Quick Sprint  

  • Customer experience is the new battleground, and the repercussions could be significant if you aren’t committed to exceeding expectations in this area. 
  • Meeting and exceeding customer expectations requires consistent effort sustained over the long term. But this shouldn’t mean it’s not urgent today!
  • Providing an exceptional customer experience isn’t just about securing revenue or avoiding irrelevancy. Secondary effects include transforming your organisation from the inside out and creating exponential momentum across multiple business functions. 
  • Key stakeholders need to be okay with the idea that they may not see the full benefits of their sustained efforts during their tenure with the company. 
  • By playing the long game, your brand will reap the rewards of a more engaged, profitable and satisfied customer base.

Being customer-centric is not a new idea, but it’s become an essential priority for modern brands looking to compete. The companies that craft personalised, seamless and engaging experiences are rewarded accordingly, but many fall short of the customer’s ever-increasing standard.

Why? Where does it fall down?

While there are a variety of complex factors that contribute to this theme, more often than not it comes down to an organisation’s inability to patiently and successfully manage the long-term initiative. If you’re going to run the customer experience marathon, this is inevitably what is required.

Improving (let alone transforming) the customer experience often hinges on recognising and appreciating four key points:

  • The customer experience is critical to your survival and success
  • Meeting and exceeding customer expectations requires consistent effort, sustained over a long period
  • Just because it’s a long-term initiative, doesn’t mean it’s not urgent today!
  • You need to trust that it will work.

For those that are willing to start working diligently and consistently today - the payoff, in time, will be huge.

Invest or die

More so now than ever, curating a compelling customer experience has become worth your attention and investment for two main reasons.

Firstly, the benchmark of quality customer experiences is rising exponentially. The biggest and best brands in the world (think Netflix, Apple, Airbnb) have set the pace for innovation and are reaping the rewards. Customers are willing to pay a 16% price premium on products and services if they’re attached to a phenomenal customer experience¹. The longer organisations stall developing an exceptional customer experience, the more they risk their future.

Secondly, customers have more power and choice than ever before, which has reset their expectations. A recent study from PWC found that 32% of consumers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience1. If you can’t deliver your products and services with a quality experience that supports them, they will go elsewhere…because they can. 

Customer experience is the new battleground and if you aren’t committed to exceeding expectations in this area, the repercussions could be significant.

Invest and thrive

The pursuit of exceptional customer experience isn’t just about risk mitigation, it’s about transforming your organisation from the inside out. 82% of the top-performing companies globally are focused on creating a phenomenal customer experience and they’re looking to create the right mix of culture, technology and talent to do so1. Making investments today will create momentum across your business, setting your organisation up for long-term success.   

More valuable customers

Taking the customer experience seriously means moving away from one-time transactions and considering the lifetime value of a customer (LTV). Focusing on the customer value over their entire lifetime will give you a better understanding of the customers that are most valuable to you.

Winning their trust has flow-on effects. Not only is it more likely that advocacy from your most loyal customers will lead to higher quality referral leads, but 63% of customers said they’d be more open to sharing their data with organisations that build trust via exceptional customer experiences1.  

Reduced costs

Brands that nail the customer experience build loyalty with valuable customers, improve retention and subsequently are able to reduce their reliance on acquisition. Simple.

Cross-functional collaboration

Developing an exceptional customer experience requires coordination across multiple business units. From centralising customer information to establishing the ownership of each customer touchpoint, the pursuit of delivering real value at every stage of the customer journey will ensure your organisation collaborates with more accountability and clarity.

Happier employees

Focusing on CX in your organisation doesn’t just help customers, but it helps staff too. By improving the customer experience there is less pressure on your employees to troubleshoot constant customer issues. A good customer experience empowers your employees to spend more time looking for ways to innovate an even more valuable customer journey.

In a recent Forbes interview, Baker Johnson the CMO of cloud company UJET encouraged customer-focused leaders to “create a process that is better for both customers and employees, and recognise that those investments, like the ones made in sales and marketing departments, have ROI in the form of dollars coming from future and repeat business.”2

So what’s the catch?

When it comes to designing customer experiences that build deep customer relationships, there is no quick fix and it’s not easy. Refocusing the way an organisation views and interacts with a customer can often require a wholesale shift in cultural mindset, not to mention logistical issues.

This is especially true for organisations with complex data and tech requirements, often requiring large investments in capability which are time-consuming and complex to manage.

New processes and operating models may also need to be adjusted to better address customer needs, which could lead to change management issues further down the line

Of course, people management can be tricky too, whether it be senior stakeholders who are resistant to change, team members not having the required skill sets or front-line staff who need to be re-trained. As a result, such a shift invariably takes a long-term, sustained effort and a business-wide commitment.

This is where many organisations fail or veer off track.

And who can blame them, when the average CMO tenure is 40 months3, there isn’t much incentive for leaders to consider the effect of today’s efforts a decade down the line.

Initial inroads are often promising but over time, it can be easy (and all too common) for other short-term business initiatives to be prioritised. What starts as a small and short-term deprioritisation turns into a longer-term dilution of the customer solution and real momentum is lost.

How to stay on track

When it comes to maintaining consistent effort over the long term, all of the normal processes and approaches apply:

  • Establishing a clarity of vision and developing a strategy to support this, is key to securing business endorsement over the long term.
  • Garner support from necessary internal stakeholders who are ideally part of a steering committee with combined responsibility for project success
  • Dedicate resourcing and appropriate funding based on deliverables and promised outcomes
  • Develop key accountability measures, track success and transparently report progress. Common measures often incorporate metrics such as revenue, tenure, retention and advocacy.

But one of the most important elements is to have clear phases or ‘horizons’ to show how you will build sophistication, show progress and deliver customer and business outcomes over time. 

‘Horizon planning’ is critical to setting up the long-term nature of such an undertaking. Not only does such a plan break down your ambitions into practical stages, it also allows you to focus on quick wins (typically captured in ‘horizon 1’). Immediate improvements that can be made in the short term are vital for establishing early success, momentum and stakeholder goodwill.

Following these achievements, constant focus needs to be applied to the process of optimisation and improvement to ensure longevity. And while there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, every incremental effort will pay dividends down the line. Key stakeholders need to be okay with the idea that they may never see the benefits of their sustained efforts during their tenure with the company.

Conclusion

Curating personalised, seamless and engaging customer experiences in many ways is a never-ending endeavour. But, by playing the long game and staying committed, your brand will be able to look back in years to come and reap the rewards of a more engaged, profitable and satisfied customer base.

References

  1. Tom Puthiyamadam & José Reyes, Experience is everything: Here’s how to get it right, (2018), PWC.
  2. Shep Hyken, Happy Customers Mean Happy Employees (2022), Forbes
  3. Michaela Jefferson, CMO tenure falls to lowest level in over a decade, (29 April 2021), Marketing Week. 

About Oliver Stewart

Founding Director of Tortoise & Hare, Oliver is passionate about helping customer-first brands build valuable relationships. A senior specialist across our strategic and brand services, he is passionate about developing practical solutions that drive growth, engagement and loyalty.

Founding Director of Tortoise & Hare, Oliver is passionate about helping customer-first brands build valuable relationships. A senior specialist across our strategic and brand services, he is p...

Oliver Stewart Director at Tortoise & Hare CX Agency

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