In this high speed and highly connected world, organizations across the board, from small to global enterprise, are thinking about the Customer Experience (Cx) and what happens to it in this digital world. Hardly anyone thinks of the Customer Experience as someone else's problem within a company, or isolated to the "Customer Service Department". Those days are long gone. Today the Cx is everyone's responsibility and must be considered a true "journey" that is affected by every stage of your value chain, and contemplated in every phase of product, service or new business model design and development. We believe it simply can't be an afterthought or just one person's/group's job. Here are some staggering statistics on the importance of the Cx to the "C" suite, from a variety of analyst firms and consulting firms:
As for Investments, of the companies Gartner surveyed, 50% of product investments will be redirected to customer experience innovation. And TSC's survey found, 60% of organizations see customer service as the top source of competitive differentiation in the next 3 years.
Just as compelling are the benefits of focusing on the customer experience including the entire "customer journey" when dealing with your company:
Understanding your "customer's journey" in terms of how and when they engage with you, is critical. Every channel they use, every thing they see and experience, the product they touch and how they touch it or interact with it, what kind of service they get before and after a purchase, how easy things are to use, are all incredibly important elements of the journey and of the experience overall.
For example, in the Grocery Retail world, the customer journey insofar as traditional brick and mortar is concerned has gone from bad to worse. Most people do all their shopping online, it has become so frustrating to shop in a traditional grocery store.
Today, for example, when I arrived at my local grocers, I couldn't find a shopping cart at the store's entrance, when I finally found one, the wipes to clean the cart handle bar, were empty. As I moved through the store, the price was missing from 3 of the products I was interested in purchasing. To add insult to injury, one of the products I wanted that was advertised on sale was out of stock. And the most frustrating part of the entire experience was the self-check out kiosk. It drove me bonkers - not recognizing when I put an item in the bag, and the clerk coming over to reset me about 5 times.
Really? Wow. This whole experience was more than annoying. It sucked. And look what happens when an experience sucks:
When we at Radius Innovation and Development, engage with customers to develop new products, services or business models, we work with them from ideation to commercialization, with the customer experience front and centre. And we never lose sight of it for a minute. The ideation to commercialization cycle is full of opportunities, challenges, risks, and rewards, and so deliberately determining the experience you want to create up front and then ensuring it is threaded through the entire development cycle is critical. We do this by assigning a cross-functional team as soon as we start working on a project. This team, includes researchers, strategists, designers, engineers, manufacturing experts (if hardware is involved), supply chain and pricing experts, and regulatory experts (if it's a regulated industry). And this team approach ensures the customer experience is maintained through every stage. The best road to a successful, end-to-end product or service introduction is paved with constant end-customer touch-points and a deep empathy for their wants and needs
Sounds basic, I know, but in reality, staying in lockstep with the end customer you are servicing, is an iterative process that must be integrated into every phase of your development process—from insights, planning, discovery, design, and development to delivery.
Recently a few big retailers have called on us to talk about what cool new technology they could use in the face of this looming competition from the Amazon/Whole Foods union. We stopped them right in their tracks and said, "let's think about what your customers are feeling and their journey before we dive into sensors and beacons and near field communication devices". Technology is nice, but its a means to an end. The end being a superior customer experience, that can't be touched by your competitors.
Here are key tips for making sure your customer’s voice comes through loud and clear:
1. Consumers Hold the Power - get connected
Make no mistake: your ultimate customer isn’t the distributor or retailer dangling the promise of shelf space or digital media promotion in front of you. It’s the END CONSUMER who actually uses your product or service. Speak to them, listen to them, and innovate for them and with them. Social media sentiment analysis is one of the most important ways to listen to customers, and the abundance of analytics tools will help you listen for both positive and negative sentiments about your latest product launch or offering. At Radius Innovation & Development our "Radius Epiphany Analytics" services, allow our customers to see, in real-time, what their customers are saying from across the web. Those sentiments and experiences, throughout a "users journey" are then factored into the full innovation and product development work we do.
2. Forego the Features Arms Race - focus on the Ease of Doing Business
Consumer buying practices are no longer driven by who ticks off the most feature check boxes. So, avoid the race to produce a product overloaded with features. Instead, figure out which features deliver the most value and a compelling experience for customers. And find out what they like and dislike about the entire process of doing business with you. The experience throughout the entire journey, from signing up, to trying, to buying, to returning, to online or phone support, matter. Features and functions are so yesterday, simple, beautiful and making yourself easy to do business with is more important than one-upping your competitor in a features war.
3. Focus Groups Are So Mad Men - go with Try & Buy or CABs
Focus groups play better on TV than as a service or product development strategy. Instead, embrace ethnography to observe consumers interacting with products in their actual environments to uncover unarticulated needs and insights for innovation. Follow that with in-home user testing (IHUT), where consumers take home your product, use it for days to weeks, and chronicle their experiences. Or try & buy if your offering is software based. It’s really the best way to get real-time feedback about how to optimize your product’s value proposition.
If you are a large enterprise selling to large enterprises, there is nothing that beats a customer advisory board ("CAB"). 8-15 of your top customers, meeting regularly to review your strategy, your product road map, and to even help you trial run some of your new products before they enter general availability. CABs are an incredible thing, but the key is strong facilitation, constant report out and making customers feel like they are being listened to.
4. Value is KING
Deciding the final product price shouldn’t require a divining rod if you understand what your customers value most. Value can come from the finish, quality, and a differentiating user experience. Value drives cost, so never lose sight of the relationship between the two.
5. Keep your Brand Prestine
Never, ever trade on your brand equity to sell higher volumes at lower prices. It’s a short-term strategy that you’ll pay for at some point. Be a good brand steward and say “no” to all things that could affect your brand in a negative way and don't deliver on your brand's promise. The best brand protection strategy is to build products with your customer at the centre of everything you do, everything else emanates from that crucial point of view and will fall into place accordingly.
6. High-Velocity Value Chain
Gone are the days of 12-18 month cycles. Customers/consumers, especially those buying online, want to see new value monthly, if not weekly. Think about your iPhone or Android and how quickly your apps get updated. That's the bar that has been set. If you don't continually provide VALUABLE improvements, customers will turn to your competitors. Marketing can't do this alone, the entire internal value chain from the innovation process all the way to delivery, needs to move at the speed of digital. So its important everyone in the organization is connected digitally and constantly collaborating. Customer Support, Sales, product marketing, product management, R&D, you name it, anyone that has anything to do with the end delivery of a product needs to be lined up and ready to go.
7. Technical/Customer Support
The only thing I will say here is, DO NOT FORGET to implement a strong support strategy. Regardless of the distribution channel, you sell through, never abdicate an opportunity to speak to a customer directly and build a relationship with them directly. Customer support is your way to stay engaged, show customers the love and develop new ideas for value you can deliver by constantly monitoring and measuring their satisfaction level. Ask questions during support calls like: if you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about this product tomorrow, what would it be? Record their answer, and if you implement their input, remember to thank them. You will earn a customer for life when you implement a change they requested. If your solution is software based, make change/enhancement requests easy, and based on "popular votes". Give loyalty points, discounts and offer other incentives to keep the feedback flowing. And remember everyone in the organization should focus on customer satisfaction, so everyone should be asking the Magic Wand Question.
And remember to deliver support in a manner in which your customers want. Whether it's a chat line, or phone, or online through the web, or in person, or all of the above. Customers/consumers want to operate the way they want to operate in this highly connected world.
In summary, thinking in terms of a buyer's journey is transactional and tactical. Thinking in terms of an entire customer journey and creating an optimal customer experience throughout, is strategic, and will help you attract and retain your customers for life.
If you are planning a new service or product, or just want to upgrade the existing one, let us empower you with an ideation and journey mapping session at Radius Innovation & Development, it's amazing what you will find out, and the many unspoken needs and frustrations customers have. Eye-opening in fact! For more information contact us here: http://radiusinnovation.com/contact-us/
Or if you are interested in an exciting career opportunity in research, strategy, design, prototyping, engineering, manufacturing or supply chain, please feel free to check out our Radius career pages or that of our parent company Jabil! You will be amazed at how much fun it is empowering some of the most exciting brands in the world!
Look what some of those Brands are empowering today: