"Eighty percent of companies believe they deliver a superior customer experience, but only 8 percent of their customers agree."
[Bain & Company, Harvard Management Update]
I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, of course. However, there might be a few areas of improvement that have not have crossed your mind yet. First off, let's define what we mean by "customer experience". From Wikipedia:
Customer experience is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier.
The sum of all experiences you have with a brand is part of marketing. There is a lot of really good research on this topic.
While in the boom years many companies focused on acquiring new customers with a churn and burn mindset, many are now coming to the realization that there are only a finite number of prospects out there - many of them are their current customers.
You read that right. Often you will know a customer is exploring other services, you may learn they are by tracking their browsing habits on your site.
However, if you haven't cultivated a good relationship with them, they won't buy from you. Part of the good relationship is the ease with which they can do business with you. Would they recommend you to someone else? More importantly, would they buy more from you themselves?
With this information in hand, consider the three components of customer experience as defined by Forrester (in bold) in the Customer Experience Index 2010. My initial thoughts:
1) meeting needs
Think about right place, right time. Being prompt, proactive, and helpful. Then think about not just creating a customer or satisfying that customer, but creating a mechanism for that customer to help you spread the word to other customers.
The price of entry is quite low in many industries, there's plenty of opportunity for a company that is willing to design offers and experiences that move customers to evangelists and advocates.
2) being easy to work with
This is not as easy as it seems. In many companies it means learning to go across the organization. Tracking and measuring the right things helps, of course. Have you thought of your contracts, forms, checklists, and processes as part of your marketing materials? How's their usability?
Does your organization create opportunities to learn what it does well and what it can improve in all its processes? How can you do that by direct feedback and observable behavior? Do you act on it?
By and large, this is in the hands of all the people who have contact with your customers. Hiring well, training continuously, supporting your people with useful information, and treating them with respect will translate into more enjoyable customer conversations.
It wouldn't be fair making those support functions accountable without providing the proper resources, processes, and training for them to succeed, would it?
Why is this important?
A recent survey conducted by the Society of Digital Agencies on the 2010 Digital Marketing Outlook [hat tip Scott Monty] uncovered many areas of opportunity for companies. Customer experience, along with getting back to storytelling, is a biggie.
Looking at emerging trends:
- Storytelling will evolve - location will become a key component; the speed at which stories are developed is crucial; and above all, emotional connections matter -- you cannot fabricate, push, or coerce emotional connection.
- Branded content syndication will replace some paid media -- many organizations need to rethink where they allocate their resources. Producing high quality, hard hitting content is a prized skill and you should not underestimate the time and resources that go into it. Or you're bound to fail.
Integration plays a key role in all this. Many companies will have a sense of needing to boil the ocean from day one. In many instances, what this means is taking a fresh look at all processes and systems and prioritizing choices and resources to transform the way they operate.
How can you develop capabilities and capacity that will allow you to play successfully into these emerging trends? Who makes the call? Is it product? Is it the line of business? Why not marketing?
© 2006-2010 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.