Customer Experience Management Plus


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What do Harley-Davidson,, Bank of Queensland and The Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts have in common? They are all in very different sectors and yet each of these brands has a unique approach to attracting and retaining enthusiastic customers. They provide a customer ‘experience’ that is difficult for other companies to copy because it is so synonymous with their brand.

From hotels to banks to airlines, consumers are looking for suppliers who go beyond the basics to meet their unique needs. They are looking for customer experience that are, consistent, differentiated and valuable. Disney pioneered the concept. Southwest Airlines adapted it to the airline sector. In the UK, First Direct started a new concept in banking using it. Howard Schultz of Starbucks applied it to selling coffee and is the master of the customer experience in the on-line environment. All of these companies are creating loyal customers by delivering unique experiences that create value for customers beyond the products or services they happen to sell.

We live in an on-line world where we can buy anything at any time from any-one of a number of excellent suppliers. Because of this over-supply, prices continue to tumble and we are spoilt for choice. We are jaded by direct-mail, special offers and advertising messages. In a recent survey commissioned by Grey Worldwide called ‘Eye on Australia’, it was reported that 59% of consumers did not feel that marketing and advertising helped them buy better. Being good (or even great) is no longer enough; you have to be different.

Take McDonald’s. It remains one of the best known brands in the world and was considered a case study in how to run an excellent service company. Yet McDonald’s has seen declining sales, reported it first quarterly loss ever, is shutting stores around the world and was rated in a recent University of Michigan survey as achieving lower customer satisfaction levels that the US Internal Revenue. McDonald’s still continues to offer value for money; if anything it offers a better deal now than in the 70’s, the products remain reassuringly predictable and the service still efficient. Why then is it declining? These factors are merely the entry price for service businesses in today’s world. Customers will choose companies that go beyond the basics to offer an experience that it is out of the ordinary and one which matches their own lifestyle and values. McDonald’s is working hard to rethink its offer to meet the needs of consumers in the ‘noughties’.

It is important to understand that customer experience is fundamentally different from customer service. The assumption with service is that more is better but experiences may be stripped down but still offer customers exactly what they want and differentiate the brand in a very positive way from competing brands. does not offer the same high-touch experience that you might receive in a book-store; Virgin does not offer the same type of in-flight service that you might find on Singapore Airlines yet both have customers who are passionate advocates.

Creating a customer experience that really drives customer loyalty and advocacy requires thought, effort and resources. It takes careful design, new forms of collaboration between marketing, HR and operations, and the means to harness the power of your people to turn them into Brand Ambassadors. It also requires the seamless integration of high tech and high touch, the powerful combination of technology and the human interface. But most of all it requires executives to understand what it means to manage the customer experience and then to use a systematic process for doing so in their organisations.

Shaun Smith

©Shaun Smith + Co 2008

Shaun Smith
Shaun Smith is the founder of Smith+Co the leading UK based Customer Experience consultancy. Shaun speaks and consults internationally on the subject of the brand purpose and customer experience. Shaun's latest book 'On Purpose- delivering a branded customer experience people love' was co-written with Andy Milligan.


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