There is a huge opportunity to win business by applying customer experience (CX) principles — but brands must move fast.
That’s the view of CX futurist and author Blake Morgan, who will be keynoting at the Magento Live Australia 2019 conference in Sydney on 12 and 13 February.
According to Morgan, consumer expectations have shifted and are informed by the personalised experiences they receive from companies like Netflix, Apple, Spotify, and Amazon.
“As a result, customers are comparing every other interaction they have with these technology-first brands that provide a tailored and personalised customer experience.”
This leads to a situation where customers not only expect companies to know them, they expect companies to know them individually and tailor experiences in real time to suit their circumstances, she said.
Despite this ever-rising tide of expectation, Morgan says it is realistic — and critical — for brands to keep improving their customer experiences.
“While customer expectation has changed, customers also crave authentic experiences. That doesn’t mean the experience needs to be delivered in a box as fast as Amazon would deliver a package, but it means brands need to think about who they’re serving and what those customers want.”
Morgan has focused on customer strategy for more than ten years, having worked in media and technology companies, and has written on the topic for publications such as Forbes.
“I’ve watched as the word ‘customer’ has gained increasing influence — from the time when Tony Hsieh, CEO and founder of Zappos, was the only person talking about customer service, to now when everyone is talking about customer experience all the time. The phrase ‘customer experience’ gets a lot more play than it did in the business world in the past, when people would simply throw it around synonymously with the phrase ‘customer service’.”
However, while customer experience has emerged as the watchword for contemporary marketing leaders, the reality remains that many companies still struggle to meet expectations.
We asked Morgan why she felt this was the case. “Most companies simply do not have a customer experience mindset,” she replied.
Instead, she argues, companies are often product-focused rather than customer-focused.
“Many companies believe if they hire a chief customer officer, or have a customer service department, they are done. This is not the case. Companies that compete on experience know every single employee touches the customer in some way.”
She told Which-50, “Customer-focused companies care more about customer experience and investing in long-term customer programs than they care about quarterly profits. These companies are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time in order to make a shift, or provide value to the customer.”But, argues Morgan, most companies are not willing to take that cultural shift from product focus to customer focus.
“They are not willing to make these short-term sacrifices to invest in long-term customer relationships.”
Another common mistake that companies make is not thinking of their employees as customers.
“Empathy for both employees and customers is a critical piece of a customer experience mindset.
“That’s right — employees are your first set of customers. The employee experience has a huge impact on the customer’s experience of your brand. If you don’t first take care of employees, then you can’t expect your employees to take care of your customers,” she said.
A crucial first step is understanding your combined culture.
Morgan said, “You need to talk to your employees and ask them in a way where they will feel comfortable responding. From there you can begin to work at having a better corporate culture. And that will, in turn, impact your customer experience mindset and your company culture.”
Brands behaving badly
Poor business practice and outright corruption by some businesses over the last twenty to thirty years has changed how consumers view business, she suggests.
“From the Enron scandal to Wall Street’s crash and the bank bailout to the Facebook Cambridge Analytica privacy breach, to government-sponsored hacking, people are tired of corruption.”
Today customers and employees demand a new level of transparency the business world never had to face before, she said.
“As a result of social media, now everyone clearly has a voice, and they are vocalising they want more honesty from marketing and advertising. From Instagram to YouTube, we are seeing a trend of people and brands getting ‘real’. Vulnerability is seen as being honest, and that honesty is rewarded.”
But there is a flip side to consider, she says, and it concerns the use of customer data, along with issues such as privacy and data ethics.
“With data breaches happening on the regular, consumers are growing weary of brands who are not taking their privacy seriously. Companies will need to find ways to continue to offer personalised customer experiences, but not cross the line and expose customer data.”
For this reason, Morgan believes that harnessing customer data in a responsible and service-oriented way will become a key business challenge in the future.
“By harnessing customer data, companies will be able to create more opportunities to deliver Brand Utility. But they also need to ensure they are protecting their customers. In sum, the last five years we saw unprecedented transparency and authenticity, and the future will require a strategic approach to customer data and ethics.”
About the author
Andrew Birmingham is the director of the Which-50 Digital Intelligent Unit of which Magento is a corporate member. Our members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.