Beyond Buzzwords – 4 Keys to Effective Action

I don't always use buzzwordsA few weeks ago I attempted to provide a clear distinction between customer experience and customer support in this blog post. Since then, the post was re-published on a number of customer experience and service websites, was shared by many readers and drew some very interesting comments. The subject clearly hit a nerve.

While obviously not everyone agrees with the definitions proposed in the article, the discussion itself serves a purpose in solidifying the important concepts in our consciousness.Clear and practical definitions of terms have tremendous implications on the formulation of business strategies, and help us to communicate constructively. One of the reasons it is so difficult to gather support and to obtain financing for customer experience related initiatives is the perception of “squishiness” which is a by-product of fuzzy subject definitions.

I would like to propose a draft for a short dictionary of terms related to customer experience subject matter. The word draft is used purposely to indicate that you are welcome to offer any constructive suggestions for improvement. These definitions are borrowed or re-constructed for the sole purpose of achieving further clarity:

  1. Customer-centricity –  a value based belief system or philosophy.

Like many other “religions” customer-centricity is (supposedly) easy to understand, but difficult to practice – according to Micah Solomon. In my own experience in the context of business, the things that are easily understood and sincerely accepted for their value, are not very complicated to practice.

According to Bob Thompson in his book  Hooked on Customers – it is “a management approach to executing business strategy of delivering the total customer value that drives genuinely loyal customer attitudes and behaviors in a target market”. Bob also states that customer-centricity is not a destination, but a journey.

Of course there are many more definitions, like this one “placing the customer at the center of a company’s marketing effort, focusing on customers rather than sales” that sounds good, but is not particularly actionable or accurate, in my opinion.

The best distinction between customer-centricity and product-centricity was offered by Don Peppers in this article.

My own understanding of this term also requires the clear choice of including the company’s customers into the circle of the company’s stakeholders AND excluding share traders from that circle. There is a difference between investors and speculators. This choice re-defines the focus of management decisions from importance of quarterly earning per share results to a long-term sustainability of the business.

  1. Customer Experience – a perception your customers share about the totality of their experiences of doing business with your company. A more commonly used definition is

 “Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. This can include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.”

While its completeness and inclusiveness are open for a debate, I do not see any critical omissions or contradictions which would negatively impact any specific business initiative. The real debate is whether customer experience can be managed or measured.

  1. Customer Service/Support – for the full context it is best to go to the original post.

Many agree with Chris Zane that

“The Customer Support starts when Customer Experience Fails!”

The most damaging thing about the confusion of Customer Service with Customer Experience is that it makes it all too easy for some to change their title and a shingle on the door,  and pretend that nobody noticed – well, customers will.

  1. In e-commerce and other internet businesses, Customer Experience is often confused with User Experience.

(UX) involves a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership. Additionally, it includes a person’s perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency.

The UX surely is another element, attribute or subset of Customer Experience, but the confusion makes it easy to take your eyes of the ball when it comes to fulfillment, support, and other processes that impact the experience of your customers doing business with your company. Consider that some of your  customers may love their User Experience, but hate their Customer Experience. The opposite is not likely.

This is not an exhaustive list, but if these distinctions are not understood a measurable change in your customers’ experience is not likely to materialize.

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