Four Theses on Customer Experience
10 Mar, 2019
“Customer experience is a buzzword that surrounds us every day, that is used inflationarily and for which (once again) there is no proper German translation. And this is often the reason why customer experience is so difficult to grasp. Even when it comes to the abbreviation - CE or CX - experts argue.
I understand it as the sum of the experiences that customers make with a brand. It describes much more than just customer service, but all experiences around a product or service. Customer service - ideally done perfectly - is therefore the duty, and customer experience the special feat," is how Ralf Mühlenhöver sums it up.
Thesis 1: The buzzword leaves again, the experience remains
In Germany, Europe, the entire (industrialised, digitalised) world, we live in an abundance of offers. Due to the wide range of choices in all areas of life, a positive customer experience is essential for the success, even the survival of a company. With extremely high competition, customers have a multitude of options to purchase a product or service. Take smartphones, for example: Huawei, Apple, Samsung and HTC hardly differ in terms of functionality. Each has one or two features more or less, is a little lighter, bigger, thinner. But why do so many still choose the most expensive product? This is not just about status. It's about two essential features: Comfort, e.g. in operating the product, and effectiveness, e.g. in (customer) service. According to a study by PWC, these two features are rated by customers worldwide as the most important elements of a good customer experience - immediately followed by friendly service and experienced service. The combination results in the perfect customer experience.
Thesis 2: Operation and service must not only work, but be simple
The example of Apple shows how ease of use and service can be perfected. The product: clear, minimalist design, high quality. It is very easy to use, needs no introduction, requires only intuition. And no matter how people come into contact with Apple, the experience they have with the company is consistent: clear, minimalistic in design, high quality. No matter whether I go to the flagship store in the city centre or to the website. And it's the same with customer service - of course also in perfection.
Convenience is the magic word here. Convenience is translated as ease or (operating) comfort. Apple has managed to optimise both. Convenience is fulfilled by availability. Whether online or offline, directly from Apple or from a dealer around the corner, I can buy an iPhone quickly and easily. In addition, all Apple products are extremely easy to use: just switch them on and start using them - that's all the time customers have to invest. So operating comfort and ease make the perfect convenience - perhaps we already have the next buzzword here.
Thesis 3: "Efficiency is the driver" - how the factor time influences customer experience
The desire for efficiency has increased in almost all aspects of our lives. Both usability and service play an essential role in this. Once I have bought a product, I want to use it immediately. And this "immediately" is meant literally- manuals are a thing of the past. We no longer have - or take? - time to read up on anything: switch on, operate, done. Service has to keep up with this as well: 2 clicks more in the ordering process than the standard, and your customers are already losing patience. Companies like virtualQ have recognised the impatience of their customers. With their technology, customers no longer have to wait in a queue, because we definitely don't have time to wait any more.
But it is not only rushed customers who dominate the time factor. Time plays an important role on a completely different level - in the future. Futurologist Sven Gábor Jánszky describes this effect of digitalisation as the “faster-than-real-time trend”. He writes: "The computer will predict what the individual guest's needs will be in the near future. It will know this better than previous human experts. Presumably, the computer will also know this better than the guest himself. This will lead to nothing less than a paradigm shift for your business models - in hotels, in restaurants, in all industries.
And then customer service really becomes an experience, because if the company can already foresee that I will call tomorrow with a problem, they have a solution ready and I get through immediately. To be honest, I'm already looking forward to this rosy future.
Thesis 4: Brand experience is more important than features
If the above-mentioned factors are fulfilled, it is important to serve them consistently on all channels. Due to the variety of products, it is all the more important that companies clearly position themselves with their brand, so that customers recognise this brand everywhere and ideally even identify with it. Conversely, this means that not every brand can suit every customer. A lack of clear positioning leads to invisibility. And: not every product or company fits every person. A well-known example is the VW Phaeton - certainly a first-class (luxury) car. However, it could not compete with the established luxury brands, which make exactly this luxury clear in their positioning. VW, after all, is not luxury.
A consistent image also builds trust, because only when a product has a reputation and fulfils it in all areas will customers develop trust in the brand - this trust can last a lifetime. For customer service, this means empowering staff as brand ambassadors, with 71% of PWC * respondents saying that staff are primarily responsible for a positive experience, and as many as 75% wanting more human interaction in the future, not less. This is why companies need to invest in the value-creating dialogues that are important for customers and the company itself. By the way, VIER helps with this, because through our speech analysis solution we find out what customers really want and how employees can meet this demand even better".
My tip for the readers
Stay close to your customers. If you know what your customers need, if you recognise trends early and react flexibly to them, your company will have a successful future. Nothing is more constant than change, and change is happening at an increasing pace.