3 customer experience steps that always fall short


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Does everybody have this problem?

When I’m engaged with leaders who are diagnosing the gaps and opportunities between a current and target customer experience, I am often asked about where other firms came out as they were doing the same exercise. In this initial baseline scoring between what is and what could be, what leaders really want to know is whether there are common experience steps most companies discover they are doing wrong. (Or, if you’re an optimist like me, is there anything everyone gets right?)

Across hundreds of customer experience diagnostics confirmed by our research, I find myself answering YES. There are indeed three steps in the experience that commonly pop up as “big gaps and opportunities” or as I like to think of them, potholes to be avoided.

3 common gaps

At the very first step, an unclear or undefined need to be solved: In diagnostics, leaders often realize they have been working on the “list approach” to customer experience – where teams are working on what they believe is right. Leaders even reference business cases that have been rightly justified on increased revenue, efficiency, or cost reductions, but NOT justified based on whether the effort will move customers faster and further to a need clearly solved.

Think of a line of falling dominos. Everything your organization does – from earning consideration to proving promise – should be aligned with solving that need. Why? Because problems solved well equals value for your customers and financial performance for your organization. The problem you solve for the customers that drive your growth and profitability needs to be your front domino in a long line of operating decision dominos. Leaders who skip this step often find they are thinking more about the product they sell more than the problem they solve, and that’s a sure signal of an organization with this gap.

We worked with an enterprise software company, caught at #3 with a big chasm between them and the leading players. They wanted more. Some good wrestling happened over the question of what to solve for whom, as B2B software companies are notorious for what one executive called “spray and pay.”

The answer? Time. The underlying problem their software solved for leaders was time saved from operating and administrative tasks detracted their customers from delivering on their customer experiences.

Imagine how the line of operating decision dominos became clear – how to design the implementation process, how to choose between two talented people to hire or which invoicing structure. Getting the need nailed sets the rest of your customer experience up for the best possible performance.

At the “TRY” step, a focus on the competitors: Congratulations! You’ve made it to the customer’s shortlist of options, and now they’re trying to envision life on the other side of a purchase, with their need solved. Your goal is to clearly demonstrate why you are best to solve it. Here, organizations fail when they think more about their competitors than their customers. Think of all those “features by competitor” comparison charts. Those lists of features are only white noise unless they combine to help the customer envision their problem-free life on the other side of the purchase.

I’ve long admired Disney for their performance at this step. Using the website as an illustration, just look at how they enable prospective and returning visitors to envision a fabulous Disney adventure that makes a family dream come true. See a competitor mentioned anywhere, or a justification for the pricey admission? Nope.

Relegating the job of anticipating new or emerging needs solely to R&D or product development: The final place that I see organizations hitting a wall is the last step of any customer experience. Your customer’s needs are evolving over time, and your goal should be to anticipate recurring or emerging needs in order to capture new demand and strengthen that relationship. The problem is, it’s far too easy to fall into cross-selling and up-selling, rather than helping the customer leverage the investment they’ve already made or spotting a new need. They’re leaning too hard on good analytics about what past customers bought next. Let’s call it the tyranny of the algorithm.

I was visiting a friend recently when I noticed a postcard from a vet on her kitchen counter. It crossed my mind how much the dog on the card looked like the dog that was currently weaving in-between my legs. When I mentioned it to my friend, she corrected me – it didn’t look like Samuel – it was Samuel.

On Samuel’s last trip to the vet, one of the staff had snapped a picture of him while he sat happily on the exam table. It reminded Shirley how happy he was there. It listed what both Samuel and his owner promised to do since the last appointment, and what they should anticipate happening at his next one. This vet could have simply sent an appointment reminder, but instead it anticipated what was happening with Samuel and his owner. I imagine the vet was seeing great retention and share of wallet as a reward.

I hope your organization is gliding smoothly over these three common potholes where customer experience performances often stumble. How are you doing?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Linda Ireland
Linda Ireland is co-owner and partner of Aveus LLC, a global strategy and operational change firm that helps leaders find money in the business performance chain while improving customer experiences. As author of Domino: How to Use Customer Experience to Tip Everything in Your Business toward Better Financial Performance, Linda built on work done at Aveus and aims to deliver real-life, actionable, how-to help for leaders of any organization.


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