Customer experience is meant to be evocative, not reactive

  • Businesses are re-focusing on role and value of the customer experience.

  • It is a strategic investment, not a cost center.

  • Positive engagement boosts customer loyalty and establishes a competitive advantage.

We are entering an era of customer-centricity, mostly because we have to. But also, because employing a customer focus is the right thing to do. I guess businesses lost their way at some point. Blame quarterly earnings. Blame technology. Blame politics. But over the years, we overlooked the importance of the “C” and “R” in Customer Relationship Management and instead sought to scale and optimize the “M” in CRM. It didn’t hurt that we found ways to save time and money in the process of promoting management, cost-control, and efficiency over customer experiences.

I really don’t believe executives aim to deliver substandard experiences. In fact, 88% of all businesses actually believe that they deliver great customer service. Yet only 8% of their customers agree. Saying that there’s a disconnect is an understatement at best. But it is representative of a significant experience gap that exists between the experience we promise and the experiences people have and share.

Retaining customers is easier than acquiring them

A large part of the problem is how we see the role and value of customer engagement in overall business. Anyone working in the game knows all too well that investing in customer retention is a far more cost-effective strategy than that of customer acquisition. Yes, both are important. But by reducing anything related to the experience of existing customers, you’re essentially pushing them out and relying on customer growth programs to find people to constantly take the place of deserters. It’s a revolving door where you only win if more people come in than leave. Who wants to do business that way?

Intelligent speech processing technology company Nuance Communications commissioned a survey of 1,000 American consumers to reveal current perceptions about customer service departments. The study found that nine out of ten consumers say a company’s customer service has a significant impact on their decision to do business with it. Additionally, the majority of American consumers (74 percent) rate the customer service they’ve received in the last year below an “A” grade.

Excellent customer engagement works

On the other hand, many consumers also said that they respond positively if they receive good customer service. In the Nuance study, 80 percent of consumers say they’ve taken action following a good experience. For example, more than one-third said they have recommended the company to friends and family or conducted more business with that company (34 percent).

If excellent customer engagement works, then why is it that I have to take the time to write this article? And, I’m not the only one bringing this up.

The answer is that customer service and support are functions that are still viewed and run as cost-centers and not as strategic investments in customer experiences. This is a shame, because study after study shows that a wonderful customer experience boosts customer loyalty and advocacy and establishes a tremendous competitive advantage.

In my next blog, I will look at the call center as one example of just how far we have gotten away from prioritizing meaningful and rewarding customer experiences.


Brian Solis is the author of the book, What’s The Future of Business. He is also a principal analyst at Altimeter Group. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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