Companies can build a lasting competitive advantage by holistically managing and developing their customer experience. But too often it is developed on a point-by-point basis – not at the brand level.
According to Forrester Research *, an excellent customer experience is strongly correlated with positive growth, profitability, and customer retention – regardless of industry or business model. The customer experience has become the most important competitive factor for many companies.
A winning customer experience is also reflected in the core of strategy of more and more Finnish listed companies. In practice, however, we are still in the early stages, and the customer experience is largely managed point-by-point with very traditional means. What would need to change to make the customer experience a true competitive advantage in a multi-channel business environment?
Designing and developing a user experience for an individual service or product is relatively easy. However, as consumers and business customers, we expect a good, if not almost complete, customer experience across every service and transaction situation.
Producing a winning customer experience, therefore, requires a holistic brand-level approach to developing and managing the customer experience. This is a completely different matter than developing the user experience for individual services or products. Unfortunately, the digital customer experience quite often still very much refers to the latter.
Therefore, I argue, that companies can only build a lasting competitive advantage by managing and developing the customer experience holistically at the brand level, forgetting traditional point-by-point development.
A brand-level customer experience requires a common state of mind from top management outwards, as it often requires major modifications to almost all core processes and customer encounters. It is not just about one-off changes but continuous improvement. Internal operations must be substantially considered from the perspective of the customer in terms of delivering better customer service, marketing and sales, product and service experience, and production and delivery processes.
In the past, the customer experience has been “managed” by measuring customer satisfaction such as NPS and collecting customer feedback – and then drawing conclusions from this information and initiating development measures. This cycle has traditionally been repeated once or twice a year. The actual customer experience management and delivery has remained largely the responsibility of individual employees, who have, of course, been guided in how customers should be served and treated.
However, a winning brand-level customer experience cannot depend on the excellence of specific individuals. Especially not in an organization where hundreds or even thousands of people are involved in customer interactions. People will still need to be trained and instructed to serve customers better, but this alone will not meet the challenges of the brand-level customer experience.
The customer experience is the result of all customer encounters – both digital and personal – and not simply as their sum. A single failed customer experience is often enough to nullify many good experiences.
A winning brand-level customer experience requires a systemic and intelligent digitized customer experience management layer. This enables the tracking of all customer encounters and provides a continuous 360-degree digitized view of the customer for the personnel involved in customer interactions. This also enables orchestrating customer communications and, for example, personalized content, by taking into account the entire customer life cycle.
The technology for implementing an intelligent brand-level customer experience has been around for several years, but too few Finnish companies are able to utilize it effectively yet. This is most often due to the silos between core processes and development functions (e.g. marketing, sales, customer service, digital development, IT) or the lack of a shared vision.
Developing the customer experience at the brand level requires technology – and above all, a concrete vision and strategy. The strategy should combine positive emotions, intelligent technology, and data. In intelligent customer experience strategy work, for example, the following is taken into account:
The greatest value of a customer experience strategy can be achieved when it is systematically used as a common design and communication tool for the entire process of customer interface and digital service development.
In the following article, my colleague Aleksi Kärkkäinen explains in more detail what a brand-level customer experience strategy should include and why. Network with me on LinkedIn so you are sure you will not miss it!
Our team helps our customers to build growth and competitiveness through an intelligent brand-level customer experience. We help in planning the customer experience strategy, defining the target state and development roadmap, and in renewing the technology architecture of customer encounters, covering e.g. marketing automation, CRM / CDP, e-commerce, customer service, custom digital applications, and intelligent customer analytics and personalization. Our customers include DNA, Metso, Kesko, IKEA, UPM, Konecranes, Musti Group, and the insurance group LähiTapiola.
If you need help in developing your customer experience, get in touch!
* The Business Impact of Investing in Experience, Forrester Research (commissioned by Adobe), 2018
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