The customer is always right—and the customer experience is always critical

It’s been seven years since we started Customer Experiences and two things became very clear to me back in 2003: one was that businesses struggled to find a competitive advantage in a market that was fast becoming “a world of sameness”, and two, the future success of a business was going to be very much tied to the quality and consistency of its customer experience.

Due to the efforts we have made to educate New Zealand business on what a long-term strategic approach to the development of a customer experience actually was and the advancement made in this area by key international companies, more New Zealand organisations are starting to get onboard.

There is no doubt we would like to see faster progress. Even with a major recession, change has been slow, mainly due to the fact most companies believe they are delivering a superior customer experience. However, only a small percentage of their customers actually agree. This, along with the need for changes in leadership style and business culture to ensure a successful customer experience strategy have been two of the limiting factors.

There are some certainties, however, and, in what most see as an uncertain future, that’s good to know. If you need motivation to work on these five areas of your business there can be no better motivation than the fact that the majority of businesses are not, either because they don’t understand the positive impact it will have or they lack the knowledge and expertise.

  1. Unless there is concerted effort to build genuine relationships with your customers, loyalty will continue to decline and marketing costs will increase. Your customers have an abundance of choice and choice in today’s market is power.
  2. The internet will continue to play an increasingly powerful role in commerce. However, the quality of the e-commerce customer experience will be just as important as all other experiences with an organisation.
  3. The growth of customer word of mouth recommendations via websites and social media will become even more powerful. As a result word of mouth recommendation will play a major part in a company’s growth or demise.
  4. Employee disengagement will continue to increase in this country. It is already at a very high rate and is severely impacting our productivity and the quality of customer experiences. Placing your people as your number priority will arrest this damaging trend.
  5. Creativity, especially with the rapid development of technology, will be the new competitive advantage. Creating a culture of creativity and capitalising on ideas at speed will keep an organisation ahead of its competitors.

We believe organisations focusing on these five areas as part of a customer experience development strategy will make the most significant progress in 2011.

Other benefits to flow from this focus include a reduction in marketing costs, lower employee turnover, the ability to attract the right people and the major benefit in a commoditised market, a sustainable competitive advantage.

In 2011, businesses must realise that in a world of excess, uniformity and repetition, people buy experiences, not products or services. When people feel good about their experiences, they will not only return but will tell their friends and many others through social media.

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