Look in the rear view mirror and you will see customer experience being ‘sold’ as a means to generate more customer transactions for the purpose of driving profit for shareholders.

Look forward towards the horizon and you will see customer experience being ‘applied’ to create better outcomes which lead to positive societal gains.

The last few months have accelerated the evolution of CX to the next level

Conventional teachings propose the focus for CX is to drive more customer business. More sales at less cost is always welcomed by shareholders. But the further customers are involved with the business, the less the focus is on providing a meaningful experience. The investment in post purchase CX is dwarfed compared to the pre-purchase and purchase phases.

A very visible example of this is the way in which contact centres are often perceived as a cost rather than an investment in the relationship. Which is why we can all relate to great pre-sale and woeful after sales experiences.

The further you get from the commercial transaction the less focus on the experience. So anything which spins out beyond the routine ‘customer journey’ is at best served by work arounds but often customers find it’s neglected or intentionally excluded. In fact, it’s only when a ‘renewal’ or repeat purchase occurs does the interest from CX peak again.

In this common scenario, no doubt the best intentions started with an ambition to drive a better customer experience. But without allowing that outcome to be what the customer defined ‘better’ it to be it ends up being in service of the organisation. This means you wont see the customer’s world being prioritised and how your company can play a more positive contributary role in it. Instead the view point is of the company’s world and how you can get more out of customers you push through your processes. What does this say about how customer experience is valued? It suggests it’s the customer’s contract or commercial arrangement which is at the heart of the organsiation and not the customer.

Many sectors have found that over the last few months, the one thing that has been missing from their business has been the regular transactions, even with contracts still valid (e.g. airlines, gyms, car insurance) . So all that effort and energy focussed on ‘frictionless’ transactions and over personalised digital engagement is not being used by customers.

On one level the customers starts to question the value they receive and secondly with CX tied to transactions the company struggles to afford or find meaningful ways to support their customers, arguably when they need them most.

It shouldn’t be a bear trap, but Covid-19 has unwittingly accelerated many to fall in sooner. And reverting to teachings of the past will only lead to more focus on transactional CX or relying on other means such as discounts or refunds. Any company that needs to take this approach has to accept their customer experience isn’t as valuable to the customer if this is all they have.

70% of CX programmes fail to deliver their potential before the pandemic. Recent accelerants will only increase this miss rate. However, there is a second more sustainable path to consider.

The new world order for customer experience

So how do you move towards a ‘customer’s world’ model and what does that mean in customer experience terms? Simply think and focus on the world in which your customers live, what’s important to their lives and how your brand can help them. Which is quite a distance further than just their transactions. This way you increase the importance to them plus expand the opportunities to deliver great experiences at the same time. So you become more relevant and more meaningful to them even when there is not a transaction. A good example of this being delivered is the Thai Airlines ‘Stay at Home’ miles loyalty programme which awards customers free airmiles for staying close to home.

When it comes to many of the CX models and measures of the past, we salute you but its time to leave the nest as CX is maturing.  What has passed for good enough before, wont work in this new world. But that’s okay, CX is always evolving. Standards should rise and accountability becomes more transparent. And it’s how it should. When we create better experiences for customers we improve what went before. The same discipline is applied to customer experience management too, and so we must move forward once more to meet customers changing expectations.

So where does this lead us to with customer experience?

Without the frequency of purchasing and using many of the goods and services typically consumed dropping off in the pandemic, customers have had fewer interactions related to their purchase. And as we’ve introduced, this is where companies typically invest. Instead, customers have looked at other forms of reassurance, such as how employees have been treated or the brands contribution to society. If the company has prioritised transactional CX, customers have had a wake up call as they realise that ‘behind the curtain’ brands are rolling out customer experience in service of customer contracts.

Disruptive thinking is probably too strong, but those involved in CX need to reset the trajectory. We suggest ‘think’ Customer Purpose as the goal (i.e. your purpose for existence is to better fulfil the customer’s needs and expectations). As the Clientship Customer Purpose model shows, without the right customer operating model, this is not attainable. Both how you value the customer and where you invest in customer experience impact your success. Transactionally led CX is limiting, and also why some companies are not getting the return from CX they are looking for.

This model highlights there are 5 combinations which will deliver a positive return on CX from 25 options. Not all of those are providing an ‘awesome experience, but still work if you invest in the corresponding areas. However, only one option is where the vanguards in CX strive for.

But most are not in this corridor of success at all. They are either over investing and will fail to get a return or those  under the orange arrow are under investing and can never reach their potential.

How do you get to ‘make it best’?

By looking at experiences in the broader world in which the customer lives, you can consider how your company can authentically and believably make it better. This can range from improving the long term product usage experience all the way up to improving the society your customers touch. In fact, to be truly committed its at both ends of the scale and everything in between at the same time.

To deliver this level of gain, you need to promote improvements to make a meaningful impact to a wider set of stakeholders than previously considered. This means thinking about just more than just the customer. More than employees.  Keep going, think about even more than communities and suppliers involved with your organisation. Aim to create a better society, which even includes……competitors. Think about it, the best improvements make the competition raise their game. This is good for all.

There have been several examples of companies who are starting to employ the advanced nature of customer experience. Burger King recently promoted to customers that they should buy from their competitors, naming them. Why? Well with current restrictions on restaurants in many parts of the world, they recognise their competitors have staff they need to be able to pay for too during lean times. And it makes good business sense, because it reflects well on Burger King, especially if the experience isn’t as good.
So, where are you on customer experience now? Still aiming to pursue transactions, whether they are there or not?
Will you employ customer experience to improve outcomes for customers, employees, communities and society?
It’s a bigger ask and it means a mindset change, but more in the long run (and after all CX is a forever strategy) it has a greater reliable and sustainable potential.
If you want to know where you sit on the Customer Purpose model and what you need to do to grow your value from customer experience, we’d love to speak and share you more.
Published by Christopher Brooks, MD, Clientship
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