CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE- THE NEW COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

“Customer experience is the next competitive battleground”

-Jerry Gregoire

Brands have evolved and the evolution not only accompanied with it great successes, but also some fundamental challenges into brand strategy. One of the major challenges in today’s business is to answer the ever-changing customer expectations with unmatchable customer experiences. Every brand today, has an opportunity to either win a new customer, retain or lose a customer. To be precise, brand evolution resulted in more mature and better thinking customers. Moreover, top brands teach customers what great service looks like. Customer experience no longer pertains to a single industry. However, is greatly influenced by the memories of experiences that customers have from any random product or service. Therefore, today’s competition is not among brands, their products or services. It is among numerous customer experiences and customer feedback.

Artificial Humanity

The fallacy of technology alone, driving industry trends, competitive advantage and customer experience has been countered by giant brands. Global leaders of various multi-nationals feel that customers need human interaction, coupled with technology to ease communication and coordination. Hence, customer experience is a blend of technology and humanity. This new concept is termed as Artificial Humanity.

Customers run global businesses today. Hence, it is important for companies to offer proactive customer support. Technology enables companies to track customer usage patterns to predict future customer needs. Companies that recognize this take advantage of the new opportunities technology offers and step up to meet new standards in customer experience. These become market leaders that win repeat business, loyalty and customer reputation.

Trends in Customer Experience

Customers have been groomed constantly by companies for product and service understanding. Companies use data from customer interaction history to personalize their products and services. Technology binds customer interaction data with customer experience through various means.

• Continuous Connectivity

Continuous Connectivity supports an ongoing inflow of customer data.

• Advanced Customer Analytics

Advanced Customer Analytics turns real-time data into understandable insights about customer experience and experience management.

• Application Program Interfaces (APIs)

Widespread adoption of APIs allows for fluid communication between different applications. For example, Google Maps integrates with Uber for its travel time recommendations.

The Customer Experience Thought Process

Creating unique personalized experiences for customers’ needs a complete understanding of customer episodes. An episode begins when customer needs emerge and ends when they get fulfilled. Companies must determine the touch points or interactions that benefit most from personalization and generate better customer outcomes. Customers are increasingly concerned about their privacy, pushing companies to focus on privacy management to deliver personalized customer experiences. Gigantic companies like Microsoft, Apple, BMW and Amazon demonstrated great expertise in delighting their customers. These companies bolster competitive advantage right from their products to a series of customer interactions that develop into a relationship.

Customer relationships not only win repeat business, but also form a strong and large group of customer advocates, adding up to steady revenue growth, even in a flat market. Companies that create best customer experiences therefore, learned to view their markets through the lens of Loyalty Economics. Companies looking to improve their customer experience must focus on product characteristics and customer touch points like brand marketing and customer reach to products. For example, the customer touch point for BMW is superior performance. On the other hand, an insurance company must focus on how quickly customers can get information, make claims and deal with a service representative.

Building personalized customer experiences may demand stringent investments of time and money. Although, the investment pays off with customer satisfaction, so powerful to create customer advocates who tell brand stories in the marketplace every day across multiple platforms. Customer advocacy hence becomes a hidden competitive advantage that makes a difference in rough economic times.

Bain & Company has been been the source for some key concepts.