Customer centricity is not a strategic choice – constant customer experience improvement is.
We are currently living in the “age of the customer”1, but the idea of having the customer in the centre of business development should not be a new thing for anyone. The customer should have been in the centre – always. Where else could they be? As strategy always includes choices, customer centricity cannot be considered a strategic choice – it is a necessity, to every organisation. The opposite (not being customer centric) is not a true alternative in today’s customer driven, competitive markets.
However – the constant improvement of customer experiences can be considered a strategic choice. Customer experiences can be measured and improved, and can provide competitive distinctiveness and advantages for business organisations – and result in better business. The way customers see an organisation can be shaped, by developing customer experiences.
One misleading idea in customer experience design is the thought of creating a singular, pre-defined experience that will be similar for all potential customers. In reality, there are as many real experiences as there are people experiencing. As customer experience is always subjective, it cannot be “designed”. We can only design conditions that will hopefully lead to an aimed, positive experience in the minds of the customers. Therefore, we are designing for customer experiences.
Customer experience is also like the famous elephant-to-be-eaten. Experiences cannot be improved at once, by running a rigorous project or by a separate organisational function, holding responsibility for all customer experience development. You have to eat the elephant a bite at a time, and you have to eat around the elephant – to truly develop the customer experience holistically. In addition, everybody has to show up for dinner, meaning the entire organisation.
Understanding the customers is mandatory, but not enough. It is just as important to understand the organisation providing the service or product – and the capabilities in performing in a more customer-centric manner. When a service or product is designed truly customer-centrically (being useful, usable and desirable2) only half of the work is done. Company employees need to be engaged and aware of how to bring the service, product or the whole brand to life. The desired customer experience depends heavily upon organisational culture and employee experience. Therefore, these too need to be understood and designed accordingly.
Customer experience development is an on-going and never-ending process. There will never be a day when an organisation can state: “now, this is enough for our customer experiences, we have reached our ultimate level”.
To us at CEO Helsinki, true customer centricity means constant customer experience development. We help our clients take organised steps towards being more customer centric, in building customer-experience strategies, and designing in an agile manner for long-lasting change – with fast business impact.
Key takeaways for customer experience development:
- Consider it as a strategic investment
- Treat it as a long-term development
- Involve both customer and organisational perspectives
- Design together and holistically, for customer experiences
- Cooperstein, David M. (2013) Competitive Strategy in the Age of the Customer. Forrester Research, Inc. Cambridge, USA.
- Mager, Birgit (2007) Service Design. In: Design Dictionary: Perspectives on Design Terminology, ed. by Erlhoff, Michael – Marshalle, Tim. Birkhäuser, Basel.