Is your company delivering an effective customer experience? Most companies aren’t. They are using the conventional approaches that result in ignoring the emotions of the customer. The approaches, driven by efficiency and the need to comply with “standards,” typically go against human nature and wind up delivering an increasingly costly homogeneous experience.
Dell is one of them.
Based on what the 757 respondents of the July-August 2007 Customer Experience X-VOC Research—B2B Purchase Experience (IT Solution) survey told GCCRM and CustomerCentric Selling, Dell may be very efficient at individual attributes by performing better at most of the subprocesses (23 out of 25) throughout the entire buying experience than competitors, but the PC company is not delivering an effective experience at all. Among the 14 vendors rated, Dell provided the least-liked purchase experience to our survey takers.
Figure 1: Least-Liked B2B Purchase Experience (IT Solutions)—Dell Versus Average
For our survey, we broke the buying experience down into 25 subprocesses, from identifying and contacting the vendor through the sales process, implementation and integration and on to the post-purchase follow-up.
IBM performed better than the competition in only some of the sub-processes and under-performed in others. (As shown in Figure 2, IBM was rated the best at service and much worse than the average in price.) Yet, survey respondents ranked IBM’s B2B purchase experience highest.
Figure 2: Most-Liked B2B Purchase Experience (IT Solutions)—IBM Versus Average
Dell and IBM are similar. Both companies generate significant pleasure and pain peaks with the B2B customers surveyed. And Dell performed better in most of the sub-processes. So why did respondents like Dell’s experience the least and IBM’s the best?
Consider price. If you ask respondents what is important to them in their purchase process, they will most likely rank price highly. In our survey, 17.5 percent of the respondents rated price as the key reason for liking their B2B experience, and 19.1 percent of respondents rated it as the key in their least liked buying experience. But using regression analysis to derive the implied importance of each subprocess, we found that price is unimportant in the overall satisfaction, with an implied ranking as least important to a good buying experience.
This is despite the fact that price is the pain peak in a B2B IBM purchase emotion curve and a pleasure peak in a Dell purchase emotion curve.
Consider service. Although service alone is not equivalent to the entire buying experience, respondents rated service as the No. 1 reason for liking the purchase experience (38.7 percent), as well as for not liking a purchase experience (41.1 percent). Service appears in the pleasure peak in the IBM B2B purchase experience emotion curve. And it appears in the pain peak at Dell’s. This implies that service is the critical reason respondents like IBM and dislike Dell.
So when you consider whether either company is delivering an effective customer experience, you find that Dell, still driven by efficiency, is delivering an ineffective experience.
People experience events in a natural-time sequence and are affected by their emotions and sensations throughout the process. However, conventional approaches to customer experience management usually work against human nature by taking a discontinuous path to track satisfaction and by adopting a process-driven perspective in designing satisfaction research. It is still a company- or brand-centric approach, but it is not an experience-centric approach. And it ignores the emotional feeling of customers.
Conventional approaches usually drive enterprises to improve overall satisfaction in all aspects of an experience by complying with the quality level set by renowned standards organizations. Service levels are being raised continuously as a reaction to ever-increasing competition. But is this effective? Probably not. More resources are being expended to deliver a homogeneous experience. Excelling in all aspects is not only inefficient but also ineffective.
Most companies follow the voice of the customer to try to satisfy customers or improve that are important to the customers but poorly performed. Yet the companies rarely have a focus. As a result, they deliver non-branded experiences, blurring the lines among competitors.
Even though most companies are delivering ineffective experiences, you don’t have to do so. You can deliver an effective experience that creates positive emotions and memories in your customers. It will be one that delivers differentiated brand values to target customers and optimizes resource allocation. Just follow these core principles:
- Principle No. 1: An effective experience has to be remembered. Noble prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman pointed out that people remember only two things during an experience: how they feel at the peak and how they feel at the end. Uncover the subprocesses that are essential to your customers by deriving the “moments of truth” in an experience. Why bother to be as efficient as Dell if you can’t be effective?
- Principle No. 2: An effective experience has to be contrasted. People are comparison animals. Whether we feel good or bad is largely the result of comparison. People need pain to contrast with pleasure. You should free up resources and release constraints by maximizing the gaps between the pleasure peaks and pain peaks. See how wide the gaps are between service (pleasure peak) and price (pain peak) in IBM’s emotion curve?
- Principle No. 3: An effective experience has to be branded. A branded customer experience works to amplify your brand through intentional and consistent delivery of on-brand experiences across all touch-points. Only when you are branded can you differentiate. Only when you are differentiated can you have loyal customers. To optimize the branded experience, you have to deliver your most unique brand values and meet (or exceed) the most critical needs and expectations of your target customers through peak and end experiences. You should build the brand values into the experience and concentrate the limited resources on attributes that are important both to the customers and to the brand—and have the guts to select the critical few areas to focus on. The question is: Is service IBM’s core brand value?
The worst companies make customers feel bad with bad experiences. Average companies make customers feel good with good experiences, but these experiences are not effectively remembered, contrasted and branded. They are just wasting resources. The best companies never forget about delivering their target brand values and optimizing resources while they make customers feel good with effective experiences.
Take a paradigm shift from efficient to effective in managing your customer experience, and your organization can be among the best.