Customer Experience – Digital Imperatives? (Part 2)

Customer experience is fundamentally about the quality of the interaction between the consumer and the company offering the service.  Companies are very keen to ensure that their declared brand values are seen as represented within their delivery experience.  A company called Havas Media publishes annually a report called “Meaningful Brands®” which seeks to measure that customer assessment of the overall experience.   It is fundamentally a report focused on measuring and understanding the dynamics around brand strength.  However, it adds the context of looking at how our quality of life and wellbeing connects with those corporate brands, i.e. the value judgements we make as we experience the service.  The research scale is impressive, 1,000 brands, 300,000 people, 34 countries and covering 12 industries. The report states that it “covers all aspects of people’s lives, including the impact on our collective wellbeing (the role brands play in our communities and the communities we care about), in our personal wellbeing (self-esteem, healthy lifestyles, connectivity with friends and family, making our lives easier, fitness and happiness) and marketplace factors, which relate to product performance such as quality and price”.

The Meaningful Brands® 2015 research shows that customer experiences that are felt to contribute significantly to the consumer’s individual quality of life or that of their society are rewarded with stronger business results.   In hard commercial terms the research claims that well rated Meaningful Brands outperform the stock market by some 133% and on average gain 46% more “Share of Wallet” than less well perceived players.  This analysis appears to support the assertions that many analysts have made that the transparency implicit in the digital age (reviews/referrals being examples) makes the integrity of the brand and the reality of the customer experience critical.   Interestingly as a technologist there are 5 technology companies in the top ten global performers and 3 in the top five; Samsung, Google and Sony. Geographic variations are also interesting, only 31% of brands are trusted in Western Europe and only 22% in America.  The percentage of brands that are perceived to contribute positively to quality of life are only 7% and 3% respectively.  In Latin America that measure is reported at 38% and even higher in developing countries in Asia at 75%.   Maria Garrido, Global Head of Data & Consumer Insights at Havas Media is reported as saying:  “Brands that enhance the wellbeing of people, communities and societies are more meaningful. In the West, we have a more functional relationship with brands so continuous innovation and product delivery is key. In high growth markets, the relationship between people and brands is one that focuses more on personal benefits. In these regions people look to brands to help them achieve economic status, better experiences and every-day inspiration”.   There is a wealth of information and analysis to be found on the Meaningful Brands website and it repays the time spent reviewing.

Business Ethics - shutterstock_292372004

I would argue that customer experience is not just about the quality of the interaction during the purchase transaction.  It is about the values of the brand and how they are felt by the customer as they experience the service and the degree to which they feel connected to that company.  The integrity of relationship and the ease with which disappointment can be widely shared are key factors in providing a compelling customer experience.  Digital technologies are enabling more direct interactions for companies with their customers.  The cost of direct engagement with customers relative to the recent past has dropped and is continuing to do so.   Equally at the same time digitalization makes information to assess service quality easily accessible and is enabling ever more transparency.   This complex relationship is explored in an excellent article in The Drum by Tash Whitmey entitled “Creating Experiences Customers Actually Value”.

Delivering highly valued customer experiences certainly includes the quality of the product offered and the qualitative nature of consuming it.  However, it also seems to be increasingly about how that consumption experience relates to the declared brand values and whether they are consistently lived by the company.   Indeed we have seen over the last year or so the impact on corporate reputations which have been tarnished by perceptions over their entirely legal but not admired tax optimisation strategies.  At the heart of this dynamics is a complex relationship between consumer and vendor.  How that relationship is valued by either party and how the integrity of the interaction is defined has become far more holistic and interesting in the digital age.

This post was previously published on the Business Value Exchange.
Image courtesy of

Customer Experience – Digital Imperatives? (Part 1)

I recently need to make changes to some mobile phone contracts for family members.  Our contracts were with two different mobile phone providers and one performed far better than the other.   The positive experience was with O2.  The website was clear and easy to use, the “instant messaging chat to advisor” service was quick and convenient, the human looking after me was engaging, efficient and extremely helpful.  A truly positive customer experience.  The other provider who I think should remain nameless provided an experience that had none of those attributes.  Customer experience in the digital age is often characterised as our demanding ever more flexibility in how we engage, ever more efficient and enjoyable transactions,  ever more rapid delivery and the truism of everything being immediately available at all times.   I held my engagement with O2 late on a Sunday night so I think I ticked a few of those characteristics!

The view of the consumer has arguably never been more important or more easily shared.  Over recent years the value of a referral or positive review has become increasingly important with access to many different sources at our fingertips.

I realised recently that I now automatically use reviews on sites like prior to booking any accommodation, sorting the available options by customer review scores.   Many market analysts assert that 75% of all purchase decisions are now preceded by a review, even if the review is online but the purchase is made in-store.   Of course in this context the trust in the review source and it offering the collation at sufficient scale for the scores to be meaningful is critical to creating trust in the data integrity.

At the heart of these enhanced customer experiences is the dynamic combination of mobile devices and cloud computing.  It is clear that the pace of change is stressing the capability and indeed budget of many IT organisations.   Someone recently pointed me at some excellent Forrester material on this challenge.  They use the term “Business Technology” and argue that successful CIOs need to lead their organisations from traditional style operating models to managing business technology outcomes and not IT assets.  Given a deal of this useful information is behind the Forrester paywall this Computer Weekly article is an excellent articulation of their argument, “Forrester – Manage Business Technology Outcomes Not IT Assets“.    At the same time I also recently came across an excellent article entitled 5 Metrics for Digital Success by Aaron Rudger.  I particularly liked his suggested five key metrics for the digital age: responsiveness, latency, third party app impact, load testing metrics and finally competitor benchmarking.  I will not do justice to the article here but it is well worth a read.

Digtial Service - shutterstock_203618407 (2)

Regardless of what you measure the challenges and the opportunities for IT teams is going to continue to evolve at pace.   A common message from analyst articles is that over the next five years the combination of the Internet of Things, pervasive cloud computing and big data will enable organizations to offer services which are able to learn and evolve, are contextually aware and able to react in real time to change.  So your strategy needs to ensure that the design is user-centric, that it provides for a high degree of personalisation and contextualisation and that you are able to rapid iterate to innovate.

Customer experience is fundamentally about the quality of the interaction between the consumer and the company offering the service.  The intent is to build a relationship of trust and value with the consumer so they are both a repeat buyer but more important an advocate for you.  There is as deal of research you can find that explores what transforms a buyer into a brand advocate.  The quality of the product or service is clearly key but is it sufficient?  Are there other factors being assessed by your customers when they decide whether to post that glowing review on your service?   I would argue that there are a range of criteria explicitly and implicitly being assessed every time someone experiences your service.  It would seem to me that the value judgements being made are becoming more sophisticated and perhaps based on some interesting research I recently read far more holistic that we might expect?

This post was previously published on the Business Value Exchange.
Image via