Every successful business is a customer experience business. Businesses that are customer-inadequate are bound to be disrupted by businesses that have adapted to today’s customer-centric marketplace. Customer centricity is the idea that organisations should get close to their customers. The pertinent questions include the following: what are the needs, wants and experiences of targeted customers? Is there a competitive advantage in the customer experience? Which is the most impactful touchpoint in the experience? What is the overall capability to support the whole experience?
According to Adam Richardson in “Harvard Business Review”, it is mission critical to acquire the customer journey map “that illustrates the steps your customers go through in engaging with your company”. The benefits of delivering excellent customer experience include enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, and increased revenue. Also, it can identify broader business opportunities. There are examples for such opportunities; rather than just decreasing the wait time for a ride, ride-hailing services like Grab and Uber saw a disruptive opportunity in addressing the wishes of customers for more control, comfort and safety. Gojek, a recent entry into Singapore, has raised the ante by not using dynamic pricing, i.e. no fares surge during peak hours.
If you have two supermarkets near you, one with a cashier counter and the other without — which one are you going to shop in? For instance, Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. It gives shoppers a “Just Walk Out Shopping” experience; simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products, and go. Similarly, the supermarket chain Shufersal Ltd engages Trigo Vision Ltd’s platform that uses a feed from ceiling cameras to identify items in a customer’s shopping cart, which are tallied to produce the bill. Another start-up called Standard Cognition is using a network of cameras, machine vision and deep-learning techniques to create an autonomous checkout experience.
A detailed discussion on how to design a comprehensive customer experience journey is beyond the purview of this article. A journey-centric design requires an understanding of the things that customers value and how customer experience affects the business. It requires tonnes of empathy through user research to design touchpoints that are appropriate, relevant, meaningful and endearing to customers. The touchpoints may be categorised as Advertising (blogs, press releases, social media posts), Sales (white papers, testimonials, sales presentations), Customer Service (shipping goods, sending and processing invoices, addressing questions and concerns), and Customer Retention (follow-up marketing strategies, loyalty programmes).
Most companies are idealistic about designing journeys that inspire their customers for bottom-line impact. However, their operational systems and processes are often tactical and driven by and through single channels. But touchpoints are not merely channels such as mail, media, online, or physical location. Customers are media agnostic for they are using various ways to find information and interact. Consequentially, a user’s experience is linked to conversion to becoming a customer. And conversion happens when a company lives up to expectations and promises, regardless of where and when.
More importantly, a customer experience is the result of an accumulation of individual efforts to serve customers. A narrow focus on maximising satisfaction at particular moments may create a distorted picture of the company. Interactions of a few seconds or less can either hinder or delight customers. And it takes just one ineffective touchpoint to sour the whole customer experience. However, building an emotional connection with customers is an iterative learning process. Knowing a problem at the most granular level will eventually lead to its solution to benefit customers and the business.
But data are not enough. Human filter is needed to sieve collected data and ask overarching questions: who are the customers? What motivates them? What are the fundamental causes of satisfaction? Obviously, the answers to these questions will help shape the organisation and its processes to deliver excellent journey, and adjust metrics and incentives to support the complete journey, not just touchpoints. In short, a customer experience is greater than the sum of the touch points experienced by all customers.
In conclusion, customer experience is critical to the success of all businesses. Mapping each journey brings about many benefits including broader business opportunities.
Dr Hendry Ng
Director of Programme
Victoria University Postgraduate and Graduate Studies
Originally published in The Edge, January 2019