Customer Experience or CX is the art of putting emotions to work. Don’t believe me? Consider the following survey which maps how emotions play a key role in the adoption and use of digital and non-digital channels:
“Fulfilled” and “relieved” are the two most associated emotions, but “powerful” is three times more strongly associated with digital technology.
In today’s digitally-connected world, companies are continuously looking for ways to empower customers to self-serve through an omnichannel (digital and non-digital) communication environment.
Historically, enterprises that have centered their foundation on this concept and have used emotion to build a digital, ubiquitous customer base are the ones that have emerged as legendary, global brands. Luckily, there are many companies that are demonstrating what it takes to have the ‘CX DNA’— Disney, Apple, Nordstrom, Southwest Airlines, etc.- and winning hearts in the process:
- Disney’s detail-oriented CX offers huge benefits: Disney+ – its online streaming platform – hit 10 million subscribers in one day. On the offline front, Disney experiences an average annual attendance of over 58 million visitors, making Walt Disney World one of the most visited vacation resorts in the world.
- Apple’s personalization strategies – whether digital or offline – is the stuff of legends: Apple is the most valuable brand in the world – with a total value of $205.5 Bn, shares value worth almost $200, a store presence of 506 stores across 24 countries, and a yearly footfall amounting to 500 million!
- Southwest Airlines’ robust CX experience places the Airline in the 10th position in the United States’ CX Ranking: The airline employs 6,000 workers and operates over 3,400 flights a day. It serves 10.8 million passengers a month and hasn’t seen a red balance sheet since the Nixon presidency.
- Personalization: +12%
- Time and Effort: +9%
- Expectations: +12%
- Integrity: +12%
- Resolution: +12%
- Empathy: 11%
Clearly, for companies to succeed, being ‘Customer-obsessed’ and having CX excellence embedded in their (online and offline) culture is the need of the hour.
The Multi-Dimensional, Continuously-Connected Customer
We hear much about the “continuously-connected” customer; however, “continuously-connected” means more than 24/7 connectivity. Omni-channel leaders need to develop strategies that embrace all five of the dimensions shown in the Figure above.
CX Maturity Curve: The Idea & Implementation
“You’ve got to start with the Customer Experience and work back toward the Technology, not the other way around.” – Steve Jobs
We’ve spoken about the external benefits of embracing a customer-centric ethos; however, a company’s internal CX journey – or the phases a company goes through when becoming CX-focused – requires a special mention. We call this the CX Maturity Curve. The CX Maturity Curve is a four-step journey to reach the Embedded stage, the ultimate phase of commitment and delivery of excellent customer experiences.
As companies move up the Curve, they become more experience-oriented, more focused on an emotional connection with customers, and they use a “customer-first” business model.
Here’s how you can measure where your company stands on the CX Curve and identify the CX gap or the difference between the experience that organizations think they deliver and the experience that customers feel they receive:
You need to complete a 1-5 scaled, 30- item, self-administered questionnaire that covers all aspects of what it takes to be excellent at CX, e.g., human resources, operational excellence, technical resources, and leadership and culture. The results of the questionnaire generate a score that then places your company on the Curve. Some questions that you can ask yourself include:
Image Source: “Marketing Reflection – Thoughts on Customer Experience” PDF
Bonus tip: According to my research, the financial value of the firm is strongly correlated with placement on the CX Maturity Curve. The firms at the Embedded stage are valued at an EBITDA multiple of 14.16 stage, whereas firms at the Discovered stage are valued at an EBITDA multiple of 7.26:
Image Source: “Marketing Reflection – Thoughts on Customer Experience” PDF
Key takeaway: There is ample evidence that companies that perform well in delivering outstanding customer experiences are more profitable (e.g., higher margins, earnings, CLTV, PE ratio, etc.), have happier employees, and have higher customer satisfaction, loyalty, and “recommend” scores.
The ‘Sorry’ Side of the CX Journey: The Rationale Behind Company Apologies
In my opinion, apologies that are rooted in uncontrollable situations are more likely to be taken well by customers.
Note: This line has been taken from Charles PDF – “Marketing Reflection Sorry” PDF
That said, the true mark of a ‘great’ company is how it handles its disgruntled customers. That said, companies have taken up the use of the apology too often without understanding the underlying reasons for the apology, and how to engage with customers with sincerity, authenticity, and a commitment to action.
Though apologies are just one part of customer experience, they are a critical part because, as customers engage more with companies, the frequency for an apology is likely to increase. More importantly, apologies are a central element in determining how we feel about a company. And, how we feel about a company impacts liking, forgiveness, trust, and host of other emotions that determine company success. In sum, change how you issue apologies, and you’ll see improvements in your customer experience score.
So, if as an enterprise, you’ve often found yourself at the end of the rope, here three key ideas that you can implement when apologizing to customers to enhance the CX:
Image Source: “Marketing Reflection Sorry” PDF
AL: Action Level
CL: Company Level/Control
- Explain the rationale behind the company policy: This helps generate understanding and possibly empathy instead of frustration. Plus, it can provide insights into a customer’s mind that can lead to valuable policy modifications.
- Explain why and how the customer’s issue is being affected by the supply chain: Transparency is key. The central idea is for companies to suggest alternative solutions, e.g., accessing products from another company, notifying the customer when solutions have been found, etc., and finally following up with the customer to assure a solution has been implemented.
- Explain exactly what uncontrollable issue(s) is affecting the customer: The company needs to explain when the uncontrollable issue will be eased, and what action the company is taking to mitigate, e.g., lobbying, working on industry committees, etc.
The golden rule: It’s critical for company representatives to use, “I’m sorry, and here’s what I’m going to do for you.” The sorry follow-on goes a long way to build reciprocity.
“47% of the survey respondents identify digital channels as their preferred method for company contact.” – A U.S. Household Survey
Note: This statistic has been taken from Charles PDF hyperlinked above.
Here are my two cents on the current CX climate: Brands need to integrate emotions with technology that allows customers to self-serve in order to reap the full benefits of a rock-solid customer base, enjoy greater value creation, leverage higher purchasing power, experience increased loyalty, and engage in self-driven advocacy. While this may seem like a Herculean task at first, it can be done keeping in mind your customer’s ’emotional compatibility’ with your brand’s offerings.