Customer Experience

In May, I visited Salesforce.com World Tour in London — an amazing event. Every Keynote presentation was about CX (Customer Experience)… In a nutshell — end to end control and conjoined execution, aimed at providing best customer experience is the way to win today. We’ve entered the age of the customer — an era when focusing on customers is more important than any other strategic imperative.

It’s not about Internet and Tech companies only, that’s why it is not about UX. It’s about CX. Businesses seem to be rediscovering a simple truth — Customer is the single reason for any business’ existence. Companies from various sectors such as retail, car manufacturing, home appliances, and even heavy industry wake up, increasingly wining or losing on the battleground of customer experience. Arguably, only companies that recognize that they are in ‘CX business’ are successful.

WHY?

  • Commoditization has stripped away existing sources of differentiation. Competitive barriers of the past — such as manufacturing strength, distribution power, and information mastery — can’t save you today. Traditional industry boundaries have dissolved. Automakers now find themselves competing not only with other automakers but also with services like Zipcar, which obviates the need for car ownership.
  • Customers have more power than ever. With online reviews, social media, and mobile access, it’s easy for your customers to know more about your products, services, competitors, and pricing than you do. Your business is transparent for the customers, whether you want it or not. As strategy guru Michael Porter said: “Where the buyer has full information about demand, actual market prices, and even supplier costs, this usually yields the buyer greater bargaining leverage.”

Convinced? SO, WHAT NOW? 

You can find plenty about business processes transformation, aligning them with the customer journey, and how data will boost your customer intimacy… But the truth is you have to start with PEOPLE.

The organization and its people have to change their practices and behavior, their attitudes and beliefs. Data driven marketing and decisions, process alignments and new customer communication channels are the tools, which help. However, they will render barren and useless, if mindset and behavior don’t change. All CX leaders understand that they can provide a great experience only through frontline employees. Such CX begins with workers who know about it, care about it, and are well positioned to deliver it.

That’s why it is so difficult and takes time —  behavior and mindset change takes a lot of investment on the leadership side and ROI is not ‘obvious’. It’s a decision of “true/false” type, not of positive or negative NPV. Everyone in the organization has to believe in a CX programme and to engage with it actively. Employees must know that leadership clearly understands the situation, has an organized way to move forward, and is serious about change.

We have entered the age of the customer. Relatively quickly, we’ll see businesses, which managed to adapt, rise and those who can’t — fall. Exciting times!

Any business starts with Sales. 

Forward Business Planning

 

…or rather with Customer?

I have heard many times: “Develop a killer product – that’s the most important for your business.” It seems to be especially common among wannabe entrepreneurs in technology sector.

I heard it from a startup in quite a traditional segment, too. “Have you tested your idea and concept with a potential customer?” – was my question… “No” – was the answer.

Well, if you can’t sell your great product (have no customers), there is little sense in such business, isn’t it? The business I speak about went bust after having burnt money for about a year.

Unfortunately, this happens to many startups – tech and non-tech alike. The basic laws of business are universal and apply to any sector.

“The purpose of any business is to create a customer.” #PeterDrucker.

Here are 3 simple suggestions that I hope will help you (and your investors) avoid costly mistakes:

1. Talk to your customer early. You are obsessed about your product (even if it is at an idea stage only), you have very good reasons to believe it is great. That means you probably can guess who would share your opinion. Talk to them, put your enthusiasm to a test. And if they “don’t get it” you probably need to change either your concept, or audience (market) – talk to adjacent group (age, occupation, sex, income level, activity, habits, etc.)

2. Gather feedback, never stop. And go beyond asking ‘how can I make this product better?’ Ask ‘how/where do you see such product/service used?‘  You may be amazed by the insights you get. This may lead you to a different market segment or application.

3. Sell it. Yes, even when it’s just a prototype, try selling it. In fact, try selling a similar product before or while developing yours. First, this will show if it is going to fly at all. Second, you can gauge the price/value for your future business. Third, you will learn a whole lot about your customers  – what’s really important to them and what’s not. Finally, if you’re selling, you already have customer base and sales channel – you have a business.

So, in the end, it all does start with sales.