Developing a Killer Customer Experience

Posted by | August 22, 2017

With each technology cycle, there is a predictable “technology-first” focus among companies, both small and large, aiming to position their business in a very non-descript way. Recently, there have also been famous “mobile-first” and “cloud-first” initiatives. And just about any minute, I am expecting to hear “we are an ‘AI-first’ company” from someone, given the current progress in the field of artificial intelligence.

But how about pushing the technology into the background and talking about a “customer-first” approach? The good thing about a customer-first approach is that it always remains constant. You don’t have to change the customer-first strategy as new technologies emerge. Technologies will continue to enable and enhance this approach, leading to satisfied customers of your product.

Recently, at the Safeguard Scientifics Partners’ Meeting, I had the privilege of moderating a panel on the topic, “Developing a Killer Customer Experience”.

During the discussion, three very customer-focused executives – Todd Pierce (Chief Digital Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Bruce Brown (Former CTO and Head of Global R&D, Procter and Gamble), and Tim McDermott (Chief Business Officer, Philadelphia Union) – shared their thoughts on changing business dynamics.

These were the most important takeaways:

Know Your Customer

This, of course, is pretty obvious. With sophisticated market research, companies are able to segment their customers across many dimensions (geography, purchasing power, gender etc.) and identify a specific product need or interest. But this data driven approach needs to be even further engineered to get to customers on a more human level.

For example, if a product is a medicine, a medical device or a procedure, then the customer is not just the patient or the doctor, but often the family members who are intimately involved in care decisions. Their collective experience needs to be accounted for in the overall customer experience of the medical product. My local music school proprietor is very empathetic in stating his customers are not only the young students, but also the parents of the students. He needs to understand everyone’s needs and tailor his teaching and overall experience to meet both groups.

Don’t Overload the User Experience

Too often there is a temptation to provide intricate bells and whistles to our products and services. Some of the best customer experiences we encounter are relatively simple, such as one-click or voice-enabled easy buy mechanisms from platforms like Amazon. Or the swipe-right/swipe-left approaches to many mobile apps. No doubt there is very sophisticated technology behind these experiences, but the technology complexity is masterfully hidden while delivering a simple customer experience. Every product or service ought to start with the customer experience and customer journey in mind.

Be the Customer

How does a customer behave when interacting with your product? Get to know the way they will utilize key features. What do you observe working well for them? What points of friction during their experience do you see that can be conquered with better design? In essence, be the customer yourself. Establish a mechanism where you or your team routinely can spend time in the field with the customers to learn exactly what works and doesn’t work so you can continue to improve the comprehensive experience.

Customer Experience at the Executive Table

Themes described above can be better employed when the company gives customer experience personnel a seat at the management table along with revenue management, engineering, marketing, strategy, etc. Many companies are recognizing this by having a prominent functional role such as the chief customer officer. This person or her team should always be able to test the questions like: “is this useful to the customer; will it be a pleasant and intuitive experience.” If the customer experience has equal standing in relation to other key functions, the odds are much higher of being able to deliver a killer customer experience.

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