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What's the view of your customer world, and who's at the center? PHOTO:

Gerry McGovern has a simple message for customer experience professionals out there:

Stop thinking. It’s ruining your business.

Despite having access to incredible data mining capabilities and customer targeting tools, most companies are still making customer-facing decisions based on presumptions and internal data.


“Because it’s easier to go with opinion than to have to work through data and evidence,” said McGovern, CEO of Customer Carewords, a provider of customer centric web solutions, and a keynoter at the 2016 CMSWire DX Summit

(Editor's Note: Pre-registration is now open for the 2017 DX Summit taking place Nov. 13-15 at the Radisson Blu Aqua in Chicago).

“Also, particularly at a senior management level,” McGovern said, “there is often an assumption that they know their customers a lot better than they actually do.”

Customer Disconnect

Gerry McGovern
Gerry McGovern

We caught up with McGovern this month on the heels of an IBM report on digital customer experience that found a major disconnect between what companies think their customers want and what customers say they actually need.

The IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study — "The Experience Revolution: Digital Disappointment — Why Some Consumers Aren't Fans" — found that executives think customers are driven to try new digital CX initiatives because they want more control over their experiences. 

The study found that, in reality customers just want to get in and out of an experience efficiently and for a reasonable price. Convenience and affordability remain the staples of a great customer experience, even in today's digital world. 

IBM interviewed more than 600 executives and more than 6,000 consumers. This report is the fourth in the IBV's "Experience Revolution" study series. 

The disconnect that IBM’s findings identified drives home a powerful theme McGovern spoke about at the 2016 DX Summit: “You are not the center of the universe. Your customers are.”

“If there isn’t a process of constant observation, interaction and feedback with customers then we can have a closed loop environment where just internal thinking dominates,” McGovern told CMSWire. “We need to be constantly reaching out to the customer, constantly testing our ideas against the actual reality out there.”

Next Big Thing Could Be a Dud

Carolyn Baird
Carolyn Baird

Despite the hype around new enterprise toys like virtual reality, interactive store displays and voice-command interactions with devices, roughly 70 percent of consumers in the IBM survey said they found those experiences disappointing.

“Technology has always been the bright and shiny,” IBM’s Carolyn Baird, global research leader for IBM Institute of Business Value, told CMSWire in an interview. “It’s always had that appeal. People felt that way about websites in the '90s — 'Oh my gosh, everybody’s online and we have to be there' — and we saw that with social, too.”

Now it's the same for digital, she said. We make sure we have digital alternatives for everything. But simply building digital customer channels for the sake of well, building them, is a large risk. We can't just hope to catch a few customers on these channels. It's digital fishing.

“We have to ask ourselves: how do our customers really want to interact with us?” Baird said. “And there’s also a really fundamental question: what would make someone who has been doing things with you for years and years suddenly shift?”

Digital CX Core Values

So what can CX professionals do better? IBM and McGovern shared a few tips:

Analyze customers' root motivations, desires and pain points. Then, build on those by recognizing the generational differences between consumer groups. Develop a detailed and multidimensional understanding of their unique needs, IBM officials urged in their report.

“The younger generations are at the vanguard of change,” McGovern said. “They are less willing to be led by traditional leaders. They are much more into their own peer groups. Most generations are moving in the same direction but the younger they are, the faster it is.”

Make customer utility and simplicity the core values of digital CX transformation. Start by conducting thorough customer research and then follow up by iteratively testing each digital experience, IBM officials suggested.

McGovern echoed that theme to CMSWire: “Constant research is essential. And when it comes to digital behavior it’s better to observe that behavior in action. ‘Do as I do, not as I say’ should be a strong rule," he suggested.

“Also, embrace design ideas such as Minimum Viable Product/Lean Design/Agile Design, where the product/service has gotten out there among customers and then rapidly evolved based on how they’re using it.”

Baird frames the digital customer experience discussion this way: Are you creating truly differentiating, disruptive experiences or just tweaking it and making things marginally better than before?

“Look at Amazon Go,” she pointed out. “It didn’t just make checkout better. It said, ‘Let’s just get rid of it.’ Self-checkout was not what people wanted. They just wanted to avoid checkout.”