- Creating a differentiated experience is key for companies to stand-out in any industry, especially more critical when trying to increase customer engagement
- It is important for organizations to have a pragmatic step-by-step view on how they make this real
- However, as opposed to one way expectation from organizations, customer experience is rather a ‘loop’ where both, customer & (service/product) providers play a conscious & active role
After spending almost a decade within the consulting industry, across multiple geographies, and after evaluating our customer relationships, we each had at least one relationship scored as excellent & one as average – both these handled during the same time, both with clients at the same level & some within the same organization. It meant that we could maintain excellent relationships, however, we chose to put varied effort across these relationships. We analysed the ones where we scored ourselves as average and debated about our choices (in each of the circumstances). Our learnings were as follows:
- With limited time available, we prioritised customers who we spent our time with
- Time spent on nurturing the relationship was directly proportional to the ROI, beyond revenue, from the customer
- All customers – irrespective of business size or tenure of engagement – expected us to deliver beyond expectations
The above circumstance & resulting choice is real not only for us, but also for every organization within & outside of the consulting world. Every organization maximises for profit/sales subject to mutiple constraints.
With an evolving marketplace, faster pace of disruption, decreased barriers of entry, and hyper-competition across every industry, the phrase ‘customer is king’ is more relevant than ever before. Customer expectations are evolving with each interaction with a product or a service. With so many options in the market, it’s become increasingly easier for the customer to switch brands/service providers. The switching economy is worth over £200 billion in the UK alone and 70% of customers agree that technology has made it simpler for them to change brands***
Customers see a new ad every other second. An average person sees ~6000 to ~10000 ads every day*. Hence to create a lasting impact with the customer, companies are having to provide exceptional customer experience, that differentiates them from other brands in the customers’ mind.
A stunning example of lasting customer experience was demonstrated by the marketing team of Harry Rosen, Canada’s iconic menswear retailer – they changed their name on their Website as ‘Hairy’ Rosen as an effort to launch their grooming products.
Listen to Trinh Tham (CMO, Harry Rosen) talk through this journey in the wise marketer’s Women in Loyalty Episode – 2
As business consultants, we’re seeing more and more organizations grapple with their customer experience strategy. While enough publications on the internet provide solutions to this question to businesses, the off-beaten path could be one more insightful – the role of the customer in improving the experience from the product/service.
However, in understanding the role customers can play in improving their own experience, the first step is to delineate what one would term as a “meets expectation” experience with that of a “delightful” experience. Organizations have measures in place to track these such as NPS and satisfaction scores, but the need to map each touchpoint to the categories brings clarity on the must-haves and good-to-haves.
Now, creating the list of what each service offered and received to and by the customer can be a long-one, but it is important to be methodical and holistic at this stage. To illustrate the structure, we’ve provided a view on the consulting industry –
What consulting companies offer to customers and what customers can offer back.
Next, it’s imperative to map out each good-to-have service in exchange for another service from the other party. In the above illustrations, if a client/customer provides visibility of consumption (good to have), then the consultant (using must haves like expertise in an area & proven way of solving the problem) would be able to provide feedback (good to have) on the potential ways of enhancing the deliverable, provide an execution roadmap (good to have) that caters to all the client’s stakeholders and resources, in-turn leading to a higher business impact than initially expected (good to have). This now starts a cycle of interactions between the consultant and the client where the more visibility consultants have on the consumption of the work, the greater insight they can provide to the customers on what else the customer could do differently to stay ahead of its competition. A start by the customer thus ends up making this a win-win situation with far greater experience than first signed-off on.
Customers need to show potential to receive a great experience in return. Drawing parallels with other industries – In loyalty, a high tiered customer showcases constant commitment, in education, a student with high marks showcases future potential & a possibility of becoming a case study for other students, and in banking, a tenured banking customers provide appreciation, recommendation & referrals.
While in theory customers may feel they’re giving back by paying the consultants in the above case, one could argue that they will only get what they pay for. Beyond material/monetary offerings come a whole host of things that customers can offer to businesses. This also isn’t a one-time exercise and exhibiting this behavior only has upsides to the experience one can get as a customer.
In the real world, this loop needs to be started by organizations. In the illustration above, organizations could use their engagement contracts or proposal documents to request visibility of consumption or future potential from their customers. This will hence initiate the good-to-have loop of exemplary customer experience.
In summary, businesses have a role to play in mapping out experiences for customers and articulating what customers could give in return to improve the services offered, but customers also play a role beyond paying for services to ensure they get a far superior experience. The key is for organizations to clearly call out expectations from their customers, expectations beyond monetary requirements, thus initiating the customer experience loop.