The more things change, the more they stay the same, right? In customer experience, it’s a bit of both. What remains unchanged is the expectation of getting what you signed up for and hopefully being delighted. What has changed is what delightedness actually means.
Increasingly, customers want:
Consistent experience across channels
Not only can we talk to customers in many channels, we can actually deliver goods and services in new and interesting ways. Unfortunately, there’s still an experience gap that exists between channels, which I believe to be driven by an uneven access to information and lack of empowerment to take action.
While Morton’s Steakhouse did a great job of providing an excellent customer experience to a famous blogger, it’s not a sustainable experience. To be a truly excellent customer experience, it needs to be repeatable and sustainable over time and across customers, which translates to commitment of resources and a potential rejiggering of processes to carry out these experiences.
The time that a customer is willing to wait for delivery of goods and services has compressed. We’ve been spoiled by social / mobile in our expectation of the service cycle.
Consistency with expectations
People don’t necessarily want the cheapest product, but they want one that’s consistent with the expected quality / price ratio. They want the same thing that you promised them, and the same thing that you delivered to that other customer on Twitter.
More and more, customers are asking for something that’s tailored to them, and we can deliver it because we know more about them than ever before. Customers now expect to be part of the innovation cycle; the ability to contribute in the development of a product becomes part of the experience.
This can be done through individual customization, like with NikeiD, by building crowdsourced ideas (Starbucks and Dell), as well as by collective customer action via customer communities and advisory boards.
Peer to peer access
Unlike before, when companies talked to customers as monolithic beings, customers can now talk to individual employees and other customers. Even when talking to branded communication channels, customers are looking for the other person behind the Twitter account — they’ve come to expect humanity and authenticity as part of the experience.
The proliferation of — official and unofficial — spaces where a customer has access to your brand, your employees or your partner ecosystem, contributes to complexity in delivering a consistent experience. All these experiences add up to a sum total of your customer experiences, which you sometimes did not even design.
This can be unsettling to any business. Because what happens across these growing numbers of touchpoints is less and less predictable, businesses should shift the focus away from controlling the experience from the top down, to helping the entire ecosystem be better equipped to create and recreate these experiences over and over.
Case in point: when a Nationwide member’s rental RV overheated and become undrivable during a family vacation, his Nationwide agent posted a message on his Enterprise social network. By working with other agents and claims adjusters, he was able to quickly turn around the right information and even provide "emergency funds" so the member could continue on his vacation.
Before this was possible, the situation would have taken days, not hours to resolve — leaving the member to pay for damages and ruining his vacation. To the customer, it just worked the way it was supposed to. To the company, it was an effective way to create a delightful experience that’s easily replicated without bottlenecks.
It is my belief that no external customer experience can be adequately created if you can’t rally the right resources behind providing it in a timely and consistent manner — regardless of where the customer makes contact and with what department.
I recommend investing in an internal infrastructure and organizational system that allows for operators of these multiple touchpoints to work as autonomous units, at the appropriate speed, while playing from the same playbook. I recommend taking an in-depth look at the following elements and considering how well each customer touchpoint is able to provide a consistently delightful customer experience, operating autonomously, while being loosely governed by organizational principles, best practices and goals.
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