Apple’s recent controversy on the deliberate slowing down of its iPhones got me thinking on how even the most successful companies tend to falter when managing customer experience (CX). There are plenty of such horror stories out there. Some falter occasionally, many do it more frequently. The stated objectives for many of these companies point to an inherent flaw in their CX strategy. A number of them say they do it to drive sales, to ensure that they are in complete control of the experience, achieve higher net promoter score, innovate, grow organically…. the list goes on. It is interesting that every one of these objectives is about the company, and not the customer.
I am going to share here a few stories about good and bad CX management. For obvious reasons, I am not going to mention the names of many of these companies/organizations because the lessons they teach are more important than the companies themselves.
1. Visualize customer experience from the perspective of the customer
Many companies run a very professional customer experience program designed by experts. However, seldom do they visualize it as a customer would and what they would want in terms of personalization, need, quality of interaction or immediacy. Here is a story.
I once worked on a customer experience project with a very forward-looking government in South Asia. A key ministry had just completed an initiative to digitize all customer interactions. Once done, the government wanted to get feedback on the digital transformation and the resultant customer experience. Some of my target interviewees were small businesses, one-person entities that still relied on the traditional way of doing business.
One business owner told me a fascinating story. He wanted a clarification on a licensing issue from the ministry. He went in person to the department in charge of this regulation and waited in line for an hour to speak with a customer service officer. When he met the officer, he explained his issue at length. The officer politely directed him to put in his request at the department’s website because things were now 100% digital and only online requests will be answered.
It is obvious that after spending months planning, designing and an elaborate roll-out, they had missed out on one key thing – giving the customer the choice of how he/she wanted to interact with the ministry. More importantly, make customers feel that they are in control of the interaction.
2. If there is no wow factor, your CX program has failed
Many well-intentioned customer experience initiatives fail to produce the desired results if they do not have the wow factor. If yours is the same as competition, why would someone come to you? Another example. I bought two products from two different online stores. The first store delivered a different brand of the product by mistake. When I called in to complain, the merchant offered to send me the right brand as a replacement the next day, completely free of cost. Additionally, they said I could either keep the original product shipped to me or gift/donate it.
The second one involved poor quality. The merchant in question here was also prompt in responding, agreed to replacing it but I would have to ship it or drop it at the nearest store. I did that but couldn’t help but compare the two approaches. Who do you think won my loyalty?
The first instance goes on to prove that a great customer experience can convert a detractor to a promoter. The second vendor runs a me-too CX program that does not aim at customer delight. The story just shows that putting the customer at the center of the experience is critical.
3. Every CX program should have a focal point
Who should you focus on? Your existing customers or new ones? Should you focus on niche segments or cast the net wide and aim for market share? The answers should be obvious, correct? Check this out. Apple, when it started out, was not aiming for market leadership. It was looking to grow a niche group of Apple enthusiasts who would promote its products aggressively. In an age where it is fashionable to talk about organic growth, it comes as a surprise to many that acquiring a new customer could be anywhere between 5 times and 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one (Source: Harvard Business Review).
I am not saying this would work for everyone, but it is important to have a focal point that is very specific to your business strategy.
4. Deliver a personalized experience
Many companies put together an impressive array of information, tools and applications to help customers get what they were looking for. However, personalized experiences can only be delivered by collecting and analyzing a lot of data. Use of analytics, which includes demographics, tools used, common paths, popular links, search history etc. yield valuable information on the makeup of your audience and help deliver targeted content/services. Amazon and Apple do this better than many other online retailers out there. But there are many others like the Ritz Carlton, Zappos and Virgin Atlantic that are laser-focused on delighting customers through a personalized experience.
5. Measure, measure, measure
A popular accounting software company was measuring customer satisfaction across a couple of touchpoints. The results were contradictory. While one set of customers were happy with the products and would continue to refer them to their peers, the other set of customers displayed deep disappointment and anger. The trick here is to measure customer experience across all customer touchpoints through the buyer’s journey. Learn here more about how Atos can help you do that. Relentless measuring not just across a single touchpoint but throughout the buyer’s journey helps organizations devise and deliver a great experience across the entire spectrum of interactions.
It is also true that technology plays an important role in shaping customer experience. There are excellent solutions out there that help organizations get the CX management right. There is also Unify’s OpenScape Contact Center platform that offers you versatile tools to enhance customer experience across multiple touchpoints via diverse modes of interaction.
Please share your own customer experiences and the challenges you face. We would love to hear from you!