When was the Customer Experience ever NOT a Priority?

I have a hard time processing statements like this:
“Meeting the expectations of today’s consumer is tricky business.” These are really common types of statements in today’s digital centric, retail world and I’ve been seeing them a lot over the last couple of years. It’s as if the retail customer experience has changed. I mean like really changed. Since the dawn of retail time, A product is sold and a product is bought. If the retailer was nice to you, it was a plus. If the retailer knew your name, even better. If the product was good, that’s great. If the product was great, even better. If the product is inferior, then all bets are off. If the retailer, could care less, then consumers spoke with their dollars and their feet.

That has not changed. Even today.

What has changed is the ability to learn more about the customer. What hasn’t changed is the way you’re supposed to treat the customer. What hasn’t changed is giving the customer a great product or service. Why is this any different today than it was a hundred years ago? Has technology caused a greater divide in the customer experience? Maybe. I thought it was to close the chasm that was brought on by competition and choices. The thinking was that because marketers were now armed with lots of data there would now be a more harmonious relationship. A better customer experience.

Marketers have become so obsessed with tools and resources that drive sales, that they have forgotten about, wait for it, the customer and the experience. This is not a difficult thing. Sometimes I think that marketing stacks get so high that marketers and retailers can’t see the customer that’s standing behind them. To hear companies state that they are now, more than ever, going to start focusing on the customer, just baffles me. When did this change and why did it ever? Why are we making it so difficult?

 

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The Content Paradigm Shift

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I’m cutting to the chase. and feel free to disagree with me at any point when you think I’m wrong. Content curation tools are great. No really, they are, except all they do is pull the content in and that really is just half the battle. The content game played by every brand, everywhere, in some way, shape or form, is finding that content, every day, manually interpreting it and then tailoring it to their audience and then pushing it out. Every day.

Brands can and will measure its effectiveness, they fish where the fish are, and every day they push out more content. In the hopes that the consumer will bite; and in most cases they will. This is what digital marketing has become. It’s a game. The game has become more sophisticated about how it is played and approached, but guess what? The consumer has evolved as well. The consumer knows what content they like, what content they want, how they want to consume it and where they would like to consume it and on what device.

The bottom line is you cannot automate the customer experience. Creating a truly fluid customer experience might be automated across devices and platforms, but to understand what your customer wants and needs has to be interpreted manually.

The world of the content marketer resets every day to square one. The really good marketers know what works and what doesn’t. Not merely from the data but probably from actually listening to the customer. I think that a fluid customer experience has to start with content that connects, it then flows through engagement and ends with trust. That’s it. Let’s trust you know your customer and what they want. Why? Because it resets every day, what you do and what they want.

Why is the Customer Experience so Hard to Deliver On?

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You’d think brands would know what the customer wanted at this stage of the game, right? It’s 2015 and companies left and right keep talking about their new mandate of delivering on a quality customer experience. providing a powerful and memorable customer experience, etc. etc… It’s almost as if what has happened up to this point didn’t matter or was not a quality experience. I guess, what I want to know is, what have I been getting all of these years?

You might want to say this out loud: “Companies just now, are starting to actually care and do something about me and for me, the customer.” What changed? What happened? What took you so long? You have to wonder, could you have actually been getting more out of your brand experiences all this time? I almost feel like I’ve been short-changed. Until now.

I’ll tell you what happened and it’s really pretty simple; and most of you will slough it off as yet another social media justification post, but it’s true. What happened is social media happened. Social gave the customer a voice they never had.

For the longest time, companies just pushed out what they thought the customer needed and wanted. They didn’t really ask. Sure, they might have done the occasional test/focus group or survey but those were never a large enough sample size. Back in the day, wasn’t customer feedback the 800 number you called to leave your complaint? You never really expected them to get back to you. Did you?

Of course you know this but I’m going to say it again anyway to drive the point home. Social media has allowed customers to have a real voice on so many levels/platforms now. You can write 1000 words diatribes praising or bashing a company. You can voice your displeasure immediately in 140 characters or less on Twitter. You can rate your experience via Yelp or you can Video or take pics of how bad the experience was via YouTube or Instagram. Clearly the customer now has a voice; and that scares the crap out of really large brands as well as small and medium sized businesses.

Why does that scare them? Because the truth actually might hurt them for a change.

I hate when I hear the term, “the customer now has the upper hand.” That’s not what this is about. Customers should not have to compete with a brand. They just want a fair and equitable brand experience. The truth finally evens the playing field. So if consumers are competing, which they shouldn’t be, at least brands know that there are eyes and ears on the customer experience now.

Hard to believe that brands are just now starting to talk about and acknowledge the need for delivering a superior customer experience, but hey, talking is one thing, doing is another. Will the customer rise? Is the customer experience the brand experience? Or is it just lip service for 2015?

How Digital is Changing the Consumer Experience

Let me give you a few real world examples that happen every day.  You’re at a stop light for all of 30 seconds and you start to get antsy because the light hasn’t changed.  You are going to make a right on red and there is someone in front of you who does not turn right away, and you lay on the horn.  You’re in line at the store waiting to check out and it’s taking forever.  Forever being about 3-4 minutes.

Why are we so impatient?

Maybe these examples will help. You’re surfing the web and a page doesn’t load quick enough so you try another website.  You want to buy a product online so you do a search and you click on the first result and it doesn’t load quick enough, so you go to the second result.   You load an app and it takes forever (10 minutes) and you immediately start thinking of your next computer purchase with more memory and more processor speed (whatever that means).

What’s happening here?

The web has conditioned us to want everything quicker and faster.  We are become a bi-product of always on.  Meaning that when we are on the web, we expect the delivery of the experience to match the level of our expectation.  The result?  That expectation starts to bleed into our offline universe.  Our consumer experience is on hyper please

The result?

Everyone suffers.  Think about it like this. The more it takes to satisfy us, the more we need- and the less it satisfies.  In a sense we’re becoming junkies for a good web experience which again as I said earlier is starting to bleed into our personal offline lives.  Is that a good thing?  In a sense it is but it’s also unrealistic to think that waiting at a light for a whole 1-2 minutes is unacceptable.  Just as it is unreasonable to think that just because it took 15 seconds for a page to load-is a bad user experience.  The web experience, and I’ll include mobile in this, is now as much about the pulleys and levers as it is about the finished product.  So how do people respond to a bad online customer experience?  They click and go somewhere else.

Too bad for the visually appealing site that is hampered by it not possessing what the user wants- Be it access to the proper social channels, free stuff, or the right check out page, or access to a contact page that provides a direct link to customer service.  If you don’t have that, you’ve crashed and burned before you’ve even taken off!  Consumers indeed.