Customer Experience And Loyalty Starts And Ends With The Product!

Back in 2011 I asked this question: Customer Experience: What About The ‘Product’? And I ended that conversation with the following assertion:

The product is not in one domain and Customer Experience in another domain.  Any serious examination of the Customer Experience has to grapple with the product and how well it does the job that the customer is hiring it to do.  That means designing that product so that it is both useful (does the job) and usable (easy/intuitive) to use.

Today, I stand by that conversation. In particular, the necessity and critical importance of the ‘product’ (the core product or service which calls forth the customer to reach out and interact with the organisation which is selling that product or service) to any serious work on improving-transforming the customer’s experience of the organisation.

I also find that I was wrong. How so?  Today, I’d sum up that conversation differently.  How would I sum it up?  As follows:

 The ‘product’ is not in one domain and Customer Experience in another domain.  Any serious examination of the Customer Experience (as in the customer’s experience) has to grapple with the ‘product’ and how well it does the job that the customer is hiring it to do.  That means designing the ‘product’ so that it is useful (does the job), usable (easy/intuitive to use), and sensuous (evokes the senses and calls forth awe). When you get the ‘product’ right you will learn that in a substantial-meaningful way that the customer’s experience and loyalty start and end with the design of the ‘product’. If you have the right product then you can concentrate on marketing (advertising, distributing) it. Little need to waste your time on the latest corporate nonsense: customer experience management as in customer interaction management across a multitude of interaction channels.

What has led me to this way of summing up the matter?  Apple. In particular, Apple’s latest financial results – the largest quarterly corporate profit of any company.  Let’s look into the quarterly figures a little bit more: revenue of $75bn, profit of $18bn, and Apple sold 34,000 iPhones per hour.  Allow me to share this paragraph with you (bolding mine):

Apple chief executive Tim Cook called the company’s sales “phenomenal” and said the company had sold 34,000 iPhones an hour every day of the quarter. “This volume is hard to comprehend,” Cook said.

I am now going to make my most controversial assertion. Ready?  I say that the field of Customer Experience Management (as in customer interaction management) is attractive to and for the mediocre. Yes, the mediocre!  You know the folks that do not design-sell great ‘products’.  ‘Products’ that do not simplify-enrich the lives of our fellow human beings.  Look if you make a great product then the world beats a path to your door -including overcoming any hurdles along the path.  Only CXM fools ignore the critical importance of the ‘product’. Isn’t the product the reason that the customer takes action – to actual reach out to the business in the first place?

 

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

2 thoughts on “Customer Experience And Loyalty Starts And Ends With The Product!”

  1. Maz, a beautifully controversial post. But what about businesses where the service outweighs the product, e.g. Insurance?

    I am reminded of a quote by Walt Disney

    Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.

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    1. Hello James,
      You get me. The subtitle of The Customer & Leadership Blog is “Provocative Conversations On All ‘Things’ Customer. And Leadership”. This conversation is somewhat more provocative than usual.

      You ask a great question. My response to it is embedded in the following response to a comment made on this conversation at CustomerThink.com. Here it is:

      “Hello Chip,

      You quote Ted Levitt and share the following quote: “No one ever bought a quarter-inch drill bit because they wanted a bit. They bought a drill bit because they wanted a quarter-inch hole.”I find myself familiar with that quote as I have read the paper from which that quote comes.

      Here’s what I say: Ted Levitt is wrong. Every day I come across folks who have bought an Apple product (iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro) because they wanted an Apple product and only an Apple product! I work with some folks in technology. Their company issues them with Lenovo laptops. What do I find when I walk in their office? MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros. Who paid £1000+ for these Apple products? The folks in the office – out of their own pockets. If Ted Levitt was right then the Lenovo laptops also produce the outcome: creating-sending-reading emails, browsing the internet, creating documents, spreadsheets, presentations….

      You say that the product may bring the customer in but it is the emotional connection to the customer experience (of interacting with the human beings serving the customer) keeps the customer coming back. Interesting. You have split the product and the customer’s experience into two. And so doing you have ignored the customer’s experience of the product. Apple illustrates that the product can be THE source of the emotional connection between the customer and the organisation/brand. Put differently, if you are smart (and capable) there is an opportunity to design your product such that it speaks to your customers at an experiential level: creating that all important emotional connection.

      Admittedly things become more interesting when the product is actually a service. The example you share of bank accounts. You say the product is the bank account. For me a bank account or an insurance policy is not a product. For me a product is tangible thing: I can touch it, feel the texture of it, see the colour of it, smell it, taste it… I cannot do that with a bank account. Therefore, I assert that in the case of banking (and bank account/s) the product is actually the service. Service in the fullest sense: being able to access the service easily and ideally from anywhere; folks providing access to and delivering the service being welcoming-helpful-polite; folks being competent in the provision of the service; and folks advising you on how to make the best use of the service.

      Finally, lets deal with the core assumptions on which the house of CXM has been built. The assumption of product quality being taken for granted. The assumption of product parity in terms of quality. And the assumption that any product centred advantage can be rapidly eroded by a competitor. Really? So how do you explain Apple’s success? Where does Apple make its money from? Smartphones! Samsung makes smartphones. Apple made a record quarterly profit of $18bn. What about Samsung? Here is what I read on the internet:

      “Samsung saw net profit of 5.3 trillion won ($4.9 billion), compared to 7.3 trillion won last year, marking its first annual earnings decline in three years and its fifth consecutive quarter of decline. Apple, meanwhile, announced record earnings of $18 billion, largely due to the success of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.”

      Incidentally, I walked past an Apple store today. And a Samsung store. There were plenty of customers (or potential customers) in the Apple store. I did not see a single customer (or potential) customer in the Samsung store.

      Enough said, I am going to leave it here for today. It is getting late and my back hurts.

      At your service and with my love
      maz”

      You may find the entire string of comments on CustomerThink interesting. If that provokes your interest then here is the link to the comments (and my responses to them):

      http://customerthink.com/customer-experience-and-loyalty-starts-and-ends-with-the-product/#comments

      I wish you a great day.

      Maz

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