The three pillars of improved customer experience

Customer experience is the main differentiator in business today, but in a world of constant digital disruption, proliferating channels and increasing complexity, how do aspiring brands deliver the right levels of experience? Through strategy, innovation and their own employees.

We all know brands that have built up an almost legendary status, where their name is instantly recognized, whether that relates to products, services, experiences or a combination of all of them. Think of them and we automatically know what we are going to get from them. No explanation is needed, even for those that have never bought from those companies.

In the consumer space, the likes of Apple, Amazon, Converse and Google are at that point, while in business, Microsoft and Salesforce enjoy a similar level of prominence. How have they got there? By delivering outstanding customer experiences.

With so many organizations offering similar products and services, how companies make their customers feel is often the difference between success and failure, particularly as customers will pay up to 16% more for products and services from a company that makes them feel appreciated.

What you shouldn’t do to stand out from the crowd

But what of those enterprises that want to reach that point? How do they get there? How do they create a customer experience that allows them to stand out?

First, it is worth considering what they shouldn’t do. They shouldn’t copy what has worked for existing legendary brands. Why? Because what worked for ten or twenty years and helped those brands reach that point in the collective conscience is not enough today.

The acceleration of digital disruption, with the introduction of multiple communication channels and business models, means that delivering stand-out customer experience is more complex than it used to be.

But neither should businesses feel like the only way to achieve the sort of admiration and loyalty the likes of Apple enjoy is to become a purely technology business. Certainly, the advent of digital tools has unlocked a variety of new ways to go to market and transform business models. From logistics companies creating software-as-a-service products to plumbing hardware manufacturers becoming data businesses by introducing smart devices, non-digital-native companies can unlock new ways to deliver value to customers. In doing so, they will be able to drive greater levels of experience and value.

But that doesn’t mean that only tech businesses can reach the levels we’re discussing here. Any business can deliver fantastic experiences, but to do it, they have to focus on three things: strategy, innovation and the employee experience.

The three steps to delivering legendary brand experiences

First is the strategy, which must always start from the customer perspective before working inward to cover employees, partners, processes and tools. It is a complex world: brands who want to exceed their customers’ expectations need to be able to gather insights, understand their implications and action the results effectively. It can be easy to become distracted, to chase what competitors are doing or go for the next new thing, hoping that will solve all your problems.

But the brands other companies aspire to emulate take a long-term view. They have a strategy in place, and while that evolves over time, rarely does it lose focus. And that’s what’s required when delivering the proper customer experience: a strategy that provides a blueprint for how to proceed. Based on an assessment of what’s already in place and tailored to clearly defined objectives, it is the foundation upon which decisions regarding technology investments can be made, justified by the appropriate business cases.

This leads us to the second point: innovation. We’ve already covered how delivering customer experience today requires new approaches, and that involves deploying and using technology effectively. But technology is, ultimately, a tool, an engine if you will. It needs fuel to power it. In this instance, that’s data.

The problem with data today is that there’s so much of it. So, to generate the insights needed, companies need to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning that can not only find the real intelligence among the noise but do so in a way that allows decision-makers to act quickly.

This can be used to move an organization to a more predictive or proactive mindset. It allows them to build complete pictures of customers and use that information to accurately understand what they will do next. Then make it as easy as possible to complete that action.

More than that, businesses that deploy AI-backed tools can serve customers faster and support employees more effectively. It might be a chatbot that handles general queries and triages escalating issues; or it could be getting relevant case and sentiment data into the hands of agents handling more complex challenges. Whatever the deployment, AI can help deliver a better experience by resolving customer questions faster and satisfactorily.

Closely linked to this use of technology and data is the third part of the experience puzzle: the employee experience. The correlation is so close that brands that drive significant levels of employee loyalty will more often than not enjoy high levels of customer loyalty.

As an IDC study found, 85% of organizations say that improved employee experiences and higher employee engagement levels equal a better customer experience, higher customer satisfaction and, ultimately, higher revenues.

Making it easier to retain repeat business

And that’s the point. In most cases, those brands that are so recognizable that everyone in their target market knows them and what they stand for make more money. But more than that, they are more profitable, because the level of loyalty and admiration in their brand makes it easier to acquire and retain repeat business. Buyers keep coming back because they know they’re getting the same level of experience, time and time again.

This isn’t out of reach for any company in any sector, but to get there they need to deliver fantastic experiences, based on a foundation of strategy, innovation and engaged employees.

Customer experience is the major differentiator for businesses today. To find out more, take a look at Empowering your teams to give great customer experience. Find out here more about our services and how our experienced consultants can help.

Jonas Wallengren
Jonas Wallengren

Jonas Wallengren is a Senior Digital Business Consultant at Orange Business, leading business consulting and innovation teams to help multinational organizations find, enable and scale up growth through the data value chain. He has a passionate focus on mobility, sustainability and resource efficiency and believes that digitally empowered people who use data in smart ways in a hyperconnected society will be the great enablers. He is also a skateboard enthusiast.