By Kathy Gibson
Customer experience is about how customers perceive their interactions with an organisation – and companies that understand this will tend to succeed.
And it means it’s not so much about what you are doing, but how the customer perceives it, says Forrester analyst Qaalfa Dibeehi. In addition, it’s about their experience with the whole company. “If bits of it are misaligned, you won’t be delivering a good customer experience.”
He adds that the customer experience boils down to effectiveness – the value customers get from the experience; ease – the value they get from the experience without difficulty; and emotion – whether customers feel engaged about the experience. Most companies focus on just effectiveness and ease, but fall down when it comes to emotion.
The holy grail of service is customer loyalty, and Dibeehi points out this is not about tenure, but true loyalty, customer who are happy and willing to make a sacrifice to do business with you. “For instance, they would be willing to pay higher prices to do business with you.”
They would also be more forgiving if the company is slow to market – not just switching to a competitor.
“Companies that do well on all three metrics, do well on the stock market. There is a great pay-off for getting it right.”
Not many companies are doing it well right now, Dibeehi points out, so there is an opportunity for companies to get ahead now. “And first is the only place to be. If the top company commands loyalty, there is no place for a number two.”
Companies performing poorly in customer experience are probably failing to do five things – and successful companies are doing these things.
“The first is that they need to transform the customers experience, work from the outside in.
“The second is that they need to accelerate their digital business. There are two ways to approach it: you can be dragged in, or you can lead. To get ahead you have to buy into the customer experience.
“The third is embracing the mobile mindshift – and this does not mean the mobile technology shift,” Dibeehi stresses. “The mobile mindshift is in the customer’s head. And it’s happening in every aspect of everyone’s life – your car is a computer, your workspace is a computer.
“In addition, you need to turn your business insights into action. This is essentially big data, but we are learning how to process the noise to make actionable insights.
“Finally, drive business growth with privacy. If you are collecting information, building insights, there could be a downside if you don’t handle it correctly.”
Dibeehi adds that successful companies need to pay attention to emerging technologies that can help them to focus on the customer experience. But they need to start from the point of view of the customer, not from the technology.
Forrester advocates the business technology agenda, which helps companies to address customer experience. “If you are in business, you need to start with customers – recognise them and understand them, figure out what they want.”
Operations in the company tend to be split into marketing and strategy, and technology and management, but there is often a misalignment, Dibeehi says, a fight about where the customer management fits in.
Key to resolving this is the BT agenda, which positions technology in the service of the customer. “This is not about building technology and then saying it’s about the customer; it’s about starting with the customer and developing the technology for them.”
This means companies need to link strategic intent to execution.“The main driver of growth is the customer because he decide whether to give us business or take it away. It’s as simple as that.”
The normal way of doing business is an inside out focus, where the company does something and hopefully it motivates the customer to spend money. “But we need to understand what are the things that motivated or demotivates customers.”
Telcos tend to ask customers what they think about the business. “But there is a flaw in that. Customers are thinking about themselves; where you fit into the customers life is not very important. You may enable a lot of things but your particular company is not on the customer’s mind.”
The key point ins customer experience is to figure out where the company fits into the customers life – and that could identify opportunities in where they are not part of the customer’s life, Dibeehi says. Technology can do a lot of things, he adds, but if you don’t start with the customer’s thinking you may spend a lot of money and still not address the customer’s need.
The way to do this is adopt an outside in approach that starts with the customer, then looks at what the company needs to do to support that.
Dibeehi stresses that there is a difference between customer service and customer experience – customer experience involves the entire business. “Customer service may give you tenure; customer experience will give you loyalty.”
An outside in approach involves more than implementing a new user interface, he adds. “You need to transform the business model to deliver new types of experiences.
“You need to design new end-to-end customer experiences and you need to reshape the business operations around the new experience.”
The bottom line, Dibeehi believes, is that everyone in the company needs to start thinking about the customer. “If your competitor gets loyalty and you don’t – it means you’re spending money and not getting anywhere.”
Companies should also design business strategies and operations around the customer and the journey they experience and they should prioritise the business technology agenda.
“If we want customers to choose us again and again, the things we do have to be done in the service of the customer.”