I went to Bahrain for the first time recently. I was a keynote speaker there for a Customer Experience conference. I was fascinated by the country. There is a lot of Customer Experience activity happening there.
Rami Sweis, the CEO of GolfCX invited me to speak at the conference. He explained on a recent podcast the reason improving Customer Experience is such a hot trend in the Middle East has been the liberalization of markets there.
For years, telecom, finance, and the transportation sectors have been regulated monopolies. The drop in the oil prices of late has forced governments to free up the markets, create competitive landscapes, and attract foreign investors. Moreover, it has happened not just in the Gulf region, but all over the Middle East. He said Customer Experience challenges are new to most organizations there.
The emerging businesses have been disrupting established companies that have been operating in the same way for 30 years. It has forced these old businesses to innovate, to re-establish relevance, and to compete with the new businesses. It has been a significant undertaking for these established businesses.
What’s more, the owners are concerned their decades-old, family-owned businesses could go under. Food and beverage businesses, for example, have been disrupted by third-party aggregators that have taken over delivery and tracking to the extent that these restaurants resemble virtual or ghost restaurants, a term used to describe a “delivery-only” venues. The restaurants don’t know how to adapt and protect their brand. Meanwhile, the revenues and margins are dropping while the business owners’ panic rises.
What can these businesses do? How can they adapt? What can we all learn from the situation unfolding in the Middle East wherever you call home?
I presented Seven Key Strategic Questions Critical to Customer Experience in my keynote address there. The answers to these questions are an essential part of improving Customer Experience to react to changing markets—and the disruptions to your bottom line.
The Seven Key Strategic Questions Critical to Improving Your Customer Experience
1. What is the experience that you are trying to deliver?
You need to define in no uncertain terms what you are striving to achieve with your Customer Experience. You are somewhere now; but you want to improve, which is to say you want to be somewhere else. You need to define where that is and share it throughout your organization. To test this concept, I like to ask three people in your organization from different departments this question and see if I get three different answers. Successful companies will have all three employees uttering the one response. However, most organizations do not have a clear articulation of the Customer Experience they are trying to deliver and we typically get three different answers.
2. What emotions are you trying to evoke in your customers?
Over half of a Customer Experience is about how customers feel. Relationships are all about emotions, and you have a relationship with your customers. For us, one of the key things we look for is an emotion that drives value (i.e., $$$$) for your organization. Knowing what that emotion is for your organization is critical and evoking it is, too.
3. What is your subconscious experience?
My regular readers (and regular podcast listeners) know that I talk about this a lot. A Customer Experience is made up of the rational experience, or the things a customer is doing, and the emotional experience, or how the customer is feeling about the experience. Also, there is the subconscious experience, which is the part of the experience of which the customer isn’t even aware but is happening beneath the surface. Finally, there is the psychological experience, which is how our brains influence our interpretation of and behavior during an interaction. The subconscious experience is often the part most organizations aren’t aware they are producing. It usually takes examining your experience from the outside in, as if you were a customer, to discover how the moments in your present experience affect your subconscious.
4. What do your customers really want?
What customers tell you they are going to do and what they do can be entirely different. For example, I often bring up the case of the type of food you eat at Disneyland. Park attendees told Disney they wanted the option of a salad. However, when guests ordered food at Disneyland, they ate hamburgers and fries. So, maybe what customers really want is a calorie-free hamburger and fries; now THAT would be some Disney Magic right there! All joking aside, customers might tell you they want something but then do something different within your experience. It is your job to ascertain what people really want in the experience (i.e., research) so you can provide it—even if they didn’t say it themselves. We use a tool called the Emotional Signature to discover what really drives value for an organization.
5. How well are you embracing your customers’ irrationality?
This question addresses all the concepts we cover about Behavioral Economics, which is how psychology affects our actions as customers. Your customers are people, which means they are mostly irrational beings. How they feel affects how they behave. If you don’t accept or believe this concept, then you will have problems improving your Customer Experience past a certain point. To take it to the next level of excellence, you need to understand your customers’ psychology and how your experience triggers their reactions. In our experience as global Customer Experience consultants, we find that most organizations do not understand these concepts or how their experience affects their customers’ psychological experience.
6. Is your Customer Experience deliberate?
Most organizations we work with have an experience that is accidental or consequential. In other words, they are unintentionally providing the experience they have. They have not considered how the moments throughout the Customer Experience evoke emotions and how those emotions affect the steps a customer takes next. Most organizations look at their experience from the inside and out at the customer. We encourage them to take an outside-in approach and experience the interaction with their organization as if they were a customer themselves. This exercise often reveals ways to design a Customer Experience that will be what they want instead of what they happen to have.
7. How customer-centric is your organization?
As global Customer Experience consultants, we often see organizations make the mistake of trying to improve their experience without actually changing anything in the organization. If you want the changes in your organization to be sustainable, it is critical to ensure that you start to change the organization’s culture to a customer-centric focus. When writing my second book Revolutionize Your Customer Experience, our research discovered that there are four orientations that an organization is within regarding customer-centricity: Naïve, Transactional, Enlightened, or Natural. The Natural companies are the most customer-centric, while the Naïve are not so much. To discover where your organization is now, you can do a self-assessment on our website.
So, those are the seven key strategic questions. No matter where you are in the world, from the streets of Bahrain to the streets of Bali to the streets of Baltimore, you should have answers to these questions. If you don’t, maybe it’s time you also asked yourself an eighth question: Why?
If you would like to discuss any of these questions or any of the concepts that we have introduced, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. One of my team or I will get back to you to discuss how these concepts and questions affect your organization and what are the next steps for you to take to improve your Customer Experience.