Innovating the Customer Experience
Innovation is an interesting concept. At its core, innovation means something new. Well, the customer experience is certainly not a new idea. In fact, there are very few new things to discover. We marketers have been trying to crack the code on that since the dawn of time. I think we over use and misuse the word. We use it because of the image it invokes.
What we are talking about is doing something different. Differentiation is what we seek. In marketing and management, we use the term differentiation when addressing matters to do with uniqueness and branding where a product or a service clearly stands out. It is a rich term and can be applied by virtually everyone without exhausting its use.
The customer experience is a differentiating process for marketers. What we seek is a universal approach that works with all people and can be performed by anyone in your company to the ultimate perfection of making them a loyal customer … and that’s where we take our swan dive of failure with the customer experience. A process invokes a desired outcome. Failure to achieve the desired outcome introduces the need to change the process. It’s the expectation that inevitably accompanies the differentiation process that leads to our downfall and the need to keep changing our process to improve or as we like to say, innovate the outcomes.
As is my nature, I like to read a wide cross section of opinion on concepts such as innovation and differentiation. I think its more a sanity check than anything else. I tried not to influence the search engine too much (they do a pretty good job of that on their own) but was amazed at the lack of diversity in the information returned for my query. Practically every article on customer experience on SERP pages 1 and 2 were written by marketers with an angle. I tried several variations on the search resulting in mostly the same set of articles. You would think that the search engines, defenders of the people from irrelevant content, would provide some content from unbiased and authoritative sources describing what kind of an experience they want from a brand. However, common sense kicked in and the fact that search engines are a business just like us reared its ugly head. We concoct a strong brew and make the mistake to drink it every day. But, I digress.
The customer experience is not a business proposition or a differentiation process or an innovative, new idea. It’s a cultural phenomenon that runs afoul of marketing best practices as we known them today. Our idea of a positive customer experience is insistently following the customer around in his/her journey on the web for that day and meet them in their multi-channel, multi-device world with interactive rich media ads or offers to buy what they’ve been looking at … in other words, we have an expectation attached to our effort to create a positive customer experience.
Culturally speaking, we are missing the boat. The customer experience is all about turning loose a corporate culture of inclusion, community involvement and goodwill. It’s all about going beyond marketing without an expectation of getting something in return. Oh, the returns will come in time because the customer is ruled by the same cultural truths as the corporate entity should be. They will go above and beyond in supporting the company that makes them happy in creating positive experiences in life. Eastern cultures have thousands of years of a head start on Western countries in understanding the value of that. The Japanese call it “omotenashi” … an intriguing cultural practice in both life and business.