Experience not Service

Customer experience has become the new marketing. It influences brand perceptions and impacts business performance just as strongly as traditional Marketing once did. As my Chairman, Professor Nader Tavassoli  www.nadertavassoli.com reminds us: “Brands are promised by advertising but delivered by people.’

If you work in Insurance, you know this already. Easy claim settlement is your most powerful marketing tool.

Global research shows us that a good customer experience makes a person 

five times more likely to recommend a company and purchase in the future. In modern African businesses, Net Promoter scores (customer willingness to recommend) and Customer Effort scores must now part of every Marketer’s proof of efficacy, and should be regularly reviewed at Board level.

Customer Experience is now so important  that it has earned its own acronym (CX). And while I decry the use of acronyms, when it comes to customers I support the use of the word ‘Experience’ over the more traditional ‘Service’. Service is something that is taught and learned by rote. It’s prescribed, and when you prescribe something the best you can ever hope for is that employees do what you told them to. That’s why HR teams mistakenly invest in training to teach service skills. How much better it is to promote an attitude that encourages staff to see things from the customer point of view. And to build a culture that enables them to design their own innovations in daily customer interaction.

Customers are individuals, and the best way to engage them is to do so on a human level. Sure, you can set parameters for this. But in a modern business you should also try to find ways to release the power of individual staff members. 

I learned some great lessons in customer experience when we brought Virgin Atlantic to East Africa. Regular airline passengers to Europe certainly miss them today, and yearn for more vigorous airline competition on Customer Experience. While I appreciate that only a limited group of people fly internationally, Virgin Atlantic’s approach could be applied to any business. Virgin always divides Customer Experience into three levels:

Brilliant Basics – doing the expected, better than your competitors.

Magic Touches – using creativity to add memorable moments (the first airline to offer you an ice cream in the middle of a long flight).

Game Changers – using innovation to deliver something that no-one else does (door- to-door limousine transfer for Business Class passengers).

Segmenting CX delivery like this also makes it easier to deploy your more imaginative people where they can make the most impact on your customers. Leaving the less gifted to concentrate on delivering the basics … brilliantly.

Chris Harrison’s book ‘Marketing Medicine’ is available on Amazon

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