What comes to mind when you think about recent shopping experiences? Did a retailer create a positive, friendly customer experience, leaving you wanting to buy from them again? Did another company leave you feeling frustrated, angry, and wondering why some businesses just don’t get it?
How One Retailer Does It Right
I purchased my favorite jeans in 2016 from a national shopping mall clothing chain. The jeans look good, feel good and I wear them repeatedly – even repairing a large rip rather than throwing them away! With my pair of jeans in its last days, I went to the retailer’s store to replace them.
A team of friendly, eager employees greeted me upon walking in, much like the store in 2016. The computer system easily found a record of my 2016 jeans purchase, including a picture. Unfortunately, the jeans are no longer being produced. However, the system’s AI identified a similar cut, style, and color of jean in inventory. In only a few minutes, I was purchasing the replacement jeans, shipping to my home for free.
Yes, I will buy from that retailer whenever possible in the future.
Winning in the Marketplace
One way for an organization to “win” is through a differentiated customer experience. It’s why buying a shirt at a high-end department store feels different than purchasing the same shirt at a discount outlet. A differentiated customer experience sets an organization apart from competitors and keeps customers loyal.
With metrics and data available now more than ever before, business leaders facing organizational choices have the necessary information to guide decisions and increase the speed of implementation. However, leaders who desire a differentiated customer experience still need to determine the organizing choices needed to effectuate the strategic initiative. In the previous retailer example, many organizing choices were made and built into the organization to deliver the differentiated customer experience.
As explained in our book, “Mastering the Cube: Overcoming Stumbling Blocks and Building an Organization that Works,” understanding the gap between current and needed capabilities is the crux of organizational design. Our Cube Model is used to guide the development of capabilities for a differentiated customer experience – or any other value proposition around the systems of your organization.
How to Succeed with a Differentiated Customer Experience
The following explains how organizing choices impact the goal of a differentiated customer experience. It also outlines dos and don’ts to consider as you plan your strategy:
Work Processes: Imagine asking for help from an employee in a big box store who is more engaged in stocking shelves, leaving you wondering whether the store cares about helping customers find what they need.
- DO scrutinize employees’ work to discern the activities and touch points that create value for customers.
- DO categorize work activities based on the strategic impact to customers.
- DON’T prioritize work activities based exclusively on previous contributions to the organization’s success.
Information and Metrics: Apple retailers retrieve detailed information about customer purchases in just a few seconds. Not sure which model your Apple Watch is? They know your model, purchase date, and available upgrades. Arguably, providing a differentiated customer experience today requires an Apple store level of technology.
- DO anticipate your customers’ future needs and wants.
- DO commit to new technologies for your frontline workforce that have the greatest direct impact on the customer experience.
- DON’T wait for the competition before making changes to digital capabilities.
Leadership and Culture: One key to Starbucks’ tremendous success is a company-wide commitment to promoting values and modeling behaviors of an inviting, friendly store atmosphere.
- DO develop business values that clearly define expectations for the customer experience. For example, a Starbucks value is “Be personally accountable and responsible for the outcome of every single customer interaction.”
- DO identify positive sentiments in your organization’s current culture and use them to create positive customer experiences.
- DO reinforce desirable behaviors through appropriate recognition and rewards.
- DON’T assume culture will shift by simply directing people to change the way they think and function.
Customer Experience Done Right is Hard to Beat
Providing an exceptional customer experience is a moving target, requiring commitment and communication throughout all aspects of your organization. Done right, it’s a strategy that is difficult for competitors to emulate, increases customer loyalty and benefits your company’s position in the marketplace.