6 Disciplines of Customer Experience
04 Oct, 2012
“Outside In” author explains how businesses of all sizes can develop innovative customer experience
Editor’s Note: This article is part one of a two-part series.
If you’re a small business owner then you already know–intuitively–the basic principles of customer experience. You know that you have to offer products or services that meet your customers’ needs. You know that you have to make it easy to find and buy your products and services. And you know that if you’re cold or nasty to customers, you’ll send them a signal that you don’t want their business–and they’ll get that message and leave.
But guess what? Not only do you know these things, so do your competitors. That means that knowing what to do won’t get you a competitive advantage. You also have to know how to do it better than the guy down the street (or on the Internet or over the phone). How can you do this, and do it in a way that will stick for the long term?
In our new book, “Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business,” my co-author and I document the practices of companies that succeed by delivering a superior customer experience. These companies span a range of industries as different as financial services and healthcare. Yet all of them adopt the same fundamental practices, which they tune to their specific needs.
Whether they’re large or small, companies that want to produce a high-quality customer experience need to adopt six disciplines that result in a great experience:
- Customer understanding
In today’s article we’re going to focus on the first three disciplines, which taken together help companies create innovative customer experiences.
What kind of customer experience do you want to deliver?
Think about the experience at a value-priced Costco warehouse store compared to the experience at a high-priced Apple boutique store. What if Costco tried installing Genius Bars like the ones you see in Apple stores? It would confuse Costco customers and drive up costs like crazy.
To avoid implementing a Frankenstein experience of mismatched parts, first decide what your business stands for. Is it high touch like my local True Value Hardware store, where the employees walk me around the aisles, put exactly the right product in my hands, and then walk me to the cash register? Or is it about self-service in return for low costs, like that Costco store? There are no right or wrong answers here but there are choices that you have to make–and communicate to your employees–if you want to keep them working together to deliver a consistent experience.
It’s not enough to think that you know your customers; you have to actually know them. The customer understanding discipline is a set of practices that replaces everyone‘s best guesses with real, actionable insights.
Large companies do this by conducting observational research studies. For example, Virgin Mobile, the largest wireless services provider in Australia, has “control” as one of its key brand attributes. Executives thought that giving their customer more control meant going from 19 wireless service plans to literally hundreds of choices that customers could mix and match. But when Virgin employees studied their customers, they quickly discovered that they really wanted was a smaller number of plans that made more sense–the idea of having hundreds of options scared them.
–Matt Anderson, Former COO, Virgin Mobile
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