I’ve never succumbed to the notion a business is obligated to “delight” its customers.
Having a business resolve my need by delivering the right product or service —in a way that makes me feel heard and validated — is quite enough, thank you.
Falling Short of Customer Expectations
Be that as it may, it’s discouraging to see how so many businesses fall far short of anything resembling satisfaction, much less glee or euphoria or, alas, delight.
Pick a day, any day, and see which brand just imploded under the pressure to simply do what customers expect. In just the past week, customers worldwide endured countless random acts of crazy:
- Passengers aboard two Air Transat flights were stuck on the tarmac for so long in Canada that one of them called 911
- An airport employee in France punched a passenger carrying an infant in the face
- Thousands of customers in Australia were left empty-handed after a poorly planned MAC lipstick giveaway failed
- An Uber driver in Ghana threatened the life of a customer who canceled her trip
Back in the US, Wells Fargo admitted it spent years enrolling some 800,000 unknowing borrowers in costly auto insurance
I could go on. But I’ll leave space here for you to insert your own disappointing experience — a missed deliveries, delayed flight, unresponsive website, or the like.
Little Delight for Customers
But wait, wait, wait. Isn’t it the Age of the Customer? That’s what the experts at Forrester Research predicted in 2011, thanks to the ways technology, social media, and efficient information exchange promised to product development and marketing.
Since then, we’ve been inundated with messaging about the empowered customer, who is now in charge.
The mantra now is that your company must become customer-obsessed to remain truly competitive. Companies need to understand and respond to the needs of their customers faster and more effectively than ever before, the experts concur.
If everything revolves around the customer, then why are so many customer interactions unpleasant, unproductive, and likely to provoke a rise in blood pressure?
Why is every purchase, potential purchase, use of a purchase, return of a purchase, or attempt to resolve a problem with a purchase so infinitely complicated?
For too many people, it’s not The Age of the Customer. It’s the Age of Cursing … over inflexible rules, lost orders, bungled transactions, and a general lack of empathy.
It’s Not Even Funny to Comedians
Few people have captured the angst and anger of the average consumer as well as comedian Louis C.K.
“It drives me crazy when someone has a job that they don’t like so they do it shitty. What kind of response is that?” he asks during one of his monologues. He continues:
“So I rent a car — and I always want another one. I’m crazy, all right? So I rent one car and then decide I don’t like it and want another one. So I’ll go to the counter and ask ‘Can I get another car?’ And sometimes the other person like, sighs and asks ‘Why?'”
“Why? Cause I’m an [idiot]. Give it to me. Stop asking what’s wrong with the car. I’m what’s wrong with it. You’re wearing a vest that matches the building. Just do the thing that’s the point of the place.”
Stop asking why and just satisfy the customer.
The Right Questions
Rather than fixating on elusive goals like joy and rapture or — ugh — “delighting” the customer, maybe businesses should get back to basics.
- How can we provide customers with the products and services they want and need without turning every transaction into a test of wills?
- Can we fulfill an order or deliver a service without forcing the customer to send multiple emails or spend literally hours on hold in unsuccessful attempts to resolve problems?
- Is there a way to cut through the technology, the hype, and the buzzwords to simply show we give a damn about our customers?
Maybe the technology we need the most is a Common Sense Management platform.
Solving Your Customer Experience Problem
So what’s wrong? According to Charlene Li, principal analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet Company, “Few organizations have a coherent strategy that aligns customer experience with business strategy and then across departments.”
In a new report, Experience Strategy: Connecting Customer Experience to Business Strategy (registration required), Li said businesses should “use relationships as the foundation for a next-generation customer experience strategy, with touchpoints and journeys remaining practical necessities. The strategy must prioritize experiences that create relevance in the relationship that in the end drives business results.”
They need to:
- Understand the next generation customer on a continuous basis
- Create a vision and guiding principles that connect experience to relationships
- Prioritize experience initiatives for relevance
- Align the organization for execution
Critically, the strategy must extend beyond viewing experience only through the lens of customers. To do so ignores other key relationships — those between organizations and employees, investors, suppliers, partners, regulators, competitors, and others.
All of these relationships deserve a specially designed experience. In other words, “a comprehensive experience strategy that drives holistic business results,” she noted.
And remember this: When it comes to experience, she noted, “customers want relevance, not delight.”
“We looked for examples of strategies that create experiences that bring joy, happiness, and delight to customers. One interviewee described an experience when trying to rent a car and the person at the rental counter insisted providing a ‘delightful’ experience that involved 1) asking about their day, 2) explaining the contract options in detail, and 3) giving a personalized tour of the car’s features. They were trying to bring ‘joy and delight’ to the experience, but that’s NOT what the customer wanted, which was to just get to their car quickly, which was parked just outside the door.”
Embracing Brand Experience
Li said experience is not about “unicorns, rainbows, or soft fuzzy ideas. Instead, it is about a shared value proposition with customers that aligns to your business. The strategy that creates these experiences needs to be intentional about the value it wants to deliver.”
Chris Spears, Chief Marketing Technology Officer at ARKE, agreed. Spears said developing a well-reasoned brand experience strategy is the essential first step for all businesses interested in building better brand experiences.
Brand experience is abstracted from the web, email, social, and every other channel a company uses to engage people. It draws from an understanding of all the interactions and the ways they impact each other. He explained:
“By replacing the word ‘customer’ with ‘brand,’ we can expand the considerations as you design buyer, client, and employee journeys. Brand experience tracks and maps both online and offline interactions. It considers a person’s interactions with your brand as well your competitors. And it focuses on a bigger vision of the overall impact your brand has on the people associated with it.”
In addition, brand experience extends beyond the awareness and acquisition journey to encompass the sales journey, the product/service usage journey (support), and, lastly, the loyalty/advocacy journey.
Brand Experience Strategy
The bottom line: Brand experience encourages a big-picture lens to evaluate experience in all of its contexts while also assessing the impact it has on every person affiliated with your brand, whether that person is a customer, employee, supplier, vendor or other stakeholders.
It enables businesses to do exactly what Li defines as the priority, which is delivering what people want, at the time they want it, and understanding what is relevant to them at that particular time and place. As she notes:
“A next-generation experience strategy isn’t about using the latest whiz-bang technologies to create ‘delightful’ experiences. Instead, it harnesses the power of data and analytics to understand individuals at scale and develops relationships in a rapidly changing context, preparing the organization to serve the next generation of customers.”