A customer manager from a service company recently asked me “How would you define Customer Experience and how would manage it?”. This question is twofold and remains a never-ending challenge for most companies. My answer can be visualized as follows, a rather holistic view based on a model which has been around for quite some time now (Servqual by Zeithaml, Parasuraman & Berry, 1988):
Put simply: in each marketplace, the experienced service quality should be at least at par with the expected service quality. In other words, meeting customer expectations is the very starting point to satisfied customers. Right? This is easily put but still remains quite challenging for most companies. “Who is your customer?”, “What does he or she expect?” These aren’t new or surprising questions. As a previous market researcher, I witnessed how much money companies put in trying to identify customer needs and expectations. Consider all your Usage & Attitude surveys, focus groups, client panels, observations, satisfaction surveys, customer analytics, etc. Nonetheless, I think we all agree it remains challenging to really “understand” customers, even in our data-driven economy, and that’s just the start of it …
This misunderstanding of customer needs and expectations by management is referred to as ‘the knowlegde’ gap in the Servqual model. I cannot estimate the size of this first gap but I think it’s fair to say management still struggles with identifying customer value and true satisfaction drivers.
The second part of our initial question regards “managing the Customer Experience”. In order to manage the customer experience, you need to clearly define WHAT the customer experience should be. This is where strategy, service design, customer journey mapping, concept testing and storytelling enter the game. Which service will you promise and offer to your customers. What is your value proposition taking into account customer needs and company purpose? And how does this defined customer experience translate into clear service specifications?
Mistakes in the translation of customer needs into a solid customer offering with the right service specifications is referred to as the ‘specifications gap’. Here again I can’t specify the relative size of this gap but I still see to many customer processes and offerings which aren’t in line with available customer insights. How do you align your business processes to your latest customer insights?
A last challenge in your quest towards happy customers is actually delivering the defined customer experience. Are all processes, systems and employees fully aligned and ready to deliver the defined customer service? Implementing the customer experience involves customer oriented processes which are user friendly and consistent. It requires the right culture combining operational excellence and customer centricity. Mistakes in customer service delivery are part of the implementation gap.
Looking at all the above, it’s fair to say that a Customer Experience Manager who strives to really manage the customer experience has a hell of a job. The difficulty lays in silo-busting to align business operations from front to back and in getting HR on board to work on customer obsessed employees.
Ask yourself, does your Customer Experience Manager (CXM) has the mandate and power to fully manage the customer experience?
I guess not…
So who is?
…maybe your CXM should be your CEO, or vice versa?