Understanding customers, along with discovering and managing their behaviours, have been hot topics in marketing for a long time, but Customer Experience is still a relatively new notion in the industry.
Today, different companies sell almost identical products at the same price level. This creates a question: if the price and quality are almost the same, on what criteria do consumers make decisions?
In his book Predictably Irrational (2008, HarperCollins) Dan Ariely claims people make decisions based on their emotions. As research confirmed this claim, companies started to give much more priority to emotions.
In today’s world, it is Customer Experience that leaves a mark on a customer’s heart; price and quality alone cannot do this.
To create unique customer experiences, companies should follow and apply four steps, which I have named C3E.
Well-known management guru Peter Drucker says: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Customer Experience strategies cannot be executed if employees do not have a customer-centric vision. Even if the management has great strategies and plenty of resources, it would be impossible to apply these.
Therefore, the first thing to do is to create a culture where collaboration and teamwork is mandatory – an atmosphere in which it is not important who gets the credit.
If you look at organisations such as Amazon, Ritz-Carlton, or Apple, you see that the customer is always at the centre of the organisation and all actions are shaped around the customer. In these companies, the one and only common point is that they see customers as their the most valuable asset and have management who believe this fully. This is the most important step and as you can see in the above diagram, this is not a part of the pyramid – the pyramid stands on this step.
2. Meeting expectations
The second thing is to define and meet customer expectations. The first step of understanding their needs is simple: listen!
Although it seems simple, most companies are not listening their customers, or they’re not listening correctly and turning insights into actions.
As Dr Ernesto Sirolli explains in his TED talk, sometimes we need to “shut up and listen”. We shouldn’t work from offices if we want to understand customer needs and expectations. We should meet with customers in cafes, pubs – anywhere they want and just listen and get insights from them.
The motives behind why customers choose this or that must be carefully identified by the companies, and they must be sure about providing the “product” or “service” to customers. Celebrating birthdays for travellers on an airplane or giving 10 percent discount on flights is useless if you’re facing 20 percent cancelations and 50 percent delays in your flights.
Let’s face it, companies are disturbing their customers with unnecessary text messages and emails. However, when customers actually need contact with these companies, they often find themselves lost among recorded voices or call centre operators.
Customers want to reach company representatives at any time, anywhere. Therefore, omnichannel experiences continue to be one of the most important CX trends in 2018. Companies should be available through every channel that customers may wish to use for contacting them. Information flow between channels, and consistency of the information, are crucial issues for better experiences.
4. Creating emotional experiences
Emotions are the most memorable things we experience, as Maya Angelou outlines in this famous quote: “People will forget what you do, people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you make them feel.”
Successful companies match their brand with positive emotions when communicating with customers, or in advertising.
It’s no coincidence that customers associate Coca-Cola with ‘happiness’, or Volvo with ‘safety’. In the famous ‘Pepsi challenge’, participants chose Pepsi because of taste, but in real life, nobody drinks cola blindfolded. Coca-Cola sells much more than Pepsi because of the emotional experience the company has created with customers.
Companies which focus on these four steps will stay ahead of their competitors, but critically, the process requires the full support of management at the highest level.
Customer Experience KPI goals should be set and permanently monitored as we approach a new era where technology including Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR), will transform Customer Experience and the overall impact on company strategies.