We have all been there. Annoyed that our shoe size is not available in the store… and storm off complaining about all the time they made us waste. Annoyed about having to wait in the house for 2 hours, a whole TWO hours!, for a scheduled delivery to arrive… and turn furious when we get notified at the end of it by a sadly sounding contact centre person that it won’t arrive at all that day. Annoyed when you show up at the Click & Collect counter and your prepaid-for item is not there ready to be picked up… and vow never ever to use that store again because of poor service…
Queen were amazing in many ways, but they certainly nailed the concept that we belong to the ‘I want it all and I want it now’ generation. We are the Amazon Prime customers who cannot wait for longer than a day for an item. We are the keen ScrewFix DIYers who want to Click & Collect their tools within 1 minute of placing the order. We are those who would never wait on hold for longer than a handful of minutes without turning into the Incredible Hulk.
Considering we are in the midst of the Experience Economy and most organisations are investing in improving CX, the unbelievable reality is that an astonishing 9 organisations out of 10 are still failing to meet their customers’ needs and expectations. But why is that? In my view, there are 3 main reasons:
REASON 1: Technology is increasing customer expectations and power – fast!
Many organisations are still trying to compete on the basis of pushing their products or services at lower prices, and therefore mainly focus on lowering their operating costs and digitising or automating their business models. But in the Experience Economy era, products and prices are no longer enough!
Technology has increased consumers’ expectations in a number of ways:
It has democratised information, as through the internet we now have immediate access to anything we may want to know. We can explore, learn, compare and access comparison sites, e-commerce platforms or know-how tutorials to find everything we need.
It has created the expectation for immediate gratification, where the availability of products at the best prices is taken for granted – compounded by very low levels of tolerance for bad service or low quality.
The ease of access to anything we need has created expectations for ultimate convenience, like real time click & collect, straight-through processing, or seamless cross-channel processes.
And ultimately this has accentuated a ‘me’ mentality, whereby we expect personalised and relevant services, tailor made to who we are and what we need, using data and tech to tailor services and recommendations to our specific preferences and circumstances.
Therefore, technology has shifted the power from organisations to consumers.
Now they are more informed and have immediate access to data, news, comparisons or reviews, which makes them very knowledgeable and powerful. They don’t need to rely on the selling company for information any more and prefer to listen to the unbiased and unfiltered transparency of other consumers’ views.
Indeed, consumers also have more voice, amplified by social media networks and the ability to rate and review service providers. These reviews and generally online communities are becoming increasingly powerful, turning into either the best friend or the worst enemy of organisations.
And this is because customers now also have more choice, easily and readily accessible and comparable. If they don’t trust you or feel that you won’t deliver to their expectations, they will simply go elsewhere.
All this is putting increasing pressure on the organisation, and its ability to keep healthy profit margins and remain competitive in an increasingly demanding environment.
REASON 2: Transformation is not fast enough (to meet those expectations)
Some recent research by Conduent shows that, despite most organisations are investing in digitising their customer journeys, still75% of them don’t provide enough support to enable successful self-service and 80% of their customers cannot achieve first-step resolution. This study also indicates that while customers tolerate only less than 10 minutes to solve a problem, most have to try multiple times to get answers and end up having to go through other channels to complete their journey.
Transformation is often too slow to deliver the ultimate benefits, and often improvements land too late, when the posts have already moved and expectations have evolved. Despite most companies now embrace the concept of ‘agile delivery’, many are still to too heavy and focused on old ways of working to truly deliver the pace and impact of change which is required to keep abreast of the ever-evolving customer landscape.
Needless to say, nearly half the respondents are dissatisfied with their provider and ready to move to another one, because of a combination of disjointed experiences, not getting the help and support they need and generally inconsistent service and experience across channels.
REASON 3: Technology is often an end in itself
Most organisations are still investing in technology as a way to drive cost savings, improve efficiency and digitise offline journeys. I see this happening across all sectors, private or public, and the most common trait is that this transformation is technology-led rather than customer-led. Technology is too often introduced to solve a business problem, rather than a customer problem. Online capabilities are built to reduce staff in physical venues or contact centres, but with a lack of customer focus and no understanding of the end-to-end journey or consideration for the impact on the customer experience.
This is because most organisations, despite paying lip service to the importance of putting the customer at the heart of everything they do, are still focusing on either building only the functional elements of the customer experience, or on those aspects which they believe their customers want – without engaging customers directly to explore what they value the most and to co-ideate and co-design customer journeys to meet their deeper emotional needs.
Technology is increasing customer expectations and shifting the power to customers, to the point that transformation is often too slow to meet those changing expectations or is driven an end in itself, instead of being the solution to a real customer need.
Organisations need to move from a digital-first mentality to a customer-first mentality.
To close the gap, they need to understand what customers truly need and expect and how today’s digital and tech environment is transforming those expectations – both at a functional and at an emotional level. But above all, they need to re-align their investment to that and design customer-led journeys to meet those deeper emotional needs and expectations…
… which requires the involvement of CX people (like me) in all digital and transformation programmes.