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Is Customer Experience Design the new religion?

You’ve got a great product. You’ve got well-trained and knowledgeable staff. Your facilities are spotless and you make sure they stay that way. And when a customer calls, your issue resolution mechanism takes care of them in minutes. Customer Service is king, the ruling monarch in the world of retail.

And yet those very same customers are slowly but surely fleeing your grasp, your industry fiefdom under attack by the new kid on the block that goes by the initials CXD. If only you could get this interloper into your court, you’re sure she’ll shake things up. Shame she’s already pledged loyalty to your biggest competitor.

Welcome to Customer Experience Design.

Near misses: Why it isn’t too late to bring CXD to your business

You may not have seen her coming, but from the moment you saw Ms. CXD cresting the proverbial horizon, you should have sent out your best ambassador instead of rallying the royal troops for a poorly-planned defence. Unfortunately for Starbucks, its Royal Council chose to raise the drawbridge rather than welcome this fortune-teller with open arms. And thus down the castle walls come. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Gloria Jeans, and others have stolen massive chunks of Starbucks’ market share. In Sri Lanka, Starbucks isn’t even in the market; their coffee itself is used to brew steaming cups at Java and others, but the Starbucks retail outlet is non-existent. Instead, Coco Veranda and others have made a business out of customer experience rather than just selling coffee. Sometimes the first class flight is more important than the destination.

Blackberry, too, made an almost deadly mistake. Concentrating on what it saw as its permanent core values – North American-made, hardy devices with a best-in-class email client and unmatched software security – Blackberry missed the proverbial tea leaves in the Smartphone Future cup. It forgot the first rule of Customer Centricity: focusing on the customer and what they actually want (CXD) rather than what RIM thought they needed (Customer Service). The numbers tell the story better than I can: RIM’s Smartphone market share has dropped from a high of 20% worldwide in 2008 to a little over 6.6% in 2013. Whoops.

Today, Starbucks is working hard to keep their old customers from walking to another ‘cappuccino caterer’ by reinventing their store concept. RIM Blackberry is putting out new devices that support the ubiquitous Android ecosystem rather than trying to shill its tired, proprietary, restrictive Blackberry OS.

Customer service was king. And now the king is dead. ‘Long live the king’.

‘Exploring your unique Customer Experience is about crafting a strategy around achieve and amplifying customer bonds at every touch-point.’

CX defined, experiences designed

From the moment the customer is exposed to your brand through the instant where they make a purchase decision, all the way to the impression they have post-purchase and the moment they first mention your product to their friends, good CXD is about tailoring their journey to maximise consumer utility, product upsell, and brand stickiness.

‘Great CXD converts satisfaction at various points of interaction into long-term loyalty and profits.’

So how does an innovative and forward-looking company get started? Figuring out who they really are.

Before you deliver on your brand promise, you need to know what that promise is. Seems pretty basic, right? Yet the reality is that most companies get it wrong. Senior leadership and HR come up with vaguely ambitious statements about ‘creating value for their customer’ by offering ‘the best products for the best markets with the greatest…’

I don’t know about you, but I’m already dozing off from boredom. Your customers will likely do the same.

Start asking and listening, not telling and explaining

Right about now, you’re probably waiting for me to give you some predictive insight into your consumers, and a roadmap to get going on optimising your CXD. Your journey begins when you start asking questions rather than giving answers before hearing customers actually ask for them. Here’s what it looks like:

Do you ‘sell electronics’, or do your ‘offer customers technology solutions to complement their lives’?

Do you ‘sell hotel rooms’, or do you ‘provide a home away from home touched by the decadence of no cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, and a party in your favourite club every day’, a special lifestyle for those on the move? Do you ‘sell mobile phones’, or do you ‘enable seamless communications between families and friends, with entertainment and office productivity’ thrown in for free? Do you ‘sell cups of coffee’, or do you ‘immerse your customers in a café experience with dozens of refreshments, a little background jazz, and comfy couches where they can curl up with a good book’?

Asking the right question will get you the right-for now-strategic answer. ‘Customer Experience Design adds a layer of actionability to optimise customer interactions.’

Keep your promises

Now let’s talk about delivery. Selling experience means defining that experience, navigating its complex decision nodes, and making consumers come back for more. It isn’t about selling apples off the cart, it’s about selling nutrition to a hungry market.

The great part is that good CXD doesn’t always require huge investment – it oft requires none at all, besides a little time from you and your employees.

Living the brand

CXD, then, is how you deliver on your brand promise. It’s a complex and difficult process that needs analysis, rapid implementation, continuous innovation, and the willingness to change the story when the plot forks – because invariably and unavoidably, it will. You just have to be agile enough to see the signs.

Good CXD has massive impact on your business, and at its early stages, very little cost to implement. Besides improving your reputation and loyalty from your consumers, well-tailored CXD boosts profits, energises and empowers your staff, and gives you that secret sauce differentiating you from the competition.

Custom-tailored CXD isn’t an option: It’s a requirement

By now, I hope you’ve jumped on the CXD bandwagon. Let’s face it – no matter how strong your company performance, how happy your employees, none of us are going to turn down the chance to realise bigger profits, stickier customers, and market leadership. Coupled with critical business intelligence, market realities, digital design, and LEAN Six Sigma, true data – and consumer psychology-driven CXD – is part of the secret sauce that drives business today.

The final word

Things change. Nothing remains the same. Especially how you treat and delight your consumers. Customer service may be carving its own tombstone, but assuming you want to reach brand Nirvana, then Customer Experience Design is its new rebirth. That’s the final word.

 

(Daily Financial Times)

 

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