Regardless of how much effort they put in, all brands provide a customer experience. CX isn’t what marketers say or think it is — it is what customers feel when they interact with a brand. Some brands make simplicity look easy, while others fall at the first hurdle.
Customer experience leaders understand that CX isn’t something that can be bolted on.
“They understand that great products are built from direct insights into customers’ moments, and that those products have carefully fused service design with product. Uber has done both perfectly — it has compelling customer insight answered by design. [Leaders] also understand that if you are trying to shape CX at post-purchase surface points, you are too late,” says Andy Lark, Chairman of martech company Simple and former CMO of Xero.
“They intensify the effort around identifying moments of doubt, desire and dissatisfaction, then they go hard at answering them. They also listen passionately to frontline staff who are touching customers. The more they open the door to input, the more input flows.”
Customer experience is grounded in emotions, and as humans we tend to recall our negative emotions more easily than our positive ones. That’s why established companies embarking on their CX journey should begin by removing sources of angst, argues Gerd Schenkel, CEO of Tyro and former Executive Director of Telstra Digital.
“Brands in the digital world can be built or destroyed on that emotional response,” Schenkel said. “That’s why customer experience as a topic has moved to the forefront of the ability to differentiate services and products to customers.”
“Most incumbents probably need to focus on removing detractors from a bad experience because people will be upset about those and then after a while they can try to find differentiating experiences on top.”
Warning Signs & Red Flags
Beyond refining the mechanics of the customer journey is a more intangible influence on successful CX: company culture.
Liam Walsh, Australia and New Zealand Managing Director for Amobee, says you can tell within a few minutes of spending time inside a company if they understand true customer experience. The staff speak with genuine affection for their customers.
“If you look at Uber, Airbnb, Airtasker and OneShift, one thing that is quite unique is they love their customers. They genuinely love them — they talk about their customers fondly,” Walsh says.
“Contrast that to the non-disruptive businesses which typically aren’t great at CX. They probably tend to talk about NPS and customer satisfaction scores. They have acronyms or initials for what they call the customer, but they don’t call them customers.”
Another warning sign is a preoccupation with loyalty programs.
“Having the nomenclature of loyalty programs tends to be a sign that CX isn’t front and centre, because the nature of that is that the corporation will reward their customers’ loyalty. You don’t feel loved in that environment,” Walsh says.
Lark echoes this sentiment. “Sadly, most businesses today view the customer as a transaction. The industries most plagued by this — traditional taxis are an example — face certain obliteration.
“Digital companies can face the same fate if they don’t move closer to the customer and, at their core, care deeply about them. But digital and mobile technologies have created the opportunity for total customer connectedness,” Lark said.
The best CX leaders act as the authority for the end-to-end customer experience, but can often get it wrong by focusing too much on the digital experience rather than full CX, Lark says. “Customers want the experience to span all channels, touchpoints and activity; not just the product but all marketing and all service communications too. Our largest telcos, for instance, build beautiful retail experiences, but then have appalling service design, fronted by polite but largely useless call centre agents,” he said.
However, taking a company-wide approach to CX shouldn’t prevent individual departments making product improvements. “As much as large companies need a coordinated approach, encouraging innovation at the edge is going to yield more benefits than spending years on a coordinated systematic approach. You can spend an age on process improvements and, by the time you have completed the process, a disruptive solution has entered the market and your product is redundant,” Lark said.
At Tyro, the company’s user experience team is embedded across the engineering team while building products or experiences. “We always have multi-disciplinary teams working on engineering projects,” Schenkel says. “We have designers, user experience people, engineers and commercial people who make decisions together to balance all those different outcomes.”
The Importance Of Employees
Great customer experience starts with a great employee experience, argues Alana Fisher-Chejoski, Practice Director of Wipro Digital.
“I’m yet to see a company with superior CX that doesn’t have a highly engaged and motivated internal ecosystem to support it. When employees are passionate about the company they work for, this leads to deeply caring about its customers. There is an emphasis on employee behavioural change around customer experience, backed up with KPIs.”
Staff training, incentives and exposure to actual customers can help companies bring a customer-first culture into operations. And it should start at the top. “Cultural embedding of customer-centricity starts from the CEO and their leadership team, and must be reflected in an organisation’s values. It should be spoken about often and measured frequently at all levels. There should be incentives around CX to demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to focusing on the customer,” Fisher-Chejoski says.
If customer experience is failing, organisations should examine what they are really rewarding. “When a manager is rewarded for certain behaviours that do not also equally focus on the best interests of the customer, there are bound to be negative impacts on customer experience. We often see this in the context of customer acquisition, where sales departments are under pressure to sell at any cost,” Fisher-Chejoski says.
“It’s important to remember that ‘customer experience’ is based on the customer’s perception of your organisation or product and not your own assumptions. You will always be too close to the brand, so formal CX testing is essential to ensure that your strategy and tactics are having a positive impact.”