Many corporations claim they prioritise customer experience. But only those who are able to turn their lofty words into practical actions can emerge as winners in today’s experience economy. This article explores the different elements required to succeed in creating a superior customer experience.

Customer value is created through the use of products and services. This introduces a challenge to many organisations. Differentiation in the market is not only a result of a superior product, but increasingly, a result of experiences that connect customers, employees, and other stakeholders emotionally with the organisation. In other words, customers don’t buy from us only because of what we do – but also because of who we are.

Prioritizing customer experience investments
Many organisations recognise customer experience as a priority. The common sense idea that great customer experience leads to great business results is not enough when you need to lead and prioritise actions and investments. This article provides an alternative point of view on prioritising the customer experience agenda to use the budget wisely. The approach is equally applicable to any type of organisation.

Customer experience is never ready
In theory, customer experience is the sum of all interactions between a customer and an organisation during their relationship. Customer Experience professionals refer to these interactions as touchpoints. Further on, the sequence of interactions a customer needs to take in order to reach a specific goal is called a customer journey. In an ideal world, customers take the journey as intended and are delighted by their experience. But in the real world, customers follow their own winding paths and their expectations vary. What was special a few years ago may be standard today. What was acceptable a few years ago may be substandard today.

From random to intentional and differentiating experiences
Mapping out the customer journey is commonly considered a good way for understanding and describing your organisation from a customer’s perspective. Best practice is to keep your customer journey map simple and clear. There is no need to dive deep into every detail unless your listening channels (voice of customer, voice of process, voice of employees) deliver hard facts telling that a problem needs to fixed. Your mapping has no value until you validate it against reality. Once we understand the real paths our customers follow, we can start making things easier, faster and more convenient.

Internal business processes and customer experiences
Internal business processes have a huge role in dictating customer experiences. It is not uncommon to design and develop processes in silos and with other targets in mind. This approach leads to customer experience that fits our internal processes – but not vice versa! In the real world we cannot change all our processes overnight. Therefore, we need to be smart. In the short term we can use process data as a leading indicator for customer experience. In the longer term we may need to change our internal processes to deliver differentiating customer experiences.

Technology is the game changer for both business processes and customer experience
Technological advancement is now faster than ever. Thanks to cloud technologies, new capabilities and possibilities become available without massive upgrade projects. Consequently, possibilities we could not even imagine a few years ago can now be made available to us by our IT departments. The role of business is to understand what these capabilities can do for our customers. In our customer experience agenda we must follow technological development and constantly invest in making our customer experience better. It is not a project: it is an ongoing process.

Conclusions: Action generation needed!
To create a well-balanced plan, we need to look at three layers: the customer journey, the business processes and the technology. We also need to consider things on at least two time horizons. Short term “must do” actions make sure we deliver acceptable customer experiences at every touchpoint. Longer term “strategic” actions focus on a select few critical interactions to deliver superior experiences that differentiate us from anyone else. A prioritised plan simply means we always have our next action defined. Action generation is the only way to move the promise of customer experience as a priority from the corporate brochure into the real world.

 

About the author

Juhana Tormilainen leads the Customer Experience & Interaction team at Sofigate. He’s a professional in leading and managing customer experience. Juhana is enthusiastic about finding concrete and simplified solutions for sustainable transformation.

Further reading

Many of these ideas and concepts are explained further in Ian Golding’s famous book Customer what? The honest and practical guide to customer experience. Ian will be delivering a two-day CX Masterclass session in Finland on May 2020. More information will follow from CXPA Finland.

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