August 16, 2016
by Carla Johnson
Customer experience isn’t a new idea, but the growing attention to it is. Customers are more widely connected than they’ve ever been, easily hopping between a growing number of devices. They’re looking for a rich, consistent experience that delivers value – whether that’s information or entertainment – whenever they want it.
Marketing’s ad hoc approach to pushing out content creates confusion, frustration and irritation. Instead of creating a seamless content-driven experience, we’re creating a disconnected pile of assets. There’s little understanding of relevance. And even if an organization could agree on what a relevant experience looked like, it’s still a tough haul to work across deeply engrained silos to make them a reality.
It’s this mosh pit of content that’s driving customers to demand better experiences. They have waning brand loyalty because most companies are working again old-school criteria. We know it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep the ones that we have. Even with that, our ability to keep existing customers is getting harder and harder.
Customer attitudes are driving experiences to the forefront of conversations. In fact, Gartner research points out that 89% of the companies they surveyed believe that they now compete on the basis of customer experience, compared with just 36% two years ago. Despite that, performances are dismal. Forty-four percent of customers say that the majority of their experiences are bland.
Clearly, customer beliefs and company actions are different, leaving a significant delivery gap. A few organizations have seen this coming and have been able to make the internal changes that are needed. Others still struggle. If you want to know how you stack up, ask yourself which of these three scenarios describes your situation:
Laggards – We’ve all heard the horror stories, from the cable, hospitality and airline industries. While they aren’t the only groups with bad reputations, they certainly have their fair share of backlash. These customer experience laggards are still organized around product offerings rather than customer needs. Their business model is one of efficiency and cost containment. These brands either don’t care about customer experience or they don’t have the culture, technology or technical skills to make it happen in an increasingly complex business world.
Sure-footed – These brands have created a consistent experience across touch points and embraced a customer-first model. They not only believe they deliver a superior experience, their customers agree. These are the Zappos, the Starbucks and the Southwest Airlines of the world. Success, however, can also be this group’s biggest hindrance if companies forget that customer needs continue to evolve and they’re not flexible or committed enough to keep up.
Trailblazers – These are the unicorns that predict the future because they’re creating it. They understand that delivering a stellar experience for customer is about delivering value that’s separate and distinct from the products and services that a company sells. These are the travel hubs, the energy universities and fitness centers of the world. They focus on creating larger audiences by becoming more relevant to more people more often. Gartner predicts that by 2017, 50% of consumer product investments will be redirected to customer experience innovations. These are the trailblazers who are taking us there.
How can you step up to the next level of customer experience maturity? There’s three things you need to keep your eye on:
- Create an experience on an owned platform. YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn are great, but you don’t own those. They could go away in the blink of an eye and so would your audience, and all the time and money you’ve invested in creating one. If you’re going to truly own your audience and deliver remarkable experiences that solve customer problems, then you have to own the real estate where your customers – and the great industry audience – congregate.
- Think about how you can become more relevant to more people more often. This is how you throw your arms wide open and woo people to content-driven experiences in ways you never thought of before. Marriott didn’t build a digital experience around selling hotel rooms. Instead they focused on creating an amazing travel experience. How do you do the same for your industry?
- Make your audience the customer and look at how you become audience/customer-centric first, and build marketing, technology and process models around that. To change the way you create and deliver value to customers, you may need to change the way your business defines and then delivers experiences.
Are you interested in engaging and converting new customers for your business? Contact me and let’s talk about how we can help. Or follow me on LinkedIn, and Twitter, and if you like what you see, Subscribe here for regular updates.
Photo credit: Flickr user Neil Cummings
About Carla Johnson
Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.
Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands has served as the foundation for many of her books.
In her latest project, Fast Forward Files, she contributes to a larger collection of thoughts by some of the world’s greatest minds - Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, activist and entrepreneur Heather Mills and behavioral designer, technologist and mental-health champion Peter Trainor. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking.
Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.