21.02.2017

Your customers experience is your brand.

 

By Fergal Lawler

In order to attract and keep customers the first priority of any business needs to be brand awareness. Next is value and that’s followed by quality. All three are essential factors in the success of any business. There is also a fourth factor that is often ignored or dealt with as an afterthought and that’s the experience a customer has when interacting with a brand. Customer experience is fast becoming the primary differentiator between brands.

A customers experience starts at the point they become aware of a brand and it goes right through every tiny interaction and touchpoint, offline and online, up to and including the point of disengagement from the relationship with the brand.

Good enough isn't good enough.

Consumers are a demanding bunch and their expectations are higher than ever before. If it's not an excellent experience it’s a bad one. Today people want access to a larger quantity of more personalised options faster and more conveniently. When these expectations are not met or if they hit a problem with the service, they expect it to be resolved immediately. If it’s not dealt with in a satisfying way many will go straight online to vent. Even a small amount of negativity on social channels can be brand damaging.

For many companies it may often seem like it’s impossible to deliver on the ever increasing expectations of their customers. I'm sure somewhere out there there is a frustrated customer exclaiming at least one of the following grievances;

  • “Why can’t I pay contactless with my phone everywhere?”

  • “Why can’t that product I ordered a minute ago be delivered today ...for free?”

  • “Why can’t I listen to Adele’s album before she records it?”

Despite most large businesses already being aware that customer experience is of the utmost importance, many business leaders find it difficult to make any significant improvements in this area due to lack of budget for service design within their organisations.

The bar has been raised.

Industry disruptors are taking advantage of the fact that the more established brands are slow to act on innovating in the area of customer experience and quality service design. The bar has been raised by the growing number of entrepreneurial start-ups who understand the importance of investment in customer experience and who put it high on their list of priorities. 

A new breed of product and service provider is taking over in every sector and the more traditional organisations need to act fast in order to keep up and meet the high expectations of modern consumers who demand a simple, pleasant, satisfying experience 100% of the time.

Uber didn't invent the idea of paying a driver to get from A to B, they just made it a simpler and a more convenient experience. AirBnB didn't invent the idea of bed and breakfast, they just made the whole process simpler and more convenient for everybody. When a company’s product isn’t completely unique it’s the quality of the end-to-end experience that can differentiate them from their competitors. Customer experience is the intangible commodity that companies now need to trade on in order to keep customers loyal. 

Customer first, then technology.

In recent years there has been a major push by large organisations to digitally transform but digital transformation is more than moving your business activities and processes onto scalable digital platform solutions with omni-channel access. Digital transformation is also about the customer. It’s about investing time up front to research and discover the real customer pain points and then to explore ideas of how the digital transformation can solve those problems before designing and building any solutions.

A more holistic view.

It's not easy and it will need constant attention but in order to win new customers and to keep them loyal businesses need to consistently deliver a better customer experience than their competitors. Large organisations can often lose sight of this in the race to compete on price and product features.

In addition to this, many bigger brands also have historic company structures with archaic processes and a lack of communication, not to mention the political agendas that exist between various siloed divisions. These structures hinder innovation and the leaders within these organisations need to start working together in order to take a more holistic view of their products and services in relation to the experiences they are providing to their customers. They need to start putting people first. Organisations need to invest in service design and customer experience through working with agencies like Strata3 or through building their own experience innovation and design teams in-house. 

Large organisations need to start focusing on delivering their products and services to their customers in a simple, frictionless and delightful way or they will be left behind by their competitors.


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