to bother checking out of a store at all. These technologies change customer expectations, forever.
Does any customer today want to pay for shipping? No they don’t. When one company raises the bar for customer experience, every company is implicated — because the customer expects more.
Companies have a habit of making life harder on customers in order to make it easier on their own company. However companies that go above and beyond and make life easier and better for customers will ultimately be the winners of their market.
Consider my D.O.M.O.R.E. framework which discusses the way a company can start revamping their customer experience, or building a customer experience to begin with.
The product or service you sell has to be really good. No amount of marketing can fluff up a product that isn’t good quality. If you are starting with a product that people often complain about, that is not good quality compared to your competitors, you’re going to get stuck between a rock and a hard place.
What is the difference between one airline and another? How about a gas station, or a gym, or a restaurant chain? Often the product is very similar, therefore the services wrapped around the product need to be better. There are simply too many of the same products and services for you not to deliver something special.
The employee experience has an immense impact on the customer experience. If your employees are working in poor conditions, or a fear culture — there are many ways their work would suffer as a result. When your employees feel supported at work, when they have the tools to do their jobs, when they understand the impact their work has on the customer experience — they do better work!
When unhappy employees are working in customer facing roles it's a recipe for disaster. We’ve all dealt with people who clearly don’t want to be working for a company, and it makes it painful to be their customer. No amount of marketing can diffuse the smell of an employee who hates their job.
Technology isn’t everything when it comes to better customer experiences. But it certainly helps. Airbnb represents the modern customer experience. Airbnb facilitates positive experiences with a seamless customer journey via its technology. Most companies don’t make transactions easy for customers.
Security questions, paperwork and customers repeating themselves many times make customer experiences frustrating. However Airbnb not only disrupted hospitality by getting people to trust one another again, Airbnb uses technology to provide an above par customer experience. When I open the Airbnb app, it’s clean and beautiful, like a magazine. I am greeted with a personal message: “Hi, Blake. Where to next?” I can browse my recent searches, get ideas “just for the weekend,” check out Airbnb favorites, review popular destinations, or read a number of guidebooks for cities I might be interested in visiting.
I can easily review past trips or my communication history with my past hosts. Customer service and payments are easy. I receive a text notification that takes me directly to Airbnb in-app messaging with my host, and I can text my host when I arrive. Technology isn’t everything, but it sure does make the customer’s life easier.
Knowing the customer will help you create better products and services for your customers. In fact consider Hiscox Insurance, a small business insurance provider that — when going into a new market — hires its customers. How shocking for these small business owners that are contacted by their insurer, that wants to pay the small business owner to learn more about their needs? Additionally the company decided to break from standard insurance marketing to steer clear of fear-based marketing. These are all attributes of a customer centric company.
When you are responsible and accountable to more than your board, you operate a business based on a set of values, and these values will not be swayed by a focus on short-term profits. In the book Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, Kerry Bodine and Harley Manning discuss governance and how it plays a role within organizations to create a culture of accountability.
Checks and balances within the company can help with governance — you can assign responsibilities to ensure there’s a team making sure all employees are maintaining the level of customer-centricity necessary. This will enable the company to collaborate around the customers.
Companies today must be accountable to its employees, vendor partners, the community in which the company does business, and, last, investors. Too many brands, large and small, put investors first — and this practice gets in the way of success.
Smart c-level executives are looking at sweeping customer trends and thinking about how these changes in customer behavior will impact their business. Most companies today are barely treading above water trying to satisfy current customer needs.
But companies must consider changing consumer trends and how it will impact their future business. Companies today need to ensure they have innovation within their company, and not a culture that discourages new ideas.
For example there was no way Blockbuster could have predicted consumers would stream content, but Blockbuster under-estimated overall changes in customer behavior. They underestimated the amount of time people were spending on the computer in general in the early 2000's. Content was on the computer and customers were spending more and more time there.
This inability to pay attention is happening today. ESPN just laid off 100 on-air personalities ad writers. Traditional television still relies on its ad-driven model which customers hate. Customers pay for hundreds of channels they don't watch. Customers are forced to watch ads that aren't relevant. Traditional TV + media under-estimate the importance of how consumers now prefer to consume media.
They don't like traditional ads. They want to binge watch shows, on their own time. But again we see traditional media having an attitude of, "not until you pry it from my cold dead fingers" will I change my ad-driven traditional model. Well these layoffs at ESPN are just the beginning. In contrast look at Apple, who have so much cash it's a problem for them.
These are companies that look at where the puck is going. Media is the next industry that will be hurt by its inability to look at where the puck is going.
It’s a tall order, but if done right, enhanced customer experiences translate into loyalty, repeat business, and revenue. What can your CMO do to improve the customer experience now? Download the report to see.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.
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