Many corporations claim they prioritise customer experience. But only those who are able to turn their lofty words into practical actions can emerge as winners in today’s experience economy. This article explores the different elements required to succeed in creating a superior customer experience.
Customer value is created through the use of products and services. This introduces a challenge to many organisations. Differentiation in the market is not only a result of a superior product but increasingly a result of experiences that connect customers, employees, and other stakeholders emotionally with the organisation. In other words, customers don’t buy from us only because of what we do – but also because of who we are.
Many organisations recognise customer experience as a priority. The common-sense idea that great customer experience leads to great business results is not enough. You need to lead and prioritise actions and investments. This article provides an alternative point of view on prioritising the customer experience agenda to use the budget wisely. The approach is equally applicable to any type of organisation.
Customer experience is never ready
In theory, customer experience is the sum of all interactions between a customer and an organisation during their relationship. Customer Experience professionals refer to these interactions as touchpoints. Further on, the sequence of interactions a customer needs to take in order to reach a specific goal is called a customer journey. In an ideal world, customers take the journey as intended and are delighted by their experience. But in the real world, customers follow their own winding paths and their expectations vary. What was special a few years ago may be standard today. What was acceptable a few years ago may be substandard today.
Base your actions on a real customer journey, not an ideal one
Mapping out the customer journey is commonly considered a good way for understanding and describing your organisation from a customer’s perspective. The best practice is to keep your customer journey map simple and clear. There is no need to dive deep into every detail unless your listening channels (voice of the customer, the voice of process, the voice of employees) deliver hard facts telling that a problem needs to be fixed. Your mapping has no value until you validate it against reality. Once we understand the real paths our customers follow, we can start making things easier, faster, and more convenient.
Internal business processes affect customer experience
Internal business processes have a huge role in dictating customer experiences. It is not uncommon to design and develop processes in silos and with other targets in mind. This approach leads to a customer experience that fits our internal processes – but not vice versa! In the real world, we cannot change all our processes overnight. Therefore, we need to be smart. In the short term, we can use process data as a leading indicator for customer experience. In the longer term, we may need to change our internal processes to deliver differentiating customer experiences.
Excellent customer experience requires constant attention and investments
Thanks to cloud technologies, new capabilities and possibilities become available to businesses without the need for massive upgrade projects. Consequently, possibilities we could not even have imagined a few years ago are now available to us, and can be delivered by our IT departments! The role of business is to understand what these capabilities can do for our customers. In our customer experience agenda, we must follow technological development and constantly invest in making our customer experience better. It is not a project: it is an ongoing process.
Conclusions: Action generation needed!
To create a well-balanced plan for constantly developing a better customer experience, we need to look at three layers:
- The customer journey
- The business processes
- The technology
We also need to consider things on at least two-time horizons. Short-term “must do” actions make sure we deliver acceptable customer experiences at every touchpoint. Longer-term “strategic” actions focus on a select few critical interactions to deliver superior experiences that differentiate us from anyone else. A prioritised plan simply means we always have our next action defined. Action generation is the only way to move the promise of customer experience as a priority from the corporate brochure into the real world.
Juhana Tormilainen leads the Customer Experience & Interaction team at Sofigate. He’s a professional in leading and managing customer experience. Juhana is enthusiastic about finding concrete and simplified solutions for sustainable transformation.
Many of these ideas and concepts are explained further in Ian Golding’s famous book Customer what? The honest and practical guide to customer experience. Ian will be delivering a two-day CX Masterclass session in Finland on May 2020. More information will follow from CXPA Finland.