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Harley Manning is standing silently at the edge of the stage at Forrester’s Customer Experience 2012 conference in New York. He has just dropped a bomb on the audience and is now standing with arched eyebrows waiting for it to sink in. Moments earlier he flashed a single statement in big red type up on the overhead screen that said simply,
“I need my customers more than they need me.”
While arguably obvious, many companies have not operated this way for a very long time and this audience of senior executives in charge of customer relationships seems profoundly impacted. His statement clearly has the intended effect on the audience as Harley changes the conversation from “What’s in it for my company” to “What’s in it for my customer?” and why that is so very urgent.
Now the audience is thinking differently…but why should they? Very simply, because they know that they are doing things that will either make the customer loyal or make the customer leave and it all depends on how they choose to run their business.
“These questions are at the heart of the matter over the next decade.”, Harley Manning declares, “Literally every company will compete on the basis of customer experience. In fact, they already do – most just don’t realize what that really means, what’s at stake, or how to do it well”.
“You are not going to succeed through manufacturing strength, distribution power, or information mastery – those have all been commoditized. And you can’t win by controlling the flow of information about your products and services either.”
Welcome to the Age of the Customer.
But isn’t that just customer service? In OutsideIn: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business we learn it’s not. “Equating Customer Service with Customer Experience is like saying a safety net is a trapeze act. Yes, the net is important to the act but if the performer needs to use the net the something has gone wrong with the show.”
Three questions we can be asking our customers is, “Did it meet your needs?”, “Was it easy?, and “Was it enjoyable?”. But remember, two out of three is not good enough! Meeting needs and making it easy are just table stakes, everyone is doing that. Making the experiences enjoyable is where the money is.
I have seen the rise in the UK over the last few years of a relatively new discipline called Service Design that asks some fundamental questions about what the customer experience should be like. An article in the Guardian on the subject, that includes both external customers and internal employees, asks, “What should the employee experience be like? How does a company remain true to its brand, to its core business assets and stay relevant to customers?”
During the conference someone told me a story about a telecom company in Europe that invested heavily in empowering their call center people to “make the customer happy”. But they came to realize that customers did not want to be made happy when calling customer service, they wanted the company to stop causing problems in the first place! And so the company went upstream to the root problems and fixed them.
So how might you go about this? Here are some of our tools and processes from the world of Service Design and Customer Experience:
• Create a Customer Journey Map: This is a co-created diagram that illustrates the steps your customer goes through when they with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination. The more touchpoints you have, the more complicated, and necessary, such a map becomes.
• Identify the Problems: A good way of doing this is to put red, yellow, and green dots on each of the customer touchpoints the team has identified. Green means working well, yellow means some improvement is possible, and red means it is broken and needs to be fixed. The team can then take a step back and see where the ship is leaking.
• Make a Business Case of Specific Benefits: This is, of course, just good business but you and the team may be very surprised at the amount of value in Customer Experience. According to Forrester, Sprint was able to save $1.7 Billion by reducing the need for several call centers. Fidelity found that their most satisfied customers invested 450% as much with the company as did their least satisfied customers, the difference between satisfied and not satisfied customers meaning billions of dollars.
In these early days of companies increasingly focusing on Omnichannel efficiencies, now is the right time to remember that we need our customers more than they need us and figure out how to create excellent customer experiences.