Customer Experience: The Next Competitive Battleground
After the Industrial Revolution, the challenge was to perfect functionality. Choices were restricted. Henry Ford fittingly laid this out by saying that clients could pick any color of Model T, as far as the color was Black. In the mid-twentieth century, when there was a design revolution, functionality plainly became optional. Then came the age when what was functional had to look good as well. From that point onward, design and function have been immensely important and factor greatly into the framework that recognizes a product as worthwhile and excellent.
As the years have passed, these expectations from quality have become more important for customers and they expect more and more every day. They have high hopes from businesses. The new gamble to play in the modern world is customer experience. On average, more than 80% of the customers pay more for a better customer experience. No information is more important to a business’s functioning than what their customer thinks or feels with respect to their products or services. The C-Suite should take initiatives to understand what the customer needs to the extent that the company becomes customer-obsessed.
It is now becoming more and more well-known that you can distinguish yourself in the marketplace by providing customers with excellent customer experience. While most businesses are busy in leveraging all other competitive advantages, customer experience remains an uncharted realm. It is where you can truly innovate. Only about 26 percent of businesses have a coherent strategy for improving customer experience while 74 percent are left behind in the competition. It should, then, be an executive priority to align their marketing strategies with customer experience goals. This is where you can truly shine and responsibly take marketing content initiatives on all platforms for an uptick in sales via better retention, lead generation and profitable customer behavior.
Today it is seen that the most innovative brands in the world are also leading the way in customer experience. Brands like Apple and Dell come to mind during conversations about memorable customer experiences.
So what makes these leading brands stand out from the rest? What can we learn from the experiences they provide to their customers?
The Story of Dell
Jerry Gregorie, former Chief Information Officer for Dell Computers, suggested that: “customer experience is the next competitive battleground”. Through this, he suggests that that the winners of the next generation will place a heavy focus on customer-centricity. Dell knows a thing or two about customer experience.
Few companies know about the power of the web better than them. They started selling their consistently remarkable products online in July 1996. With 2 million web visits per week, the company does 30 percent of its business online. On average, they sell about $18 million worth of hardware, software and accessories per day. Dell’s Premier Pages includes innovating ways through which to sell Dell products to their corporate customers by customizing sites for thousands of business accounts.
Michael Dell and his colleagues focus on customer experience greatly and that resonates with Gregorie’s proclamation. Upon visiting the Dell headquarters in Round Rock, Texas, you cannot miss the excellent customer experience values. Almost each one of the bulletin boards in every office has a sign that reads, “The Customer Experience: Own it.” Hanging above a set of cubicles of employees who sell computers to government accounts is a gift-wrapped box labeled ‘the Customer Experience’. It signifies that perfecting the art of customer experience would lead to rewards, bonuses and profit-sharing. Multitudes of employees sport their laminated Photo IDs that read the groundbreaking clause: “To be the most successful computer company in the world at delivering the best customer experience in markets we serve.”
Improving upon customer experience to Dell goes beyond clichés such as ‘aggregating eyeballs’ and ‘increasing stickiness’ on the web. They think of it as thoroughly reconsidering their most significant relationship, which is with their customers. Understanding what the customer needs and how to smoothly solve their problems are only the two aspects of the prism of customer experience. You have to understand their feelings, behaviors and how your strategies are impacting their subconscious mind. Anticipating what they want and exceeding their expectations is the core of this philosophy. Great customer experience is about empowering the customers and to be on the giving end of transfer of power. Customers should get what they want, how they want and when they want in order to be loyal to you and Dell’s values champion that.
NPS as a Metric for SMEs’
The effectiveness of NPS lies in the fact that it can answer whether a person would recommend a product or service to another person. And this is where the analytical tool demonstrates an important role for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Big businesses can indulge in large marketing and advertising budgets. That is definitely not the case for an SME. Budgets in a smaller organization need to be strategically used. Costs must be kept low without sacrificing growth and customer experience. With the insights that an NPS score offers, the SME can find specific customer touch points which can be then targeted with key messages.
A smaller organization benefits immensely from the analytical tool which helps them in finding ‘Promoters’ who will recommend the service or product to others, thereby driving word-of-mouth publicity which is a key driver of growth. The SME can customize its offerings accordingly, to the people who are loyal and who will keep promoting the company free of cost.
NPS can also help a small organization outperform a larger company, because of its smaller chain of command and closeness to its customers which in fact helps the organization identify issues derived from the feedback and implements the necessary changes faster.
The analytical tool performs multiple functions, right from revealing customer behavior to strategizing actions for growth. With a single tool, the SME not only retains its existing customers but also acquires new ones within a tight budget.
The Story of Apple
Apple, on the other hand, thrives to provide a consistent customer journey. Each touch point with the customer matters, be it at the start of the journey or at the end. Customers value and appreciate a journey that is consistent and Apple is a brand that does this extremely well.
Taking Apples iPhone as an example. Apple provides a memorable experience at every touch point in the journey, from the research phase i.e. clean and slick website, to the communication while waiting for your iPhone (email and sms delivery updates). Especially the standout moment in the journey, which is often overlooked, is the suspense encountered when lifting the lid off a new iPhone box. It takes about five seconds to slide off the lid – the excitement, the anticipation and the joy is all part of the experience building.
So, in order to provide the customer with an optimal customer experience, it becomes important to consider all these aspects and more. To thrive in this era of rapid disruption, other organizations also need to invest and focus on the customer journey. Following in the footsteps of Dell and Apple, companies can significantly increase their profits and revenues and tread on the road to success. Indeed, customer experience has now become that battleground where you will win or lose your customers and set yourself apart in the market. Aligning your strategies with the ultimate goal of providing an excellent customer experience is much needed to differentiate yourself and be a lovable brand.