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Deeper Dive Into Changing Customer Experience: 5 Questions with Brian Solis

Deeper Dive Into Changing Customer Experience: 5 Questions with Brian Solis

Experience vs. Design

Late last year, I met author and customer experience sage Brian Solis.  My blog post about my conversation with him, Is Customer Experience the Next Killer App?,was one of the most widely shared, liked and tweeted blogs that I have ever written.  And since then, you can’t swing a dead cat without hearing a marketer chime-in about improving the customer experience, or CX, as we cool people like to call it.  I had a follow-up call with Brian recently as he transferred from car to plane on one of his many worldwide speaking engagements and workshops discussing CX.  Here are five questions and answers with Brian which will assist any business owner or executive who wants to improve the customer experience in their business. 

John P. David: When did you realize that customer experience is the new brand?  Did it hit you in the shower or was it an evolution? 

Brian Solis: I definitely see it as an evolution.  I have tracked and researched customer relationship trends for many years, and when I looked at the iconic brands, I believed that their successes were bigger than the products and bigger than the brands themselves.  Iconic brands like Apple and Disney offer more.  I have been studying the issue for more than seven years and spent the last three years working on the book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design.

JPD: How do you start?  If a business owner, or even an employee, wants to improve the customer experience, how do they begin?

Solis: The first step is the most difficult. It requires that you recognize that the customer experience could be improved and that to do so requires you and others to step outside of their roles to collaborate with one another to bring about sweeping change. But, it can start with small steps.

Any employee or manager can address the customer experience by looking within their domain, whether it is sales, marketing, product development or front-line customer service.

A good place to start is to try to uncover points of friction.  This can be done personally or with the help of other team members and customers.  Look at the experience within and outside your department and what happens before and after your department becomes part of the customer experience.  When you start to involve your customers and other departments, that’s typically when the most interesting developments hit and when you can identify things that are broken and how to fix them.


JPD: How do you get buy-in to make changes?

Solis: Yes, you need to get sponsorship and budgets in order to run tests and pilot programs. However, if you are waiting to be told what to do, then you are on the wrong side of innovation. Leadership rises from the middle often times. We need people willing to step outside of their boundaries to bring about meaningful change.

[tweetthis]If you are waiting to be told what to do, then you are on the wrong side of innovation.[/tweetthis]

To secure support, you have to 1) speak the language of the C-Suite and 2) rally peer and cross-functional support. The best way to make changes is to show new revenue opportunities or show how failing to change will result in lost market share.  In some cases, you can show that competitors or similar business can charge more for improved experiences, or you can explain that someone may come along and take your customers away from you.  If you fail to improve the customer experience, you risk becoming irrelevant. This is what I call ROI (Return on Ignorance).

A great example is the taxi industry.  Years ago, the cab companies could have embraced technology and improved the customer experience.  Clearly, there were many friction points related to reliability, ease of payment, cleanliness, etc.  But they failed to innovate and recognize potential competitors.  Uber came along and not only found new revenue sources but also took their market share.  And it all ties back to the experience.  People now use Uber instead of cabs but also hail Uber for trips that they wouldn’t have considered a taxi for in the past because the customer experience was so poor. There is a disruption event on the horizon for every industry, every company. And that disruption may or may not come from traditional competitors. Taxi industries certainly weren’t challenged by other cab companies.

Most business don’t have to make such a dire case.  They can show missed opportunities lead to lost revenues. You just have to be thoughtful about making the case to someone who doesn’t see the world the way you do. And, often that can start with the little things.


JPD: Does it require complete redesign of a product or packaging?  (Can incremental changes lead to lasting improvements?)

Solis: Changing the customer experience may not require a complete product or customer journey redesign, but every aspect of the customer experience can benefit from a benchmark review through the eyes of the connected customer and also how to design an omni or holistic approach.  To make meaningful changes, you need to look at the experience from end to end.  This will lead to improvements in what exists and also open the door to innovation. It’s important to find a balance between innovation and iteration. Both are required for success.

[tweetthis]To make meaningful changes, you need to look at the customer experience from end to end.[/tweetthis]

I’m reminded of a story about Steve Jobs and the development of the iPhone.  Jobs didn’t want any phone designers or anyone with traditional cellphone experience on the team that was designing the iPhone. He didn’t want any previous biases.  He didn’t want to focus on what a phone is but rather what it could be.


JPD: How do you measure improvements in customer experience and show value?

Solis: Improving the customer experience can have widespread value and it is important to determine goals and how to measure them early in the process. Goals should focus on business value and also value to the customer experience. What’s the ROI on customer (or employee for that matter) happiness? We can use existing metrics, but to truly track experience, we’re going to need to rethink what success means and develop additional metrics that ensure alignment. Definitely track key performance indicators related to customer satisfaction, shared experiences, customer paths and conversions, focus-in on new customer growth baselines and ultimately look at revenues and return on revenues once changes are completed.  More so, look at the journey and whether or not it is efficient for customers based on intent, context, device and immediacy. The more tangible goals can be made, the more likely that you can measure success.


For more info, check out Brian’s book X: The Experience When Business Meets Design.


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