Customer experience isn’t a new idea, but the growing attention to it is. 

Customers are more widely connected than ever before, easily hopping between a growing number of devices. They’re looking for a rich, consistent experience that delivers value — whether in the form of information or entertainment — whenever they want it. 

(Unsuccessfully) Chasing Customer Retention

Marketing’s ad hoc approach to pushing out content creates confusion, frustration and irritation. Instead of creating a seamless content-driven experience, we’re creating a disconnected pile of assets. There’s little understanding of relevance.  

And even if an organization could agree on what a relevant experience looked like, it’s still a tough haul to work across deeply engrained silos to make them a reality. 

It’s this mosh pit of content that’s driving customers to demand better experiences. They have waning brand loyalty because most companies are working again old-school criteria. We know it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep the ones that we have. Even with that, retaining existing customers is getting harder and harder. 

Customer attitudes are driving experiences to the forefront of conversations. In fact, Gartner research points out that 89 percent of the companies it surveyed believe that they now compete on the basis of customer experience, compared with just 36 percent two years ago. Despite that, performances are dismal. Forty-four percent of customers say that the majority of their experiences are bland. 

How Do You Measure Up in Customer Experience?

A significant delivery gap stretches between customer beliefs and company actions. A few organizations have seen this coming and have made the internal changes needed. Others still struggle. 

If you wonder how you stack up, ask yourself which of these three scenarios describes your situation:

Laggards 

We’ve all heard the horror stories, from the cable, hospitality and airline industries.  While they aren’t the only groups with bad reputations, they certainly have their fair share of backlash. 

These customer experience laggards still organize around product offerings rather than customer needs. Their business model focuses on efficiency and cost containment. These brands either don’t care about customer experience or they don’t have the culture, technology or technical skills to make it happen in an increasingly complex business world. 

Sure-footed 

These brands have created a consistent experience across touchpoints and embraced a customer-first model. They not only believe they deliver a superior experience, their customers agree. 

These are the Zappos, the Starbucks and the Southwest Airlines of the world. Success, however, can also be this group’s biggest hindrance if companies forget that customer needs continue to evolve and they lack the flexibility or commitment to keep up. 

Trailblazers 

These unicorns predict the future — because they’re creating it. They understand that delivering a stellar experience for customer is about delivering value that’s separate and distinct from the products and services that a company sells. 

These are the travel hubs, the energy universities and fitness centers of the world. They focus on creating larger audiences by becoming more relevant to more people more often. Gartner predicts that by 2017, businesses will redirect 50 percent of consumer product investments to customer experience innovations. 

These trailblazers are taking us there. 

3 Areas to Watch

How can you step up to the next level of customer experience maturity? Keep your eye on these three things:

1. Create an experience on an owned platform: YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn are great, but you don’t own those. They could go away in the blink of an eye and so would your audience, and all the time and money you’ve invested in creating one. If you’re going to truly own your audience and deliver remarkable experiences that solve customer problems, then you have to own the real estate where your customers – and the great industry audience – congregate.

2. Consider how you can become more relevant to more people more often: This is how you throw your arms wide open and woo people to content-driven experiences in ways you never thought of before. Marriott didn’t build a digital experience around selling hotel rooms. Instead it focused on creating an amazing travel experience. How do you do the same for your industry? 

3. Make your audience the customer: Create an audience/customer-centric organization first, then build marketing, technology and process models around that. To change the way you create and deliver value to customers, you may need to change the way your business defines and then delivers experiences.