Building a profitable enterprise no longer depends on finding the right product and setting the right price. We live in the age of the customer, who is well informed through the capabilities of the internet. Customer Experience has become an important element in doing good business. Companies will have to reinvent themselves in order to fully understand and serve their customers, employees and partners. Time to get started on building amazing experiences, aided by digital tools. We spoke with Kenny Follet, one of the speakers at AE's latest AE Foyer "Embrace your customer, get digital!"
Q1: Are customers really waiting for "an experience"?
If you are still asking this question, then maybe you should re-think your own company strategy: "Do you want to become the only company that doesn't listen to the needs of its customers?" In today's market you can find over a hundred alternatives to any product you’re trying to buy or sell.
As a seller it's increasingly difficult to differentiate your product, so you have to think “What’s something else I can bring to the table?”. From there it's an easy step to just think of new products. That doesn’t negate the pitfall of possible alternatives to your offering however; so maybe just expanding your product portfolio isn't always the best choice.
The whole experience (the contact with the salesperson, actually buying the product, paying for it, the unwrapping, the customer service, ...) are parts that define your product or brand as well. Those parts of the process are becoming more and more important in the selection criteria of your customers.
Just think about the last time you’ve changed from ISP or mobile provider. In some cases the reason why customers want to change is because of the negative experiences they had with customer service and not with the quality of their internet connection or mobile network!
Q2: What's the difference between a great product and a great experience?
The devil is in the detail. A product can be a great product because it's simple. The activities that your customer is trying to do with your product or the journey to get to your product in the first place are so much more complex.
Imagine shopping for coffee, there are over a thousand brands of coffee, each one stating that they are the best. Why would you believe any other brand than your usual brand?
Well; when a new brand of coffee can persuade you by sweeping you off your feet when you least expect it (for instance when you are shopping with your wife and you have to wait in the dressing room) by introducing something that no one else has thought of, but many customers are craving (a cup of coffee sure would help me get through these hard times), then you are introducing your product with a whole new experience and creating a new standard for coffee.
Of course that's not enough. Afterwards you still have to commit to the experience expectations that you have introduced to your customers. Do you really want to be the last one to create those first time experiences? (And afterwards have to play catch-up with your competitors?)
Q3: You seem to really need a lot of tools to design a good customer experience. You have to continuously strategize, analyze, design and build. Is that even a possibility for small companies or start-ups?
It's certainly possible! Even necessary I would say, for small companies or start-ups to start with a focus on customer experience. If they want to challenge larger players, an agile approach on how you service your customer can be a big differentiator!
With all the techniques that we discussed (value proposition canvas, customer journey, Google analytics, ...), a lot of customer insights can be exposed in a time-saving manner.
You have to ask yourself this question: Do you want to do things that your customers aren't waiting for or maybe even find bothersome? Think of it as an investment into a win-win situation. You can create value for your customer and as a result, you will get value from your customer; for example lower churn or mouth to mouth marketing. Our key message is a simple one: try to take baby steps towards a customer experience oriented company. There is some effort involved, but the rewards are high!
Q4: Does technical skill and expertise have a place in designing a customer experience or is this more of a business domain?
Customer experience is a mindset you have to create at all levels and moments. When designing your applications, providing training and even when you’re writing error codes. Developers should think about how the customer is going to feel when he sees an error.
For instance, the next time your application crashes, you can change the error code from "Something went terribly wrong..." to "We're very sorry, this wasn't supposed to happen. We don't want you to get this message again and passed on this issue to our customer helpdesk. In 24 hours we’ll contact you and keep you informed on how we will solve this issue".
Of course there are many other things at a technical level that you should be aware of. How you will go along with your API management or how you’ll use your analytics data will be something that will define your competitive adavantage.
Q5: This seems like a great idea for B2C companies but do B2B companies have anything to win by investing in CX?
Even in B2B contexts you are still communicating with a person on the other end. They are the ones that decide whether you're still on board or not. Creating the right experience for these people will be a big part of your sales process.
Even when the sales is done though, your aftermarket service will be one of the most important key concepts that your customers will evaluate. It doesn't stop there. The way you will deliver your services or products, for instance by empowering your employees with the power to adapt to your customer needs, will certainly mean a huge difference when you get around the table with your customers for the next tender.