By Tabani Moyo
A couple of weeks ago I received overwhelming responses, the bulk of which called upon this platform to further define the subject of customer experience and why it has become a buzz word in 21st century brand management. It then occurred to me that I had taken it for granted that the concept is now universally understood and accepted as the bloodline for brand sustainable existence.
I will therefore focus on the need for companies and individuals to appreciate the strategic importance of the concept, which has grown to be the differentiator, and advantage that is very difficult to imitate.
The easiest way to understand what customer experience is NOT can be the torrid and harrowing thought of visiting the registrar general’s office at Makombe Building in Harare to apply for identification and travel documents. The thought alone will drain all the energy before you even visit the brick and mortar establishment for the services. You can also paint a picture of attempting to switch from DSTV to ZTV in search of entertainment, news or current affairs? It is a nightmare!
The essence of building an exceptional customer experience is not a short-term process, which can be achieved over night. It is a structured and strategic approach, which requires the business to operate as an oiled machinery responding to the customer needs better than any competing force.
The four basic hygiene factors
There are generally four basic hygiene factors that must be deliberately attended to before the organization can start implementing the customer experience approaches in serving the customer and/or its stakeholders:
Cross-functional collaboration: Companies and institutions around the world are finding it a daunting task to operate as an oiled or integrated unit. The work culture in the bulk of the organizations is still much built around the functional silos. I remembered one of these days getting into a retail shop and bought some foodstuffs that were undercooked. When I asked the customer relations person why they were serving such terrible meals, her response was, “… these production guys do not listen when we tell them to inspect the food before its served… can I give you back your money?” With such a compartmentalised approach, building a customer experience will be a pipedream!
Education: Intertwined to the above challenge is the lack of structured internal education programmes aimed at delivering customer experience. In most of the cases the bulk of companies think they know what customer experience is all about, yet they share generalisations on the subject matter which leads to the employees delivering a confusing experience to the customers.
Simplicity: The bulk of the businesses we have worked with on designing a customer experience framework, have proven to be overly complicated in their processes and culture, which leads to the same complexity being transferred to the customer. This calls for the businesses to be wired in a way that makes it easy for them to see things from the customer’s perspective. In the case of the retail experience, I was seeing things from poor quality point of view while the customer service person was stuck in the compartments that define their business.
Focus: Businesses that are geared for delivering an exceptional experience are focused on the long-term strategy. This requires building the dimensional customer centric long-term strategy, which by its nature requires patience to start measuring the results. Delivering an exceptional customer experience will not happen in the short-run.
What defines customer experience
Having noted the above hygiene factors, which when addressed will create a conducive environment on which building a customer experience strategy will be established, it is equally critical to note that the bulk of the companies are unaware on the type of experience that they want to create. This leads to the last three categories of experiences that define the customer experience notably:
Random experiences: The bulk of the companies as we know them today fall in this category that deliver sporadic experiences. The customer is never sure at any given time of what type of experience to expect when they engage the company. Surprisingly the companies focus on employees doing a ‘lot of stuff’ in tasks and products, rather than taking a customer perspective in measuring their impact. In such companies you find ‘very busy people’ but of little impact in delivering value to the customer.
Intentional experiences: When the company appreciates the essence of delivering the experience to customers but doing so on a short term basis. They start appreciating the necessity to give employees space to think of customers in everything they do and fix problems with speed when they appear. Cross-functional teams start sharing departmental information from a shared vision perspective
Differentiated experience: This is the ultimate approach towards delivering an exceptional customer experience. The companies in this category are few. This is because they recognize everything they do differentiate them from competing forces. Companies like Econet in their early stages used to be modeled in this category. Everyone in the business has the ability to think and act in the interest of the customer!
When such evolution happens, that’s when you see a company like Apple that has created the great fit of people sleeping in the cold, freezing in the queues all night just to be the first to buy its new and innovative offerings when the company opens its doors after product launch.
Till then, lets hook up every Wednesday on Capitalk FM 100.4 on the programme 1830 – 1900hrs, The Brand Pulse for high-voltage brand management strategies. Tabani Moyo is a Chartered Marketer, Brand Strategist and Communications asset based in Harare. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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