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Are we over-emphasising customer experience at the cost of service?

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Are we suffering from the 'Curse of the Experience Economy'? 

31st Aug 2021
Associate Director Optima Partners
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Many companies emphasise the experiences they offer customers. They should focus on providing services instead. If they do that, the experience will largely look after itself.
 
In a nutshell...

According to a recent SuperOffice survey of 2,000 business professionals, almost 50% think that ‘customer experience’ will be the top priority over the next five years, ahead of product and well ahead of price. But if you look at the survey, (and practically all surveys like it), it conflates providing service with facilitating the experience. They are not the same thing. And the differences are important.
 
Further details...
 
Customers have jobs to be done: they want to get to work in the morning, they want to heat their homes, and they want to have a meal in the evening after a long day at work. Services are the things we provide customers to help them get these jobs done: the trains that transport them to their offices, the gas that fuels their central heating and the supermarkets they shop for food in.
 
According to UK household spending data provided by the ONS, the highest household spending, (after tax, national insurance and council tax), is on:

  • Transport with 14% of spending
  • Housing, including, rent, maintenance, fuel and power with 13%,
  • Food, drink and tobacco with 11%
  • Recreation, culture and holidays with 9%
  • Restaurants and hotels with 9% of spending.

As this shows, although the majority of household spending is heavily dependent on services, only a minority is dependent on the experiences of using them. And yet, a majority of practitioner discussion today is about customers’ experiences and not on the services that customers interact with companies to use in the first place. I call this the 'Curse of the Experience Economy' (after Pine & Gilmore's book).
 
The implications should be obvious. Most companies should focus on creating services that help customers get their jobs done faster, easier and better. A small number of companies should focus on providing services AND facilitating the experience customers have of using them. I can think of no companies that can afford to ignore the underlying service and only focus on the experience.

Service vs experience
 
Key takeaways...

  1. Understand the different jobs customers are trying to do, and the relative importance they place on different outcomes.
  2. Design services that help customers get their jobs done faster, easier and better, and support customers while they are doing them. This is something you should control.
  3. Where a differentiator, facilitate experiences that surround the services and leave customers feeling satisfied. This is something the customer controls, but you still play an important part.

What do you think? Do we overemphasise experience at the cost of service?

Further reading:

This article adapted from a piece originally posted on LinkedIn

Replies (2)

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By EileenJCallaham
31st Aug 2021 17:10

I read too much about the designation of different roles and teams and duties when I think it should all of it - customer service, customer experience, call centers and the like - sit under a single focus of Customer Experience Management and a Customer Experience Management team. Service & CEM.... one and the same!

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Replying to EileenJCallaham:
Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
13th Sep 2021 12:14

Hi Eileen
The problem with putting all aspects of the customer experience - from marketing , through sales, to service and operations - into it is that all these other disciplines are well established, both in how they operate and in how they contribute to SHV. Customer experience has neither of these advantages. It is for this reason that the CXO role rarely has responsibility for the other disciplines and often plays the role of Chief Collaboration Officer instead.
Would you give responsibility for business success to a new discipline that had no power base and cannot show how it drives SHV? I wouldn't. I strongly suspect no sane person would.
Best regards, Graham

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