Businesses are always looking to provide greater value to their customers, as well as achieving greater profitability and market differentiation. One modern approach to this is a relentless commitment to customer experience (CX).
Customer experience is the perception customers have about interacting with a business. It covers all interactions, whether physical or digital.
CX has become more than just a fashionable activity; it’s now something that more and more businesses are obsessing over. They recognise that CX separates the ‘good from the great’.
Great customer experience also needs to be supported by great customer service. Sometimes your app may fail, your customers’ accounts may be blocked. There are many things that can go wrong when we interact with technologies. Customer service functions to recover us from such failures and challenges.
Understanding the entire relationship between customer experience and customer service allows us to focus on aspects of that relationship to improve or enhance.
This is customer focus. And this is how modern businesses serious about long-term success are operating.
Customer focus is the lens through which you understand the customer experience you deliver, and how it is supported by customer service.
It is the mindset, the skills, the leadership, the performance measurement, and the strategy. Achieve an organisation-wide customer focus and you will see the extraordinary effect on your delivered customer experience.
Here we’ll look at the benefits of customer focus. In a follow-up article we will explore what customer focus looks like in practice, and how your organisation can achieve it.
Customer focus delivers competitive advantage
In September 2018 Amazon became the second US company to achieve the milestone of a $1 trillion market valuation. One month earlier, Apple became the first.
Both companies, operating with different business models, share a commitment to providing superior CX over their competition. Through a broad, multi-disciplinary approach they deliver an exemplary level of experience.
This multi-disciplinary approach is not new. Instead, what Amazon and Apple have achieved is the successful blending of digital and physical. When the digital experience is superior, and is blended with a solid physical experience, the holistic customer experience is compelling and highly differentiated. This blending of exceptional experience is simply not feasible without organisation-wide customer focus.
Closer to home, UK bank Monzo offers an overall CX way ahead of the market, achieved through constant experience innovation. Indeed, CX is key to the banking industry, with good customer experience being the most highly valued attribute and making a financial difference measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to recent Forrester research. If such excellent CX could be achieved through happenstance, many more banks would be enjoying the commercial benefits. It takes relentless customer focus to rise to the top.
Exceptional customer experience therefore becomes an enticing 21st century challenge, with outsized financial rewards for those who are successful. Customer focus is the key to making the right strategic decisions to achieve these rewards.
Image: Palace of Versailles | Credit: mtnmichelle
Customer focus delivers an exceptional overall experience
“The whole is always greater than the sum of the parts.”
This famous quote is true for most things, yet it holds even deeper significance for customer experience. We at Nomensa believe the most important aspect of anything physical or digital is the experience we have—the experience we feel—when interacting with the whole.
To help our clients understand how customer focus delivers a great overall experience, we often use a metaphor from architecture.
Do you think the greatest cathedrals and palaces were conceived by an architect who could not picture in their minds the entire construction project? Someone who could not envisage its splendour from all perspectives?
Typically, organisations improve specific parts of their ‘digital buildings’—a new homepage here, an improved signup journey there—but no one understands the effect on the overall experience. Those companies are simply good at micro experiences. They typically do not have the skills, thinking or understanding of how to scale up their customer experience efforts to create something that feels valuable and unique.
Instead, designing a great overall customer experience is analogous to designing an amazing building. As well as the micro experience, you also need to consider the macro experience. You must visualise the overall shape, scale and impact of the building, whilst still appreciating the smaller experiences that come from interacting with it.
The best architects approach this challenge with an open mind, continuously cultivating what they see and exploring how they can apply their craft. They are obsessive in understanding how each part contributes to the whole. And they learn and work in a multi-disciplinary way, because each part is contributed by different people with different skillsets.
For organisations to achieve this level of success, customer focus is key. Your organisation’s ‘architects’ must understand how content, interactions, screens and journeys are part of a much wider and richer experience. They must understand how the technologies, physical interactions, customer service experiences and more fit together to deliver an exceptional whole.
Now, this understanding can be gained through collaboration. By working with others you develop appreciation for their craft, their challenges, and their needs within large projects. Collaboration encourages empathy. When we collaborate, everyone understands their role and the ultimate goal they are working towards.
But no matter the route to knowledge, architecture is needed, led by those who have the skills to plan and direct all the parts towards an excellent outcome.
This organisational customer focus, with architects coordinating the overall experience, is one of the reasons why Unicorn businesses such as Spotify, WeWork and Airbnb are changing the world. They are holistically focused, like Apple and Amazon, on the customer, and the entirety of their experience across physical and digital. They are playing at the intersection of design and technology—and succeeding.
Customer focus is your long-term differentiator
At Nomensa we believe customer focus is a core requirement of success in the modern digital era.
Past differentiators, such as technology, price and features, are now quickly and easily copied by nimble competitors.
In contrast, a rich experience resulting from relentless customer focus is hard to copy through the application of technology, and is therefore commercially defendable. It also drives extraordinary customer loyalty and higher Customer Lifetime Value. You need only look at the hand-wringing of competitors who can’t conceive of Apple’s success to see the power and potential of customer focus.
In our next article on we will share our Customer Focus framework and walk through the steps of creating an excellent customer experience for your organisation.