Customer Experience Strategies and Why They Could Fail
Lawrence Fishburne’s character Morpheus in the movie ‘The Matrix’ has a critical piece of advice for Keanu Reeves’ character Neo which goes like this: “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” It’s a deep line that holds for everyone of us and more so for businesses.
A lot of companies still seem to be stuck in the rut knowing the path of creating the ultimate Customer Experience but are unable to tread it. That doesn’t just mean to say a lot of these companies know they have to provide a good Customer Experience but just don’t know how to do it. It also means there are companies who just believe they are providing a good solid Customer Experience when they actually don’t. Or they even follow the same path as the ones before them simply redoing what other companies have done or what everyone is all doing. There is much peril in this and it’s already showing.
Importance of Customer Experience
You probably already know what Customer Experience means in the first place but let’s just talk about it in basic terms anyways. So what really is Customer Experience? Simply put, Customer Experience is the broad feeling that a consumer has about a company based on all the interactions that he or she has had with the particular company over a period of time. Another slightly more technical definition would be: the sum of all User Experiences across all customer touch points over a time range. You would grasp easily that CX is a continuous thing. One of your customers could feel that the Customer Experience you provided was great until today but that feeling could go sour tomorrow, which could mean that the CX you provided wasn’t good enough. This observation is critical because it should make companies understand that they need to constantly focus on every channel at all times. That’s because even an insignificant and routine service interaction could potentially spoil the entire Customer Experience. And so, no consumer interaction is insignificant. This is easier said than done.
The true importance of Customer Experience lies in the fact that CX is now the big business differentiator in a digital business landscape where all companies, small and big, are competing as equals. It’s not just your product that matters the most today but it’s the way you treat your consumers that would bring in revenues and loyalty. A lot of companies have realized this and are doing what they think is necessary to deliver a solid CX and many more are following in their footsteps. In its annual State of Service report for the year 2017, Salesforce pointed out: “Executives see customer experience as a key way of setting the company apart from the competition.” The report also pointed out, “Our research shows that 85% of executives with service oversight believe customer experience is a key competitive differentiator.” There is hardly anyone who doesn’t recognize the importance of Customer Experience in today’s business. That wasn’t obviously the question. The real question is how to go about delivering a good Customer Experience and the mistakes companies are actually making.
Customer Experience Strategy and its Essential Components
Recall the definition of Customer Experience. It is the sum of all experiences across all touchpoints over a period of time. But unlike traditional summations, one bad experience will not just be a small and simple negation. It could push your whole CX into negative. There is no leeway for Customer Experience managers, there is no room for maneuver. Everything has to be a hit.
Technology is evolving at a tremendous pace and so are Customer Experience strategies and initiatives. However, there are a few constants in the CX game. Organizational Drive, Unified Customer Profiles, Customer Service and Support. A lot of experts may talk about vision, thinking, policy and similar jargons, but if you don’t have solid platforms on the above three, no matter how advanced an application you employ, it simply won’t deliver results. Let’s briefly see what you need to worry about in these things.
- Organization Drive: Companies need to resolve and train their employees in the process of providing a solid Customer Experience. Unless there is organizational resolve and drive towards striving to provide a good Customer Experience, no strategy will work. Like we said earlier, even if one interaction on one touchpoint goes sour, it could wholly negate the good experiences across all other touch points. For instance, if a service support executive doesn’t take a call seriously or doesn’t answer a customer’s query properly, it would turn into a bad UX on one touchpoint which in turn could potentially sour the entire Customer Experience and result in a customer lost.
- Unified Customer Profiles: Unified Customer Profiles are created when you have a holistic Single Customer View across all touchpoints. It is important for all customer facing departments in an organization that they have a holistic 360 degrees single view of each customer. Unless that happens, interactions will become tougher for customers which could drive them away.
- Customer Service and Support: Even the Salesforce State of Service report cited about 85% executives saying customer support is the primary driver of a solid Customer Experience. Once a consumer makes a purchase, customer service and support is all that is offered. If companies ignore this critical and long phase, they are bound to fail at retaining customers. Low retention by itself leads to low customer acquisition rates. All this is poor Customer Experience.
It is important to note here that the above three pillars of Customer Experience are all interdependent on each other. Without strong organizational resolve and drive, customer support and service can’t work cohesively. Without Unified Customer Profiles, customer support and service teams can’t effectively deliver what they are required to, even if they have the resolve and the will.
Customer Experience Strategy, Management and Where Companies are Going Wrong
Now we finally reach the business end of this discussion after laying a solid enough platform. A lot of research and advisory firms have studied patterns of Customer Experience delivery and financial benefits it renders through better customer acquisition and retention. A recent study by Avanade and Sitecore on the financial benefits of Customer Experience found that businesses earned USD 3 in benefits for every USD 1 they invested in improving Customer Experience across their consumer touchpoints. The study also found that about 38% executives and business leaders felt they achieved better financial performance than their peer companies because of improved Customer Experiences.
That’s all good. But, what you need to think about is not the 38% who said improved CX implementation helped them achieve better results, but the reminder 62% who didn’t say so. Why did this majority not achieve better financial results? They probably didn’t attempt improving their Customer Experience. Or they tried but couldn’t notice any tangible results. Why do companies try improving their Customer Experience delivery and fail? We don’t know the answer: nobody does for sure. But we’ll give our opinions.
Customer Experience is all about subtlety which leaves a fine line of difference between a good CX and a bad CX. Overdoing the means of creating a good Customer Experience can lead to a bad Customer Experience itself. Personalization was touted as one of the big things of this decade and still remains so as technologies evolve. But there is another fine line dividing personalization and infringement of privacy and companies would do well to recognize that line. It is important to understand the human elements of a business-consumer relationship. Customers are whimsical and demanding. They want a good personalized experience but they don’t want their privacy to be infringed upon. Consumers don’t like companies initiating conversations with them but want them to wait until they raise a query or a ticket and resolve it in the best and shortest way possible. A lot of businesses think personalization is just about adding the first name in the email or text message being sent out and getting to tell the consumers that they know some things about them. That’s just crossing the line. The CX game is a waiting game. Companies can do all they can to bring customers to their properties but only when the consumer arrives, the Customer Experience journey begins.
Like Morpheus said, there’s a difference between knowing and walking the path. There are many companies who are pioneering the entire Customer Experience movement. But there are far too many more companies who follow the former and that without getting the basics right. Customer Experience is all about efficient technology and effective communications. Typically, every consumer interacts with multiple companies obviously for different needs. But the consumer isn’t reset before each different interaction. If the CX with one company isn’t good enough, that sour feeling could spill over. Businesses must realize that the ecosystem doesn’t just consist of the consumer and one company. The ecosystem consists of a lot of companies jostling to gain the upper hand and each company needs to adjust to this ecosystem.
Troops move in columns because they need to. Companies don’t need to do that. In fact, companies must realize that in today’s competitive atmosphere, Customer Experience also has to be unique and unexpected. Like Neo, businesses must discover, know and walk the path.