Are we talking the right language of customer experience?
Many customer experiences simply happen because when it comes to the attitude and processes, we hear people say “We’ve always done it this way”. And if it works today, why not? Well, for a start things could be so much better. Maybe – and I’ve often seen – things aren’t actually working in the way your customers want. The consequences of complacency are huge yet that word rarely, if ever, makes an appearance on the “risks and issues” log.
There’s an equally risky parallel in the language of customer experience; the risk being that we have all adopted the phrases and platitudes over time to the extent where if we’re all thinking the same way, having the right and differentiated customer experiences will be so much harder to achieve. I’ve written before on the need for differentiated experiences from differentiated thinking.
For example, in a workshop where you have people from Operations, Marketing, Sales, Finance and Legal teams, many of them will be seeing this stuff for the first time. They might be cynical, they might be enthusiastic but they need to hear and understand with absolute clarity the words being used. Here are some examples, with some suggestions where the vocabulary could be different in order to get people in the right mind-set to bring about better outcomes. They’re not going to become mainstream and you will have your own thoughts, but the idea is to avoid the risk of undifferentiated stakeholder experiences because the language being used internally is itself undifferentiated
Customer Experience or Customer Memory
To talk about “experiences” has become commonplace and inevitably perhaps, it is diluted in its impact. To those keen to pile in, it suggests that our focus should be mostly just on the “what happens”. Our thinking becomes limited to the very functional aspects of what we do because that’s the tangible bit. Yet we know that what affects the likelihood of someone coming back to us next time, spending more more often and telling everyone else, is what they recall when they’re about to do that – their memory about how easy it was and how it made them feel. Another post looks at that “customer memory” in more depth.
We need a customer journey map for that! or We need a customer story for that!
This often-heard comment in meetings is followed by someone retrieving a linear process map to use as what they see as an acceptable alternative.
To create a customer journey still implies a simple A-B set of interactions but the very use of the word “journey” still suggests a functional, linear approach. What we need to know and create is the story that a customer will tell someone else. We’re all people, we’re all customers; when we do business with a company or go to a restaurant we don’t consciously set out to go on a “journey” but what we then think and talk about in terms of what it was like becomes very much a story.
The end-to-end journey or From last time to this time to next time
Having an end-to-end journey helps fit with the logical side of our thinking. Conveniently, it also fits the left to right concept that is perpetuated by PowerPoint and Excel. I’m guilty, I’ve created loads in my time but it still is not reflective of how our customers – or us when we’re going about our daily lives – really think about things. Maybe we need a pyschologist to really create accurate representations of what it’s like to be a customer. But while I’m all for keeping things simple, end-to-end still suggests a definitive start and finish point. If we really want to understand our customers then we need to think way beyond those boundaries.
The voice of the customer or What people think
Talk to a room of people about the “voice of the customer” and there are sage nods and chatter about feedback surveys. Again though, it risks limiting the understanding of what we’re really driving at here. It’s not just about hearing what our customers are saying, it’s about understanding why people think and feel the way they do. It’s also not just about sharing what customers think, it’s very much about our own employees too. After all they are the ones who are making the the experience what it is and are often the ones who know what to fix. However, no-one has listened to them or has acted on what they said because business leaders are focused solely on turning the “voice of the customer” into a higher net promoter score.
I have the privilege of working across a variety of markets with talented people in all sorts of organisations and with an infinite number of challenges. One common theme though, especially when people are going on their own personal journey of customer experience familiarity is that the language becomes a proxy for leadership of the customer agenda. Giving it the clarity and relevance it deserves, thinking about it differently to your competitors who are reading text-books and listening to career consultants will give you the differentiation your organisation needs.
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