What do my customers want? This is the question that every executive asks and that the savviest executives are asking more frequently than ever. Technology has handed customers unprecedented control over the experience of purchasing goods and services. The process increasingly plays out in fluid, hypercompetitive, and always-on markets with many channels and touchpoints, or individual interactions.
More and more, customers expect the levels of satisfaction they receive from leaders such as Amazon, Apple, and Google—and they expect this from even the sleepiest corners of markets across all industries. Meanwhile, leading service providers also differentiate themselves through technology. Advanced analytics gives them rapid customer insights, so they can move with unprecedented speed and agility. Most companies therefore operate in complex, highly unsettled business environments. Customers increasingly dictate the rules. Three-quarters of them, research finds, expect “now” service, within five minutes of making contact online. Similar percentages want a simple experience and use comparison apps when they shop for consumer goods. Moreover, they not only expect providers of services and products to do business on digital platforms but also insist on a “social” experience. They put as much trust in online reviews as in personal recommendations.
Many businesses already understand that it’s no longer enough to compete on products or services. In our work, we find that how an organization delivers for customers is beginning to be as important as what it delivers. Companies that make it easier for them to connect in what they regard as a positive way tend to make inroads on the competition. The best will adapt their processes, cultures, and mind-sets to manage the entire customer experience skillfully—which benefits not only consumers but also employees and the bottom line.
But other companies, for many reasons, fail to deliver a compelling customer experience. A lot of managers think about it in very narrow terms, focusing only on individual topics and forgetting about the overall system for delivering value. Some excel at specific kinds of interactions with customers but ignore the fuller experience, both before and after the purchase. Others concentrate on fixing their operations but forget to look at them through the eyes of the customer. And most organizations still tend to underestimate the importance of the internal cultural changes needed to achieve and sustain a new approach to the customer experience. The list goes on.
Companies reap great rewards when they transcend these challenges and transform their approach so that they focus on the right things. Across industries, successful projects for optimizing the customer experience typically achieve revenue growth of 5 to 10 percent and cost reductions of 15 to 25 percent within just two or three years. Moreover, companies offering an exceptional customer experience can exceed the gross margins of their competitors by more than 26 percent while they make their employees happier and simplify their end-to-end operations.
Learn more about “Customer experience: Creating value through transforming customer journeys.”