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Enough of the sideshows – time to get serious about customer experience

Enough of the sideshows – time to get serious about customer experience

There’s always been something of the carnival barker about big brands; always selling the big show with the help of marketing sleight–of–hand. Or the Wizard of Oz, frantically working to maintain the great and powerful illusion and keep customers away from the curtain.

The curtain however was swept aside some time ago. Published in July of this year, Forrester’s Customer Experience Index showed 82% of US brands were scored as just “OK” or below by customers.

Or, to put it another way, “Meh.”

Far from a basic gauge of customer satisfaction, this is customer experience as measured across channels, touch points and interactions, the whole nine yards.

Lower ratings were driven by brands annoying, disappointing and frustrating customers. Apparently we haven’t nailed the ability even to avoid those.

Rebadging marketing departments as ‘Customer Experience’ is exacerbating the problem. Re–branding means very little without real change. Let marketing be marketing, but please let customer experience live up to its name and its promise. Let’s make it real.

This isn’t a pithy plea to be nicer to customers (although that’s not a bad starting point). By neglecting customer experience, businesses are letting revenue fly out the window. Some of the numbers are eye–watering.

John Wanamaker’s old standard “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half” can be applied here. A lot of resource and budget is flung around in the name of customer experience, but it is in name alone. Forrester’s report should be proof enough of that.

Historically, banks have been key exponents of this practise. The very institutions with the available capital to reinvest in core customer experience, didn’t. According to a KPMG report released this month, technology firms invest 10 – 20% of revenues in research and development, compared to just 1 – 2% for banks. A Google search for “bank technical glitch” will tell you all you need to know.

KPMG has further said that banks are only 10% of the way through their digital transformations. The figure sounds about right; you have to wonder whether banks themselves would come up with the same one. To be fair, banks are an easy target. Based on Forrester’s report, many of the consumer giants we know and… er, love have swung and missed on experience.

There are fewer and fewer excuses for this. We have ways and means to map and design holistic customer journeys; we have all the technology that the early 21st century can offer us; yet the job of providing customers with coherent, joined–up experiences is still beyond the grasp of brands and businesses.

Brand perception is now almost completely shaped by interaction. The Nielsen Norman Group have described brand as “a subjective perception of value based on the sum of a person’s experiences with a product or company that ultimately influences that person’s sentiment and decisions in the marketplace.”. Which also sounds remarkably like customer experience.

The beauty of good customer experience is that everyone wins: it’s good for business, it’s good for consumers. Any business that doesn’t set improving customer experience as a strategy will rapidly pay the price in real terms. And in that, the challenges keep stacking up, with strategy itself often so much hot air.

Will Forrester’s 2017 report reflect action, or just more talk?

By Rick Monro

Rick was UX Director at Fathom from 2014 to 2017, when he left to take up a role as Principal UX Architect at Puppet.

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