AICEX: GESTIRE LE ESPERIENZE DEI CLIENTI NON E’ PIU’ UN LUSSO, MA UNA NECESSITA’ DI BUSINESS.
There is much talk these days about the rise of customer experience. Nearly every service, product or expertise is first hive-minded, Uberized and Yelped, then tweeted with true glee or scorn, ordered hands-free thanks to Alexa, coupon-coded and reviewed to death. Instant vilification kills and instant gratification buoys brands — often quite quickly. Whatever room for error may have existed before our digital nativity, the times have changed.
Moving Into New Digital Ground
As customers, being jerked around by telecoms, car rental companies and airlines is passé. Last month, after an Avis rental problem was poorly handled, I did some Google research and reached out to a customer service executive. I had a callback and refund within 24 hours. A Delta kosher meal debacle in the spring was quickly solved with gift cards to our mailbox. No-questions-asked refunds (think Trader Joe’s and Amazon) have now become the norm.
But customer experience (CX) is not just cleaning up a mess efficiently or sharing information nicely. The journey of a customer begins in the foothills of the psyche.
A “need” or “want” is crystallized inside the mind — a vacation, an iPhone, maybe a piece of software. After a search on Google, sorting through a plethora of options and possibly more research, a choice and eventually a purchase or exchange are made. The product or service is received and used. If broken, a fix or refund can be sought in short order. If the experience is good, engagement with the brand continues, with or without feedback. If things go south, the customer may leave and make a fuss or disengage quite passively.
To reach and engage a customer, brands must deliver one or some of the following: novelty, delight, a form of greater health or wealth, improvement in a business process through cost savings or time, increase in quality, organization or convenience, and/or a vision or mission that compels the customer to take action, whether in the form of a purchase or by gainful influence with others.
By definition, large corporations have figured out a working funnel to direct a customer from “need” to “purchase.” The savvy ones devote a wealth of resources and manpower to optimizing every stage and process constantly — from ads, sponsorships, SEO and social media, to CRMs, user interface (UI), user experience (UX) and APIs, and from sales scripts, retargeting, shopping carts and upsells to payment processing, onboarding, returns and exchanges.
Raising Social Conscience
Non-techy, mission-driven outfits sometimes let their products do the talking.
World Wide Hearing, for example, supplies low-cost hearing aids to children in the developing world. Imagine hearing how the world sounds for the first time.
Solight Design has patented its low-cost solar pop-up lanterns. Whether you’re a soldier in Afghanistan or a hurricane survivor in Mississippi, you can open up a lantern in the black of night, far off the grid (it charges in the sun) for an instant source of light — without the safety hazards of fire, smoke and kerosene.
Both products, based on social conscience, lead with great design, a critical function that both delights and changes lives, all equating to a “wow” effect. Add to this a commitment from the entire team — from management on down — to help each user succeed, and you get sustained delight, plus awesome feedback from beneficiaries.
Turning CX Into A Science
While customer experience is often seen as an art, there’s a push to codify it into a science. In the past few years, a handful of CX certificate programs has sprung up, including at Rutgers, Stanford GSB and ASU. (Disclaimer: I’m an advisory board member for the Rutgers program).
These programs seek to help large enterprises and small startups train new chief customer experience officers (CCXOs) to see CX as a gateway to true innovation, greater profits, better net promoter scores, fewer refunds, proactive (not reactive) social media engagement, repeat buyers, higher prices, bigger purchase sizes, etc.
Reinventing Your Crisis Strategy
Lawyering up and adding a PR spin is not a strategy, even for big brands like United. Neither is management on social media alone. The same old customer experience no longer works. Between the speed of righteous indignation and its many outlets by consumers, a fallout from a screwup can now destroy a company.
How do you arm your brand against such fate? Pay heed to the (often misunderstood) millennial consumer. Be human, transparent and acknowledge when you fail. Make sure to have a social conscience and think twice about your impact and carbon footprint.
Just as important, espouse your mission and your values every day. Solve problems right away and make sure to follow up. Confirm each customer is better off for interacting with your brand. If you can’t help directly, find a way to help them through your trusted partners. And make sure to hire the kinds of people who are your customers. This way, you’ll learn the tides of their behavior in advance — but only if you listen well.
AUTHOR: Yuri Kruman