By Anjali Malhotra
Customer experience is probably the most coveted metric in today’s tumultuous times when everything we have known as life, has been disrupted- both as customers and as corporates.
Finding means to get by in an intensely divergent world, customers clamor to experiment with &receive new online products and experiences with brands. Enterprises too, are toiling hard to meet this refreshed consumer with novel mechanisms, in an effort to appease and serve them.
Yet, surprisingly so, Customer Experience is oft mistaken with customer service. The truth is far away from this. In fact, Customer Service begins, where Customer Experience Fails!
Experience is a series of preordained and orchestrated set of interactions, a sum total of accumulated engagements over time, which, when they function seamlessly, with clock-work precision, leave the customer with a unique taste of contentment. Or, at least the distinct lack of dis-contentment! If it transpires so, the consumer continues to maintain his status quo with the brand.
Any severance in the designed process, may lead to a feeling on dis-approval – which in turn may trigger a series of different responses, depending upon the plane of patience from which the customer operates.
Most young consumers, Millennial and Gen Z have low endurance for sub-optimal outcomes and 80% may instantly choose to switch brands after just one poor experience! For older profiles, the numbers switching brands after only one bad experience may be close to 50% – but still a very steep risk for businesses to lose customers rapidly, stemming from non-delivery of great CX
More tolerant customers may also choose to exercise the option to reach out to customer service desks in an effort to resolve the “issue”. This second customer service interaction could transpire differently, dependent on a multitude of variables- both human and/or tech, taking the customer higher or lower down the vortex.
The important message for business leaders is not just to assuage the customers that reach out to them seeking resolution and service, but more importantly to recognize the fact that much greater loss from customers happens, from those who choose not to even contact them, silently meandering away from the brand!
It is the iceberg effect of customers who choose to simply quit, not even providing a single word of feedback. They may speak, of course, to friends and family warning them with regard to dealing with the brand in future. In a nutshell, by the time we get to customer service, it is probably already too late!
Service is mandatory and universally pursued – this is a no-brainer. However, It is the few that focus on building experience, that truly win the race for the customer – by building great experiences &relying lesser & lesser on customer service to pick up the threads.
The tasks of experience and service are actually quiet polar and dissimilar. Yet one finds, more often that not, CX heads reporting to Customer Service and Operations leaders. There is a strong rationale for CX owners to be holistic in the width of their capability and report to none other than the head of business.
CX is about accumulated experiences over the lifetime of the customer, across a myriad of brand journeys, navigating direct & indirect touch-points, online and offline interactions over owned and earned digitals assets. Sometimes even completely unrelated online forums or informal “catch-ups with friends” become focal points for brand conversations, sparked by people interested to “learn” from others’ experiences.
These too can lead to immense impact on product perceptions and brand purchase decisions. How may a brand manage to control such a wide plethora of conversations and impact them positively?
The ability to conceive great CX involves wide ranging subjects from Customer strategy, Product differentiation and Brand promises… to Technology tools that provide access to right data at the right point at the right time. Often enabled with AI/ML intelligence and delivered through customized UX & UI designs. To make the customer offering,“feel” relatable, comfortable, clear, transparent and enable ease of transaction.
This brings digital transformation front and center. Not merely the creation of digital pipes that somehow connect customers to companies, through the world wide web, that enable purchase and transaction. But beyond that, to the “how” these pipes deliver the results, in a neatly packaged fashion.
This is an age where we, as consumers, are spoilt by the likes of Netflix, Uber, Amazon, where just a few simple clicks in a well laid out interface, allow any and every concern to be settled within seconds. Moreover, they empower us with moment-to-moment information with respect to our query, flowing seamlessly to our devices, placing us in demi-control of what we desire at all times.
Suddenly every brand, irrespective of category and size, finds itself competing with Amazon & Netflix today. Much to their dismay, that is the benchmark customers have come to accept and expect from all brands. Living up to that is not easy since it takes years of capability around people, process and technology to orchestrate the end results.
Corporates are hustling to invest in digital installations. CFO’s approve project after project, despite budget cuts in the overall environment, in an effort to play catch up. Steadily but surely the progress is mounting as the industry has risen to the occasion magnanimously. Let’s remember though that digital investments are the Means towards achieving the End objective of providing great CX.
Increasingly now, more than ever, it has become mandatory to ensure that your customers stay content, if not “delighted” after each interaction with your business. In a time when product and operational efficiencies have tapered, CX can be the big competitive advantage for your brand.
The author is Founder, C-Xcel.