COMMON MYTHS ABOUT CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
I got a ton of comments on the Boiling Frogs and Camel Nose newsletter last month. Come on, be honest - you all sympathized with the comments on cruelty to mythical animals, right? (i.e. Schrödinger’s cat, et al). No? Really? OK - I give up.
To be fair, there was more interest in learning about business myths than mythical animals. So, let’s make this newsletter about business myths.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IS BIG BUSINESS:
It’s always good to beware of myths in sacred cow areas. (See how we slipped in another animal reference?) Customer Experience is suddenly become one of those hyped up areas. The global Experience Analytics Market is expected to grow to around $12bn by 2023. What’s behind it is the use of digital technology that gives social media the power to crush brand reputations, and the ability of technology to personalize products and messaging. It has suddenly highlighted what evergreen, century-old brands have always known and acted upon - that the customer is boss!
Companies that excel in customer focus, do stand out. My favorite customer experience story comes from Southwest Airlines. A man was urgently trying to get to his daughter’s home in Denver from L.A. Sadly, he was going to see his three-year-old grandson for the last time before the kid was taken off life support that evening. That was scheduled for a particular time so his organs could be used to save other lives. He called Southwest to arrange the emergency flight and explained the situation before rushing to the airport. Unfortunately, between the L.A. traffic and the airport crowd, he arrived at the gate 12 minutes after scheduled departure. As he rushed up, he was shocked to find the pilot waiting for him. When he chokingly thanked the pilot, the captain responded by saying, “They can’t go anywhere without me, and I’m not going anywhere without you. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”
No, that story is not a myth, to the best of my knowledge. But what if there were a few other myths on Customer Experience “truisms” that were floating around? There are indeed a few of those. They arise from marketing hype in the multi-billion dollar customer experience industry and you need to be aware of these.
MYTHS AND REALITIES:
- MYTH - For great customer service, put the customer first....... Sorry - that’s an oversimplification. For sustainable performance on customer service, you need to start with happy employees. Beating up on your employees to make customers happier is a losing strategy. Liberty Mutual, the US based insurance company is a great example of how customer focused capabilities and employee satisfaction feed on each other. They have innovated in creating digital capabilities that make it easy for customers to cut through complex insurance processes easily, using Amazon’s Alexa. At the same time, they base their approach on improving employee satisfaction in order to improve customer satisfaction. It has been a big digital transformation enabler. They were awarded the Digital Workplace of the Year Award in 2018 for simplifying their employees lives.
- MYTH - Remember, the Customer is always right..... Again, we need to be careful. There are situations where this philosophy can be downright dangerous, as with disruptive innovation. (Remember Henry Ford’s point about customers wanting a faster horse carriage rather than a motor car. Steve Jobs was similarly circumspect on just how far to take customer feedback on his designs). However, even in straightforward customer support situations, it’s been proved that great customer service goes beyond the philosophy of “the customer is always right.” As a customer, it’s the perception that the company genuinely cares for you, that builds more loyalty than mindless gestures to boost customer egos.
- MYTH - Customer Data will always guide you correctly.... Nope. This is an area where more is not always better. There’s an arms race going on among companies to amass customer data. The thinking is that data correlations can help better profile and better serve customer needs. That’s true up to a point. However, technology research firm Gartner has proved that adding numerous channels and options to make things better for customers has the opposite effect — it makes the customer experience worse. Instead, the better approach is to focus on what jobs the customer is trying to get done. Rather than just profiling customers, you are better served by helping eliminate “friction” points in whatever tasks that your customers are working on. Apple has used this philosophy to great effect.
Look, Customer Experience is here to stay as a trend. As business and government leaders create strategies on where to best leverage digital transformation, there’s no doubt that improving customer focus should rank very high. A Gartner study found that 81% of companies expect customer experience to be the most important competition metric by 2020. So, it’s important. However, simplistic myths about customer experience can cause your digital transformation efforts to fail. You could end up chasing the wrong product design or wasting your resources on the wrong customer strategies.
Let’s take the educated approach to customer experience rather than following dogma off the cliff. After all, that’s what separates us humans from lemmings (Sorry, couldn’t resist the final animal reference. I’m done for today, I promise.)
Go forth and transform.