Which Customer Experience Path Is Your Organisation Travelling? Is It The Right One?

What Customer Experience Paths Are Organisations Taking?

It occurs to me that under the Customer Experience umbrella one can pursue several distinctive paths. What might these paths be?

One there is the lets suck less path. This almost always involves looking at way of reducing customer effort at specific touchpoints e.g. call-centre, or specific customer interactions e.g. when buying something.  Arguably some, perhaps even most, of the effort that the UK government has put into its digital services programme is about sucking less, reducing customer effort, and in the process decreasing costs.

Two, there is the data-technology path.  Let’s make use of the latest technologies (internet, social, mobile, mobile apps, kiosks, marketing platforms..) to do interesting/sexy stuff. And in the process collect-harness data on the end consumers – who have to date been unidentifiable. Take a look at just about any high profile B2C brand. For me, several automotive brands come to mind immediately.  This is the path pushed by the technology vendors and the more IT oriented consultancies.

Three, there is the customer journey / business integration path.  By this I mean lets glue up the organisation – business units (online, offline), interaction channels and business processes – so as to provide a harmonious (as a result of the integration) customer experience. What is in it for us?  Higher revenues (customer stick around more, attract new customers through word of mouth, and existing customers buy more) and reduced operating costs. A great example of this is the John Lewis Partnership in the UK.

Is this all there is? Making that which is, work better?  And using the latest shiny technology to collect data on customers, potential customers, and push out marketing messages?  Is this the extent of the possibility of Customer Experience?

What Is The Truest / Fullest Expression of Customer Experience?

Bring new light to what life might be.

– Hugh MacLeod

I say that the true-fullest possibility that is inherent in Customer Experience is that of bringing new light to what life might be.  Think Amazon. Have the folks at Amazon not brought new light what the experience of searching for, finding, reviewing and purchasing products might be?  Have they not set the benchmark for what constitutes an online store and the associated experience?

Think Apple. Some say Apple is phone company now given that this is where the bulk of revenues, profits and growth is at for Apple. How did it get that way? Did not the folks at Apple ‘bring new light to what life might be’ with a touchscreen intuitive (to use) phone?  And is it not that possibility that has been pursued consistently such that few of us would now consider being apart from our smartphones?

Think First Direct. Did the folks there not bring new light to what telephone and online banking might be?

Think The John Lewis Partnership. Did the folks there not bring new light to what life might be for the folks that work in the business and those who are served by those who work in the business?  The genuine partnership model were they are no employees. Only partners, who partner with one another to deliver great service to customers.

Think giffgaff. Have the folks at giffgaff not brought life to what life might be like for customers of mobile phone networks: life as a community?  The experience of membership, of community, of being in it together, of participation, of loyalty, of honest dealing between network and its customers?

It occurs to me that the folks that were at the helm of these companies were pursuing a vision of what life might be. Not just in the pursuit of making the numbers. They chose to tread the bold path rather the safer one of incrementalism or following the latest fashion. They led in the truest sense of leading: the invented a possibility, they enrolled people into that possibility and got busy giving birth to the unborn: what life might be.

I am finding myself becoming more and more dissatisfied with Customer Experience as practiced. Why?  Because what calls me is the possibility of ‘bringing new light to what life might be’: honouring, enriching, elevating, the life of my fellow human beings.  Perhaps my interest is in innovation rather than Customer Experience. Or perhaps my interest is in innovation in the form of the total customer experience : Customer Experience Innovation. What about you?

How does digital impact strategy, marketing, and the customer experience?

I say digital fundamentally disrupts everything: value propositions, communications, the customer experience

“What do you think of digital?” That was the question that the interviewer at the Technology for Marketing & Advertising conference asked me. The bulk of my customer experience work for the last two years has centred on/around digital. So here is the answer I gave:

Digital is disruptive. It disrupts the value proposition, communications with and between customers, the customer experience, and the business model  I say every business has to get to grips with digital and the transformation it engenders in these four areas. Failing to do so is a one way ride to oblivion especially for retail businesses.

I went on to say:

The days of putting a warehouse with a glass front and minimum wage employees, who are generally clueless, on a high street, are fast running out.  Why?  Because if it can be bought digitally then it will be bought digitally. You cannot beat digital for research, for price comparisons, for ease, for convenience and even for instant access to the product/service – for some categories of goods and services. And if you get your logistics right then many customers can wait a day or two to get what they ordered online.

Which means that If your value proposition and the associated customer experience is not good enough to charge an entrance fee then you should close up shop. Why? Because you will simply end up being a showroom for a digital master like Amazon.

Michael Schrage says “Invest in your customers more than you brand”

It isn’t often that I come across a piece that speaks to me the way that Michael Schrage’s piece speaks to me.  I say that if you are in the game of business, the game of customer-centricity, or the game of customer experience then read and memorise that which he says.  For my part, I want to pull out his wisdom as it relates to the impact of digital on business strategy, marketing, sales, service and the customer experience.

Digital technologies push firms to recognize, rethink and reorganise how they should make their customers smarter and more confident…How are you using digital media to help your best customers and prospects to better educate themselves?  How are you making them smarter and more capable? Companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, IKEA and IBM have answers to that question. What’s yours?

The distinctions that make a difference will be value-added aducation and advice.  After decades of complaints about the poor quality of its instructions and documentation, for example, Ikea set up a YouTube channel…showing people how to easily put together its most complex furniture.

The advice/aducation marketing challenge comes from redefining advertising as an investment that makes your customers more valuable to you, not just an investment that makes your brand more valuable to your customers…

The digital and digitizing future belongs to the best aducators and advisors who make clients, customers, prospects measurably smarter and authentically more confident.  That a challenge a David Ogilvy, Jay Chiat and Rosser Reeves would appreciate.

Credibility comes from commitment to facilitate decision, not calculate persuasion. “We [Amazon] make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.”

Bezos’ bet is that relevant recommendations and reviews – good advice – are better brand investments than digital sales pitchesClose the deal by being openly helpful and helpfully open, not by “selling better.” Amazon transformed customer behaviours and expectations by consistently favouring innovative “advice” over sales-oriented “advertising” and promotion.

Sales don’t drive the UX; they’re it’s happy byproducts. That digital design sensibility has yet to seep into marketing’s mainstream…..

And finally

If you are busy firmly planted in the call-centre working on improving the ‘customer experience’ then I say get that you are at best improving customer service. Not the customer experience. You are mired in operations and as such you may just be missing out on the bigger picture – the opportunity and the challenge.

If like me, you are fundamentally a strategist and you passion lies in value propositions and customer experience innovation,  I say get passionate about digital. Learn digital. Use digital. Why?  Because digital enables transformations in the value proposition, communications with and between customers, the customer experience, and the business model.