Customer Experience Doesn't Matter...Until it Does
In This Issue
Consumer Reports recently published a survey about cable TV companies. They had a couple of not-surprising findings:
- Consumers hate their cable companies, and
- More and more consumers are finding alternatives to cable TV
Both of these are well-known trends, and it's hard not to conclude that they're deeply related. For decades cable TV companies have enjoyed monopoly status in most markets, and since revenue growth was mostly a matter of selling bigger packages to existing customers and buying up smaller companies, cable companies have largely ignored their customer experience.
The result is a horrible service experience (which is not only bad for customers, but is also shockingly inefficient and expensive) and years of pent-up ill-will.
It's no wonder that when viable alternatives to traditional cable TV become available, customers started cutting the cord. This is especially true of younger consumers, who never got into the cable habit to begin with and don't see why they should spend hundreds of dollars a month for TV. For them, Netflix is much better and much cheaper.
Customer experience doesn't always drive revenue growth, as there are many factors which go into buying decisions. But customer experience does drive goodwill and loyalty.
In those industries where customers' choices are limited by things like the lack of viable alternatives and difficulty switching vendors (such as cable TV, airlines, banks, and mobile phone companies) it can be very tempting to under-invest in customer experience.
But that's a dangerous approach. If your customers don't like you, they'll head for the exits when an alternative becomes available. And it doesn't matter how deeply entrenched your business is: sooner or later there will be an alternative.
It's extremely difficult to turn around a bad reputation. So even if you think customer experience doesn't matter to your business, someday it will. When that day comes, will your customers be loyal? Or will they flee?
Longtime readers will know that I don't normally write book reviews in this newsletter. In fact, this will be my first. But when I was asked if I would review Jeanne Bliss' new book, Chief Customer Officer 2.0, it was easy to say Yes. Jeanne is a bona-fide guru of customer experience, and this update to her 2006 Chief Customer Officer is a book I was probably going to have to read anyway.
Chief Customer Officer 2.0 is a good introduction to the principles and practices of customer experience, aimed at the executive who needs to make it work (or the manager who needs to work with the executive to make it work). Jeanne lays out the five major competencies of a customer-centric organization: managing customers as assets, aligning around experience, building a customer listening path, being proactive in the experience, and one-company leadership/accountability/culture.
For each of these competencies, the book provides a description of what's involved, the benefits to be gained by achieving competence, anecdotes from various organizations' journeys, and a few ideas to get you going.
What Chief Customer Officer 2.0 won't provide you is all the nuts and bolts of how to execute each of these competencies. You will learn the importance of managing customers as assets and a general sense of what that means, but there's no accounting formula for establishing what that means to your company. You will understand the value of listening to customers as they travel along your customer journey, but this book doesn't instruct you on how to write a good survey.
Instead, Chief Customer Officer 2.0 sticks to the big picture. This is, in my view, the right approach. Each of the five competencies requires a lot of experience and getting a lot of details right in order to gain maturity. Trying to include all that in a single book would get bogged down in a level of minutiae and make it hard to grasp the larger picture.
If I have one complaint about this book, it's that Jeanne presents the five competencies as roughly equal in importance. While all five are important, I would argue that the fifth competency, Leadership, Accountability, and Culture, is the most important of the group. In my observations, companies which have the Leadership, Accountability, and Culture usually develop enough competence in the other four areas to drive a customer-centric organization (even if they never embark on a formal Customer Experience program). But if that leadership element is lacking, even a high level of maturity in other areas can go to waste because the organization doesn't care.
At the end of the day, if you or your organization want to become more customer-centric, this is a book you want to read. It won't give you all the answers, but it will give you the framework to start asking questions.