So what is customer experience and why does it matter?
If it hasn’t impacted your role or organisation by now, it inevitably will. Customer experience has steamrolled it’s way into our professional and personal lives, but what actually is it and why does it matter? And perhaps more importantly, how do you apply it?
Customer experience is nothing new - in fact it’s been around for decades. But it’s emergence as a must-have competitive advantage has seen some organisations scale unheard of new heights of success, and many others reach an abrupt end - in large part because of a lack of it. Either way, there’s no doubting its criticality.
Let’s get back to basics. Customer experience can broadly be defined as the experience your customers have with your organisation’s products and services over time. This doesn’t happen by accident - it’s curated and orchestrated by organisations seeking to create a consistent, frictionless and beneficial outcome for their audience. And here’s the rub - those that do it well purposefully design their customer experience, and this requires not only product and service design and delivery, but organisational change.
Customer experience design has its more recent origins back in the 2000s. Following the eCommerce boom which digitised the sales experience, created new channels and demanded all new skill sets including user experience design, social media rapidly amplified an instantaneous and impactful voice for customers.
Organisations could no longer depend on their customer service or product support teams to handle customer interactions whilst the back office developed new products and services, and ran the organisation. Product quality, service performance and even organisational ethics were laid bare for all to see, right in their own hands thanks to the smartphone revolution. People started talking about ‘the experience’ they had purchasing and interacting with brands. This overarching ‘experience’ became everyone’s responsibility as customer’s no longer differentiated departments, individual stores or specific service staff. The quality of every interaction, product, communication and service experience defined the promise of the organisation in their eyes.
In the space of less than 20 years, organisations have gone from a relatively stable and controlled operating environment to building and maintaining multiple service channels, developing products and services at increasingly rapid rates, and being judged openly and often harshly in the public domain. It’s exhausting! But it’s possible to orchestrate your customer experience. We suggest the following steps to get started:
- Run a service audit. In essence, by mapping out - or visualising - your current state, you can begin to get a handle on how the customers experience your product or service
- Develop your human-centered design (HCD) capabilities. HCD is a proven framework for identifying, prioritising and resolving product and service opportunities by co-designing with your colleagues and customers - both of whom know best how your current customer experience stacks up
- Re-design your organisation to better serve your audience. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of delivering great customer experience is organising your people, culture, systems and resources.
We can’t understate the importance or complexity of organisational design, but without understanding, evolving and orchestrating resources behind the scenes, we have no doubt organisations will continue to struggle with customers throwing a broad blanket over everything they do, say and make. It’s called customer experience.
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