Have you ever considered your product a commodity?
Perhaps not—and we wouldn’t recommend that you do so.
But you must be prepared for customers who may. Like it or not, a mortgage is a mortgage, a car is a car and a hotel room is a hotel room, and your product is one of many.
Regardless of your sector—be it banking, retail, automotive, health care, or something else altogether—your customers make decisions about what they purchase for a variety of reasons. The product itself is increasingly just one of many influencers; the brand may contribute equal weight in the decision-making process.
More and more, aligned values and customer experience are key choice differentiators.Forward-thinking brands are catching on; Forrester found in a recent study that improving customer experience was the second most important business priority for respondents after increasing revenue. And Gartner says 89 percent of companies plan to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience (CX) by 2016. Combine those insights with the fact that 75 percent of Millennials say it is fairly or very important for a company to give back to society, according to a survey by Elite Daily, and you have compelling evidence that values and experience matter greatly.
So where does that leave you?
On some level, we all innately understand the importance of a good CX. Think about your own favorite brands and the reasons they’re your favorites. Maybe it’s an emotion that drives you to purchase, the brand principles or the way those brands makes you feel. For example, you may buy Tom’s shoes because you believe in the concept of a child in need receiving a new pair of shoes as well, but you will only buy them from a specific shop that takes the time to help you select, properly fit and that you can trust to service your shoes should something go wrong. Now apply that to your own products and services. What is your brand promise? If you were your own customer, what would compel you to purchase, to tell your friends and ultimately bond with your brand?
Half the brands in the market, according to a Bond Brand Loyalty poll, already believe they are delivering a poor, inconsistent or could-be-improved customer experience. This problem will not fix itself. Competition and commoditization continue to increase. That means those that don’t move from competing (“as good as”) to differentiating (“better than”) to leading (“the best”) will suffer. Add to this that today’s “best” is tomorrow’s “as good as,” and the importance of clear and deliberate action becomes mission critical. The best brands are the ones that engender true brand loyalty and advocacy through a perpetual process of learning, unlearning and relearning.
It’s simple, but not easy. A few thoughts on charting the journey to customer experience leadership:
CX leadership requires a focus on the 1:1 relationship. In this intimate, personal relationship, the customer feels known, valued and understood by the brand. At its best, this is experienced at every touchpoint customers have with your brand: the promise they see in the marketplace, the experience they have online and the person-to-person connections. Put this information into the hands of your team, and empower them to use it.
Learn from Others
We have seen that no one industry has all the answers or the sum total of best practices. Great CX is sector agnostic. We draw from financial, pharmaceutical, automotive and other industries to help our brands become disruptors in their own areas. After all, a customer’s frame of reference is not tied to a sector. A great experience at a financial institution, for example, sets the bar for every following interaction in any sector. To be the best, you need to be the best. Period.
Ready to start? Find your purpose. This is the core of engagement for your brand, your employees and your customers. Every single decision must be aligned around your purpose statement, and it must be commonly known and easily articulated. Combine a customer lens with an employee engagement filter to create a unique and focused image of the way people experience your brand.
Start with Trust
Don’t do this alone. Find a partner you can trust to embark on this journey with you. One who will ask you the tough questions, take the time to imagine and dream with you, design and test your approach and then jump in to help you align, enable and engage your people. And when the time is right, start again.Finally, enjoy the journey. We do our best and most enjoyable work when we are focused on creating great experiences for our partners. Customer experience is about creating bonds, anticipating needs and delivering on promises. What could be more fulfilling than that?