One of the more well-worn clichés in the business world is, “The Customer Is King.” I’m sorry to break the news, but that phrase is like Miami Vice and fax’s so ‘80s. The customer has in fact been promoted to Supreme Intergalactic Commander. Yet lots of companies – whole industries in some cases – somehow missed the memo and are blissfully serving customers in full ‘80s regalia, complete with impersonal service and outdated processes. 

What has led to the big promotion?  In short, it’s a combination of innovative service designs, pervasive technology, and internet democracy. Customers routinely experience excellent service from every corner (for example, Uber, OnStar, FedEx), which automatically raises their expectations regardless of industry. Therefore, when a customer receives disappointing service, it really stands out. And unlike the ‘80s, it’s easy for customers to do something about it. Technology has made customer allegiances fairly brittle…it’s easier now to switch to a competitor who has a better Yelp reputation. Or to post a scathing review. Or Both. Indeed, the customer is in supreme command.

Delivering a superior customer experience is a powerful differentiator which drives growth and profitability. But designing that experience and delivering it consistently is remarkably complex, especially in highly-regulated industries. We can attest to that, having designed many customer experience programs for insurers, health plans, and banks. Here are some guiding principles:

  • Customer service is transactional; customer experience is strategic.
  • Customers want an emotionally satisfying experience. Ironically, the core transaction can often be secondary to the overall experience.
  • Customer experiences happen within a design. It’s not just good faith, culture, process, technology, people…it’s all of those things and more.
  • Customers can be the source of innovation – listen carefully!

The question of strategic importance is, what is your organization doing right now to evolve and deliver a satisfying and competitive customer experience?