Customer Experience as a Strategic Discipline
There is no doubt that we’ve moved into the age of customers. Industries are turned upside down, as new concepts emerge that better fulfill consumer needs. Just ask retailers what Amazon’s free shipping and returns have meant to the industry.
The power balance between consumers and corporations have shifted. Everyone with a $100 smartphone can effortless find products, evaluate companies based on reviews, and share their brand experience. As obvious as this shift might be, many companies have yet to adapt and become truly customer centric organizations. The financial sector is a good example. The last few years, a growing number of fintech entrepreneurs have set out to build the customer friendly solutions that the existing players have failed to develop. Yet, customer experience is increasingly on corporations’ radar. According to Google Trends, searches for customer experience have doubled over the last 6 years. This means attention is there, but what’s lacking is a clear understanding of what customer experience entails and how to tackle it on a strategic level.
“Customer experience (CX) is defined as the product of interactions between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship.”
Customer experience is not just about the digital interface or the transaction experience, nor is it limited to call center service or your brand strategy. It’s the sum of all of these, including all other moments in which your customer relates to your brand. That is why CX must be a focus at the top-level of all organizations. Here is a high-level approach for how managers strategically can structure and approach customer experience.
- The first step is to map the costumer journey – from consideration to consumption – by asking the question: “What is the customer thinking and feeling during each step?”. The key ingredient to a successful analysis is to step outside your own shoes and truly emphasize with the customer. This requires that you get out there and talk to your customers.
- The second step is to ideate on possible ways that can lift the customer experience. During this step, you will use the costumer journey analysis as your blueprint. You will often realize that improving your customers’ experience is directly linked with identifying their emotional drivers throughout the customer journey. At Vertical Strategy, we suggest categorizing solutions as either incremental or game changing, depending on the expected impact and how much the solution differs from current processes.
- The third step is to test your solution on real customers in sprints. Rather than blindly trusting your hypothesis that A is better than B, you should rapidly validate this through experiments with real costumers. To avoid building expensive solutions, based on faulty assumptions, your goal is to test the critical hypothesis with the minimum required resources. This process often includes developing pretotypes and collecting user-behavior metrics (see article about Innovation Accounting)
CX At The Top Level
Since customer experience touches all layers of your organization (brand communication, service, product and design), it’s critical that CX is addressed at the top of pyramid. Several companies are today embracing this transition by hiring Chief Experience Officers, known as CXOs. At Amazon, board members are required to spend hours every week in a call center to ensure they are in touch with the customers’ needs. Not only does this practice provide valuable insights to the top of the organization, it also sends the message to employees that no-one is too important to deal with customers – even if getting your hands a little dirty is required.
As a partner at Vertical Strategy, I have in-depth experience in helping companies map customer journeys, ideate, and execute concept sprints for some of the largest corporations in Denmark. In the coming blog posts, I’m going to share more about my experiences and the tools we’ve developed.
Written by Ditte Jakobsen and Johan Bender