How Successful Brands Use Customer Experience As A Competitive Advantage

Henry Ford once said that customers could choose any color of the Model T automobile they desired, so long as that color was black. Yeah, that just ain’t gonna cut it these days. The reality is that customer experience is the new black.

How Successful Brands Use Customer Experience As A Competitive Advantage

Want to know what’s projected to be the number one differentiator of brands by the year 2020? You might think it’s technology. Or innovation. Or product offerings.

But you’d be wrong. According to Walker Information’s Customers 2020 report, it’s actually customer experience.

It’s time to meet the new 800-pound gorilla in the marketing world. Customer experience has exploded onto the scene and is now a fast-growing priority for marketing organizations of all kinds.

Forrester has built an entire practice around customer experience and says that focusing on customer-centricity is a company’s best bet for sustainable competitive advantage. In a Harris Interactive survey, 86% of respondents stated that they would pay more for a better customer experience. In the latest trends report by Econsultancy and Adobe, customer experience dominates the list of priorities for marketers.

Beyond enhanced differentiation, customer experience holds many benefits to the marketer. The companies that excel at customer experience often boast strong loyalty rates, premium pricing, and raving fans. A Watermark Consulting study found that customer experience leaders outperformed the broader market, generating a total return 26 points higher than the S&P 500 Index. In comparison, customer experience laggards in the study posted a negative return on investment.

With this in mind, it would behoove any marketer to learn from the best of the best in customer experience. Here are three that stand out.

Warby Parker

By focusing on a new paradigm for customer experience, Warby Parker is disrupting the eyewear market. Whether its school bus tours around the country, its buy-a-pair give-a-pair program, or the creation of gorgeous real-world stores with the utmost attention to design aesthetics, Warby Parker is continually giving you reasons to tell your friends and family about the brand. When prospective customers started asking questions of the brand via Twitter, the Warby Parker team started responding with one-to-one video answers. The company has now published more than 2,000 such videos.

Today, more than 50% of the company’s website traffic is driven by word of mouth. As co-founder Neil Blumenthal explains, these are the best types of people to attract as customers, as those introduced to the brand by a referral have a higher lifetime value than other types of customers.

Has the focus on customer experience worked for Warby Parker? You be the judge: In just five years, the company is now valued at more than $1.2 billion!


The business communication software company Slack came to be valued at more than $2.8 billion within two years of its launch through nothing less than an absolute obsession with the customer experience. By focusing on customer feedback, the company has internalized the customer experience in everything it does. Slack team members are voracious readers of user feedback. From the start, the company ensured that users could respond to every email that it was sending. As feedback comes in, it continually iterates the product. If users are having problems, it fixes the issues immediately rather than waiting for the next release.

Whereas some companies see customer support as a burden, Slack has always viewed it as a strategic asset. So much so that the founder himself responded to roughly half of the inbound messages for a long time. In addition, the app itself contains a command to provide Slack with feedback.

Bill Macaitis, the company’s CMO, says that it’s important to prioritize customer-centric metrics like NPS (net promoter score), CSAT (customer satisfaction score), and daily active usage over sales metrics. Building customer obsession into the DNA of the company has resulted in Slack adding over $1 million in new contracts every 11 days, clearly indicating the power of a positive customer experience.

GE Healthcare IT

GE Healthcare IT delivers medical technology and services for improved patient care. As an early adopter of NPS, GE Healthcare IT has always prioritized customer satisfaction feedback.

By focusing on customer experience, GE Healthcare IT gained a holistic, real-time picture of customer health. Like Slack, it now takes action on customer feedback immediately as it comes in, a great improvement over a process that historically had taken the company 15 to 30 days to complete. With the real-time approach to responding to customer feedback, GE Healthcare IT’s NPS skyrocketed from 70 to 84 within a single year. An NPS of 84 is not only a high level by itself, but is especially strong in the healthcare space.

In addition to customer feedback, its focus on the customer experience includes visits by GE employees to hospitals where its equipment is being used to understand the experience from the customer’s eyes. For example, GE representatives noticed that when children entered the room for an MRI, some would break down in tears. The representatives therefore tried to “live” the experience from the children’s perspective, even getting down on their knees to see the room from a lower eye level.

They decided to transform the room into an adventure landscape so that the children would feel like they were boarding a pirate ship. This led to having technicians greet the kids in the waiting room with a pirate hat and a welcoming, “Aaaarrr ye ready?,” along with coconut aromatherapy in the MRI room itself. The kids went from tears to excitement, and it became easier to capture accurate scans as the children were calmer during the procedure. Through the process, GE Healthcare IT also gained a differentiated competitive advantage.


Henry Ford once said that customers could choose any color of the Model T automobile they desired, so long as that color was black. Yeah, that just ain’t gonna cut it these days.

The reality is that customer experience is the new black. Companies like Warby Parker and Slack are proving that very quickly. Focus your marketing organization like crazy on improving the customer experience, and your brand can expect greater customer acquisition, retention, and buzz, all leading to accelerated business growth.

See what the Twitterverse is saying about customer experience: