Getting basics right in Customer Experience


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When it comes to moving the needle on customer experience, businesses should take a leaf of Olympian Usain Bolt’s book. Before running for gold and attempting world records, Usain runs to qualify for the finals. During the qualifications, he ensures only the required energy, no more, no less is invested and doesn’t risk a silly disqualification by jumping the start or jumping lanes.

Too often businesses splurge on shiniest tools or provide over the top product features and services while they are still struggling to deliver on basic customer expectations such as having the product in stock, delivering on time. Businesses such as Ritz Carlton can afford to create magic moments such as Joshie the Giraffe which humanises the brand and create great stories to share, only because they consistently get the basics right.

A study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2014 shows that getting the basics right ranked above any personalised experiences before attempts to provide a differentiated experience.

The magic of the moment is unfortunately lost when the most tacit expectations are not met. If I could make a dollar every time I read customer feedback imploring businesses to ditch the frills and get the basics right, I would be living in a harbourside mansion today.

What matters to customers

Identifying basic needs customer needs

Among amazing facts about the laws of physics, one of the most remarkable is that they apply indiscriminately and consistently whether it is for all our loves ones or our mother in law for that matter. Human needs are not as uncompromising as the laws of science although there are some rules of thumb that we can confidently bank on. There seems to be a common thread that runs through the heart of customers sharing a marketplace, which dictates what is considered to be an acceptable level of service or quality for a product. This basic level of satisfaction is commonly referred to as ‘hygiene’, a term coined by psychologist Frederick Herzberg, when he researched motivation in the workplace.

There are a number of ways organisations can get a better understanding of their customers’ hygiene needs. Conducting a customer expectations study by surveying a representative cross-section of the industry or market is a great way to start. Focus groups, analysis of unsolicited feedback left by customers on social media, company websites and emails, will also contribute good insights.

Staying ahead of the curve

Hygiene needs do not remain set in stone. Instead, they move in step with social and technological advances. As we get more sophisticated with our needs and technological thresholds keep getting pushed, what was once upon a time considered acceptable may no longer be today. Waiting more than 15 minutes at Domino’s Pizza in this day and age would make my grandpa fret. A webpage which is unresponsive for 10 seconds will never be visited again. Remember when it used to be acceptable to wait a few minutes for a song to download on your mobile phone?

These hygiene needs hardly vary from one customer to the next. In the modern world, customers are almost certain to be upset when they turn up at the grocery store only to find that the store has run out of milk. When ordering a product online, it is expected that it will be at our doorstep within a few days, and most importantly within the promised delivery time. When my device or broadband is out of service, you would expect resolution within a few hours at most.

Scorned customers strike with great vengeance and furious anger

A business which is not able to respond consistently to those basic expectations is synonymous to a restaurant which is closed for lunch and dinner. Worst, there’s hardly any chance our restaurateur will ever get any credit just for opening its doors to diners, providing them with clean cutlery and plates.

There is a high price to pay for those you take customer’s hygiene expectations lightly. Ask Vodafone Australia, who after being plagued with poor network coverage, drop-outs and outages, had to shake off, at significant expense, its Vodafail image. In the age of social media, missing a beat on customer’s hygiene expectations is almost certain to earn you some unwarranted publicity.

Staying in the game…

In essence, hygiene needs need to be met for your business to stay in the game. Turning up on match day having left your gear at home, may not even earn you a place on the bench. If you are lucky, the coach will allow you another chance. Customers however are not that forgiving and are actually more likely to tell their friends when they have had a poor experience.

… before taking steps to Wow customers

While hygiene needs are not sufficient to make your business stand out, failing customers’ those expectations may invalidate any efforts invested into making the business stand out. Would it make a difference if your hotel provides you complimentary valet service when the bedsheets are not clean? You would much rather they use their resources to ensure a basic level of service is met and not set your expectation up too high.

Once the hygiene box is ticked, it paves the way for differentiated, personalised experiences which will entice customers to come back and better still, market your product and services through good word of mouth to their friends and family.

Krish Mootoosamy, MBA
CX Advocate & Strategist based in Sydney, Australia. His speciality is in designing CX programs, bringing the voice of the customer and employee deep within the organisation and enabling organisations to act on customer insights by harnessing Service Design techniques and their Lean Six Sigma capabilities. He has extensive experience designing and delivering CX programs in Telco, Insurance, Media, Banking and Retail. Toughest role to date: hmm.. being dad!


  1. You hit the nail, Krish. First get the basics right, then make it easy, then joyful. It is a kind of abbreviated Maslov hierarchy. You cannot wow the customer at the bottom level, but you surely can lose her …

    2 ct from Down Under

  2. Indeed, companies should start with basic hygiene before taking more sophisticated CXM steps. The only thing I’d add is that even CXM at such early stages should be properly organized if a company wants to reach the level of Ritz Carlton or any other brand noted for exceptional customer experience. To bring tangible results, CXM should be based on customer data analytics and timely reaction to the insights a company gets. If a company learns about a problem via a customer survey, then comes up with preventive measures to avoid such a problem in future, they still have to ensure these enhancements will really happen. The CRM a company owns can help in this task. This article suggests how to use the software that many companies already have for CXM purposes as well:


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