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Why customer experience is key to your competitive advantage

20th May 2015
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There are a million and one reasons for ensuring your brand provides its customers with a positive customer experience, not least of which is the impact that customer experience can have on the bottom line. It really can be the difference between customers going to you or to a competitor, so it customer experience has never higher on the corporate agenda as it currently is.

This is particularly highlighted by a report last year that revealed by 2020, customer experience will have overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator. Is it the customer experience really that important, and if so how do brands go about delivering that?

The empowered consumer

There is no doubt that consumers have never been so well-informed and savvy as they are now. It has never been easier to shop around and consumers have shown that they are more than willing to do so. Customers know more, and expect more from the brands providing the products and services that they use. Once a company might have got away with a less than first-class customer experience, due to a lack of consumer choice or plain inertia, but this is no longer the case. Nowadays, it has to be on top of all areas of the extended enterprise. An online retailer cannot hand responsibility for delivery to a.n.other delivery firm - it is the retailer that will (rightly) get the blame and bear the brunt of consumer dissatisfaction.

Even if by 2020 customer experience hasn’t yet quite taken over price and product, it will surely be very close to doing so - but what exactly will consumers be expecting? Omnichannel is still the goal, with continuity of user experience and retention of a customer’s context across channels both important, with the Single Digital Channel (SDC) to address customer requirements effectively the ultimate aim.

Getting there

Customer experience is undoubtedly a process that starts with product design and manufacture, both of which are often outsourced. If an organisation has not started at that point, then it will always be tough to deliver a truly memorable customer experience. But the good news is that many brands have recognised this and are already on the journey to delivering a first-class customer experience. Some may even get there before 2020. It’s about brands using the data they hold on their customers in the right way, to anticipate their needs and address them before they even become an issue.

Some organisations will remain stuck in the traditional way of delivering a customer experience, but those with vision and purpose will focus on leveraging big data to make customer intelligence visible and accessible throughout the business, to whoever may need it, whether a front-line customer service agent or otherwise.

Finding an internal champion

The changes that are underway will have serious implications for those that work in customer experience. As I alluded to earlier, there is a huge difference in the where different organisations are in providing the right customer experience. Those that are further ahead have recognised the changes that are taking place and have begun to prepare in earnest – hiring the right people, deploying he right technology and systems and finding the right metrics and measurements.

The progressive companies will also have in common a customer experience champion, someone to drive through the required changes across the business. This might be someone that works in the customer experience team, it might be a C-suite executive, or it might be someone else entirely. But there will certainly be there somewhere. Every organisation that I’ve come across that is approaching the omnichannel has such an internal champion and I cannot underestimate their importance.

It’s also important for brands to review their progress towards their own omnichannel vision. If it’s a process that is taking too long (five years) then they should consider cancelling that programme. There is no point travelling along a path if it’s going to lead you somewhere you don’t wish to go, so if a brand is struggling with their current programme then they would be advised to find a quicker and cheaper route to meeting the customer needs of today, perhaps looking at SaaS solutions as opposed to on-premise.

The customer experience is becoming so important that organisations will need a complete focus on it. This is starting to happen, as the most forward-thinking companies – those that have anticipated future needs and are aiming to create an experience that customers’ value above that offered by their competitors – have recognised that consumers are more empowered than ever and that the customer experience has to change to keep them as customers.

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