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Who Is The Customer Experience For?

by David Brock on August 14th, 2014

The answer to this question seems obvious, the customer experience, whether it is buying, post buying, or anytime they engage our company, is for the customer.

It’s the experience they should have in every interaction with our organization.  When they are looking for information, how do they find it?  Is it meaningful, relevant, and timely?  When they engage in a buying process, do we align with how they want to buy, creating value in each step of the process?  When they buy, do we support them in the ways that are helpful and responsive to them?  When they don’t buy from us, do we continue to engage them in meaningful relevant ways–if they want?  Do we do this through the life of their involvement with our organization?  Do we do this for each individual that comes into contact with our organization, through whatever channel they choose?

The customer experience is for the customer!

Yet in too many of our designs, the customer experience is about us.

Who do we want to deal with and how do we want to deal with them?  What is the most efficient/cost effective way to deal with them?  How do we get them to hear what we want them to hear?  How do we get them to behave the way we want them to behave?  How do we channel them to make it easier or less expensive to deal with them?

As I’ve written before, too often, our customer experience design is really about what’s good for us not the customer?  Too often, it doesn’t answer the question:  “How do we create value for the customer in each interaction they have with our organization?”

It may be an ad, it may be an email, it may be the website, it may be their impression when they visit us, the experience when someone in our organization answers the phone or replies to an email.  It may be how we engage them as they buy or when they are using our products.  It may be what we value, what we stand for and how it aligns with their values and beliefs.

If we care about the customer experience, we have to design it from their point of view.  We have to understand what they value and how we create value in every interaction.  We have to involve the customer and prospective customers in our design.  Yet too often, we design these experiences in our offices and conference rooms–far removed from the customer.

We cannot design the customer experience from our own experience or guesses of what the experience should be.

There’s a story, it may be mythology, but decades ago, GM, Ford, Chrysler executives were truly mystified about why people didn’t like their GM, Ford, and Chrysler cars.  They heard complaints about quality, rattles, squeaks, issues about serviceability.  The story goes they genuinely didn’t understand why customers were complaining and going to other cars manufacturers.  Their experience in driving their cars was completely different.   They didn’t have quality problems, rattles, squeaks.

But then they discovered something different.  Every day, when they drove to their offices, someone would take their cars.  They would wash them, clean them, give them a quick inspection.  They’d tighten up some bolts, remove some squeaks, make sure the care was perfect for the executive when they drove off in the evenings.  The experience these executives were having was completely different from that of their customers.  They were blind to the real customer experience.

So what does this mean?

If we care about customer experience, then we have to engage our customers and prospective customers in the customer experience design.  We have to go out to our customers and see things through their eyes–look at our web sites through their eyes, call our support centers to see what they see, watch our sales people from their point of view.

Some will say, “Dave, you’re being naïve, if we designed everything the way the customer wants, then costs would go out of control!  We’d be unprofitable!”

It’s a legitimate concern, but there are several ways to look at this.

The most obvious, if your customers or prospective customers don’t like the customer experience, they won’t buy.  So whatever you do for a customer experience is unprofitable.  If we design experiences which cause to buy, which drive customer loyalty–both causing them to buy more, but also to refer others to buy, we drive revenue creation.

Second, we as human beings tend to over design, over complicate things.  We guess at what the customer wants, we are bound by our past experiences, bound by “the way we do things,” past policies an procedures.  We tend to start from past designs/approaches, layering more stuff on top of them, until they become massively complicated, inefficient and expensive.

Customers want simple.  They want easy.  Just as we want to be efficient, they want to be efficient and effective.  Often, starting with the customer, engaging them in creating and designing the experience results in a more effective, lower cost method than if we designed it ourselves–absent the customer view.

Finally, we have to make choices.  We have to make choices about who our customers are–and who they aren’t.  Not everyone can be our customer, we want customers we can serve well, create great value and who value what we provide and how we engage them.

If we try to be all things to all people, we are eventually nothing to everyone.

We have to know and commit to our sweet spot.  We have to engage them in designing the customer experience that creates value in every interaction they and we have.  If they value it, they will pay for it, not each interaction, but in continuing to do business.

We tend to forget, it’s in the customers’ best interests that we are profitable.  That we can create enough revenue to create the experiences they want, to create the solutions and services they want, to grow in our capabilities to serve them, to reward our employees and shareholders.  After all, if we aren’t profitable, we would cease to exist and they would no longer be able to get what we want.

It’s naïve to think that creating great customer experiences, engaging the customer in designing that experience, and delivering it is mutually exclusive with being efficient, cost effective, and effective overall.

The customer experience is for the customer, not us.  Let’s find out what they want and how we can create value in each interaction.

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