To me, customer experience management has always been about making a difference.
Literally, by helping the companies I worked for differentiate.
Metaphorically, by enriching their customers’ lives.
Over the years, this mindset allowed me to work on amazing projects. Across different teams, we transformed travel. Reinvented the automotive experience. Helped kids deal with scary RX machines. Made life insurance more human. We even turned wine into stories.
Along the way, we generated nice profits for everyone.
But in the past year, I found myself at odds with ‘CX wisdom’.
Everyone tells me we should all be more seamless, effortless, omnichannel and digitally personalised. Forrester pushes to invest in technology that 'improve experiences and cut costs'. Even ChatGPT seems to believe that a great customer experience is all about convenience, speed, consistency, transparency… oh yes, it also adds empathy as an afterthought.
Don’t get me wrong. I'm not opposed to any of these.
As a customer, I like my one-click solutions and I hate waiting on the phone for that contact centre. Invoices have to match orders. I want everything to ‘just work’ like my Mac.
As an exec, I see the appeal of automating for efficiency and scale.
But I feel we’re confusing customer experience with customer service
Customer service is all about saving me time, effort and confusion when getting my jobs done. I love it. It’s essential. We must get it right. And most times, as a customer, it's what I expect.
But experiences are about memorable moments. A sense of achievement. Connection. Transcending the common. Even transformation. They’re less about saving time and more about making sure my time is well spent (BTW: tip of the hat to Joe Pine for coining this distinction).
By taking this path, we run three considerable risks:
Risk #1: Commoditisation
If we all use the same tools, softwares, methodologies and mindset to get ever more seamless, we all become less unique. From a customer perspective, this means every insurance, ecommerce, accounting software or fork-lift experience looks and feels the same. This makes 'switching vendors' merely a matter of price, speed and convenience. Any of these advantages can be lost without clear (experiential) differentiation. Especially in a recession where every penny is counted twice.
Risk #2: Irrelevance.
Until further notice, business is done by humans. And neuroscience tells us that the human brain only notices what is ‘different’. So yes, if we remove all friction from a customer journey, we help the customer be as efficient as possible. We may even become a habit.
But we also, literally, make ourselves unremarkable. We encourage customers to take us for granted. When a more interesting proposition comes along, they may get all the attention.
Risk #3: Indifference.
Giving and getting customer smiles give us an oxytocin buzz that no Net Promoter of Customer Effort Score can match. Especially if these scores are used to imply we’re inadequate or that customers don’t really enjoy what we do.
By focusing too much on CX mechanics, we don’t just rob customers of a great experience. We also do it to ourselves. And without the experience of ‘making a difference’, our teams will increasingly become detached from the work they are (supposed to) do.
So here is my New Year’s Resolution for 2023.
In 2023, I will aim to for experiences that make a difference.
That differentiate the companies I work with by being ‘extra’-ordinary. That energise employees and ecosystems. That offer customers memorable moments. Create a sense of achievement. Connection. Even transformation.
This doesn’t exclude being seamless, effortless,… and more.
But it will challenge me, and those I work with, to dig deeper. To be more emotional. Unique. Relevant. In tune with the customer’s aspirations and identity.
So, I’m ready to ‘reboot’ my customer experience work.
How about you?
Do you want want to make a difference with me?
I aim to work with up to four clients in 2023, and I still have two slots left. So if you’re ready to level up your customer or employee experience, I’d love to hear from you. We can start small and pragmatic, but also develop a roadmap to transform your business. Perhaps your industry.
It’s not as hard as you may think. Though it does require an open mind.
What do you say? Shall we have a (virtual) coffee ☕️?
Alain Thys is an experience architect who helps organisations drive profit and transformation through experience.