24.10.2016 In seek of the ultimate customer experience

    Many of us remember the experiences years ago when we associating at the inspection station for a vehicle inspection. You would register at the station's "service desk" with your hat in your hand. The exchange could not be described as a service. The staff almost scolded their "customers" and then you had to wait for the inspection in your car outside. Sometimes even for hours.

This customer experience did not necessarily result in happy customers, but was in its own way ultimate – unforgettable as an "odd" event. Luckily customer experiences today are much more positive – especially in the abovementioned industry and now in private inspection companies.

Much has been written about the customer experience. Many companies claim to be customer oriented, but one look at the surveys done with the customers tells a different story. It says a lot about how our customer understanding is inadequate. Customers are used to good service and even to a customer experience beyond expectations. However, despite this many Finnish companies are shadowed by the lack of understanding in customer experiences. The focus is still too much in product features and the subtleties of the manufacturing process. These are important issues on their own, but communication regarding them should be left in-house. In the end the customer is not interested in our modern assembly lines. They are interested in their own challenges and whether or not we can create value to them, solve their problems.

In these tough economic times we can ask: should we emphasize on good products and functioning service or focus our resources on a service beyond the expectations of our customers, on the ultimate customer experience?

The party responsible of this question is the senior management, as the customer experience is based on the company's strategy, the abovementioned customer understanding and the company's culture. Depending on the industry, the customer experience's strategic value is different. Some foreign online stores have for example focused on making online shopping easy and flexible. Transacting in some online stores can even be addictive.

When implemented the ultimate or even good customer experience brings better profitability. Customers stay as customers, so the costs in the acquisition of new customers are lower. Satisfied customers are neither as price sensitive when receiving service beyond expectations for example in the form of fast delivery or flexibility. The amount of reclamations or returns is lower, which in turn lowers the costs involved in handling them.

If all the aforementioned benefits and savings can be pointed out, what is missing in the senior management of companies?

All companies involving customers offer experiences to their customers. Each company has the opportunity to offer its customers the ultimate customer experiences, but often this doesn't happen. The experience stays in an abstract level and fades into the midst of "softer values" without a clear connection to business. Many companies haven't found the reason to focus on the customer experience. This might tell something about the industry's competition. The change in the industry is yet to happen and the company's business is proceeding steadily without any major crisis. Only the changes in the industry launch the crisis that will help implementing changes to a more customer oriented direction.

Customer experience is built by the entire staff with their knowledge, passion and actions. Customer experience is the sum of all images, emotions and encounters that the customer constitutes from the actions of a single company. Transacting and encounters happen more and more often online, depending on the industry of course.

The best way to start improving the customer experience is to look at different customer encounter from the customer's point of view and interviewing customers for strengthening the customer understanding. In online transactions we often talk about the customer's purchase journey. What a coherent and customer value adding purchase journey consists of and what does it requires from us? What annoyed the customer, when they discontinued the purchasing process? Why did they end up shopping again? The seek for an ultimate customer experience doesn't necessarily have to be so overwhelming.