Credit Crunch 10 Years On – Four Seismic Changes in Customer Experience Management
This blog coincides with the 10th anniversary of the first signs of the Credit Crunch, which has impacted and continues to affect all our lives.
Readers in their mid-thirties and under may not have experienced anything in their professional lives that hasn’t had an ‘austerity’ cloud hanging over it, and I’m sure that a lot will be written in the coming days, weeks, and months to mark the sad occasion.
I would like to complement this with my specific viewpoint as a recognised expert and influencer in Customer Experience (CX).
Here are four reflections that I believe to be seismic changes from working with clients and colleagues in this field over this historic decade, sharing the joys and pain of championing the customer-centric agenda in business. It is my no means all doom and gloom, and within each there is a lesson for the future, which I have tried to briefly articulate:
1. Product-centric business models are dying. I was working with a major marketing agency ten years ago, and in response to the Credit Crunch I published a report entitled “The Importance of the Customer Experience in a Down Economy”. We wrote this because we foresaw sectors reverting to short termism and indiscriminate cost cutting – and we were right! Many companies placed CX into their “too difficult” box and proclaimed that they were going to focus on their “core business”, which effectively meant the old 4 P’s – product, price, place, and promotion. These are the companies that (if they have survived) are now wondering why the good times haven’t returned and how come it is that they have to fight on price alone for every sale! They are also the ones spending fortunes on “digital transformation” programmes that will only result in a stay of execution unless their fundamental business model shifts to customer centricity.
I would urge you to fight for CX and customer centricity in your business and in its operating model, doing everything you can to avoid “digital” just becoming another silo that adds complexity and inconsistency into your customer journeys.
2. Trust has been eroded. Customer empowerment means that people now decide for themselves who to trust and via which medium. It’s often their peers & networks that they choose to trust more than brand & marketing messages. This has been exacerbated by high-profile scandals in several sectors, principally financial services, automotive and retail.
I believe that every company needs to be explicitly measuring and managing trust internally and externally to recover lost ground and/or protect the trust they’ve built, recognising it for what it is – one of your (if not the) most valuable business assets.
3. Insight dependency and democratisation. Giant leaps have been made in the disciplines of customer insight that businesses must embrace – Data Science, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cognitive Marketing, etc. And I’m not just talking about your Business Intelligence departments! The companies that will prosper will be the ones that enrich their decision-making processes with accessible insight, and empower their people to make a difference. The in-parallel emergence of the Internet of Everything and Super Connectivity has meant that knowledge is being democratised outside of your business, too.
You need to be making best utilisation of your data and insight to benefit all your customer groups in some way (especially in B2B). Sharing at least some of this insight with ‘super connected’ customers will enhance trust, value and loyalty within the relationship.
4. Omni-channel, instantaneous and interactive. Ten years ago, our business language was full of ‘funnels’, ‘pipelines’, ‘triggers’, ‘channel shift’, and ‘contact plans’. We’ve learned a painful lesson that customers don’t conform to our processes and preferred channels! I define the omni-channel customer experience as “how a company unifies its business capabilities to make and deliver on sales and service promises to prospects and customers wherever they are in THEIR journey and consistently in ALL the channels they choose.” The outside-in customer journey is at the heart of the omni-channel approach, which is individual and dynamic (despite all the pretty pictures trying to map it!).
We must keep investing in cognitive real-time insight, personalisation, interaction and response tools. The phrase “right place at the right time” is often used when it happens accidentally – we have GOT to start engineering ourselves into that position rather than leaving it to chance!