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.