Ready or not, the customer experience revolution is here.
And while awareness is still growing for this nascent business trend that’s sweeping blue chip corporate C-Suites and technology start-ups alike, companies that don’t get on board soon with this customer experience uprising will quickly be left behind.
Author, educator and business leadership consultant Jeofrey Bean put it this way: Businesses that provide an extraordinary customer experience are more profitable and sustainable than their competition. They dominate their industries, marginalize competing companies and even disrupt other established markets.
We may know that this transformation is happening, but exactly what is customer experience (or CX)?
Bean defined it as how customers perceive their interactions with your company. It’s a complex mash-up of physical, emotional and often psychological processes that make up the customer encounter or overall experience.
Business customers and consumers in general are no longer just spending their dollars on a product or service; they are buying into a shared purpose with a company and that starts from the initial contact point and doesn’t end when they sign a contract, leave the store or log off the computer.
Bean, principal of Del Mar Research and author of two books on the subject, said an authentic customer experience is just as valuable as a high-quality product or service.
Studies show that people will pay 5 to 25 percent more for a superior customer experience. And according to research firm Gartner Inc., 89 percent of U.S. companies polled expect to compete in the global marketplace this year on the strength of their customer experience efforts.
Companies like Apple, Amazon, Starbucks and REI as well as newer start-ups including Square, Tesla and Airbnb, are notable examples of early customer experience adapters that have surpassed their competition.
This is the focus of his first book, "The Customer Experience Revolution," based on in-person interviews with high-profile CX leaders that have changed how we do business forever.
How did they do it? According to Bean, by being an “experience maker” and offering exceptional products, services and pricing that combine to result in the purpose-built customer experience and the user experience within it.
Bean encourages both business-to business (B2B) and business-to-customer (B2C) to join the CX revolution and become experience makers for three main reasons.
First, companies can be better and different than the competition. “CX is the new currency,” he noted, and providing great products and services isn’t enough.
From Uber turning the taxi business upside down to Airbnb challenging the hotel/hospitality industry, experience makers are looking to move into markets that have been slow to grasp the shift from a simple service economy to a more expansive customer experience economy.
Next, companies with strong CX programs are more profitable and longer lasting. Experience makers are good at anticipating consumer, social and political trends and are constantly innovating and changing to stay ahead of the curve.
Bean explained that old-school companies hire a single person to head up innovation while experience makers operate as flat organizations where everyone from the front line to the front office is involved in creating meaningful customer experiences and lasting business relationships.
Finally, companies with strong CX programs are finding that more people are advocating for them – especially on social media platforms. Word-of-mouth advertising is still powerful, and social media accelerates the importance of customer experiences.
Companies also need to ask themselves how relevant they want to be younger people who have grown up with good user experiences.
Taking banking, for instance. High school and college students not only avoid going into branches and using ATMs, they now use their cellphones for quick-and-easy peer-to-peer money transfers with digital services such as Venmo.
Customer experience expectations are high for millennials and they don’t hesitate to share both positive and negative experiences on social media.
Bean warned that even companies with good customer experience programs are being threatened by exceptional experience makers from outside their traditional markets.
He cited Amazon as a prime example of a “market disrupter.” The online retailer conducted market research that showed grocery shoppers had negative emotional and economic (time is money) experiences waiting in line and checking out. Amazon Go grocery stores is innovating the customer experience by promising “no cashiers, no registers and no lines.”
As an expert review at the Customer Experience Interest Group (CX SIG) sponsored by Intuit, Bean advises established businesses and local start-ups on best practices and improving their customer experiences.
He is constantly looking for the next-generation experience makers and CX leaders. On his list of ones to watch are San Diego-based TheCourseKey.Com and StickShift.Rocks -- “young companies that get it and are already part of the customer experience revolution.”
UC San Diego Extension is hosting a two-day CX workshop on May 4 and 5 that will explore many of the secrets of creating these kinds of experiences and offer up tools and ideas that businesses can apply right away. In addition to Bean, the event will feature expert customer experience makers from Airbnb and REI.
For more information or to register for the Customer Experience Revolution, contact Fiona O’Donnell-Lawson at (858)534-8139 or firstname.lastname@example.org.