February 24, 2020

Digital Leadership Development

Do You Really Understand the Customer Experience?

One of the core tenets of the Digital Experience Supply Chain is that the business value center of gravity is shifting from operational optimization to the customer experience.

More specifically, the idea is that the organizations that will win in the Digital Era will be those that successfully and continuously create, curate, and sustain a differentiated customer experience — which will, of course, be mostly digital or supported by digital technologies.

But when it comes to implementing this idea, many people get hung up because they fail to understand the true essence of what it means to deliver a differentiated customer experience.

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

The Big Idea: Customer Experience vs Buying Experience

The reason that most people struggle with truly understanding the customer experienceis that they often equate it with the buying experience.

The challenge is that the buying experience, while important, is only a tiny part of the overall customer journey with you and your organization.

To understand this more fully, we can turn to one of the more interesting evolutions of an idea that I can think of: The Four Moments of Truth.

A.G. Lafley, the CEO of Proctor & Gamble, famously defined the first two moments of truth as the moment that the customer first interacts with your brand (in their case on a store shelf, for instance), and when they first use the product. Basically, these two moments represent the buying experience.

Google later identified what they called the Zero Moment of Truth— the moment that someone understood that they had a problem or a desire and began searching for a solution. This part of the customer journey often happened before they even knew you existed.

Finally, Brian Solis introduced the idea of the Ultimate Moment of Truth in which a customer shares their experience with others, often via social media, and often while they are in the midst of the experience. Thus, their experience becomes someone else’s Zero Moment.

Despite Brian’s use of the word ‘ultimate,’ the fact is that we may have many of these moments as we share an experience with an organization and its products or services over time. Every interaction is, in fact, a part of the customer journey and another opportunity for an Ultimate Moment in which we may choose to share our experience with others.

When we talk about the customer experience, therefore, it must extend throughout this continuous lifecycle — and far beyond the mere buying experience.

The Impact: The Customer Experience and Your Digital Future

Upon first reading, you may be thinking, “Sure. That all makes sense, but how does that affect me?”

After all, the vast majority of folks in an organization have little to no interaction with a customer (the larger the organization, the more this is true).

But if you start to think about the fullness of the customer journey across each of these moments, you realize that everything has the potential to impact the customer experience at some point and in some way. 

Not long ago, I had decided that I was ready to purchase a set of true wireless headphones. I found a local retailer that, according to its website, had them in-stock. I happily marched 16 blocks to buy them (I live in New York City) only to find that they were, in fact, NOT in stock. I was told that an employee had accidentally received them into inventory, and hadn’t bothered to undo it.

Does receiving inventory properly or improperly impact the customer experience? It did, in this case, and likely lost the company a customer for life because I no longer trust its systems.

The fact is that almost every business process and function is somehow connected to the customer experience and their journey with an organization — however indirectly.

So, if you are going to create and sustain a winning customer experience, you’ll need to uncover these connections and ensure that you understand the importance of the customer experience and your role in delivering it — whether that’s as an individual or for the team you lead.

The Next Step

As always, I want to leave you with an activity to bring this idea home.

In this case, I’d like to make it a two-part activity. 

First, think about a product or service that you use with some regularity. It could be something like going to your local grocery store or maybe something like Uber or Netflix. Now, write down a simple version of your customer journey with that company or product.

When did you first realize you needed or wanted that thing, and what did you do next? How did you first come to interact with the company?

What happened next? Step through each of the remaining moments of truth, including the continuing ultimate moments. How many different points can you identify? 

Now the critical question: how many of those moments were directly or indirectly impacted by someone other than a salesperson or a customer support rep? (Keep thinking about this because it’s almost certainly more than you think!)

The reason this first part is critical is that it is often hard for us to see things from our customer’s perspective. Starting by thinking of yourself as a customer will help reset your viewpoint.

So now, think about your job and write down the various elements of what you do on a daily or weekly basis. Then, identify how each of those functions may impact the customer experience directly or indirectly.

Write down those connections. And now, ask yourself how you might change what you do to help improve or sustain that experience.

This exercise may be challenging. It can be hard to see beyond our immediate surroundings to understand the upstream and downstream impact you have in your organization. But to paraphrase Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life, your work touches so many others, you just don’t realize it.

Have fun with the exercise.

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