In the movie "Don't Look Up," which recently broke a Netflix viewership record, scientists' discovery of an approaching Earth-destroying comet is met with indifference. Are many companies making a similar mistake when it comes to customers?
The comet in this scenario is one of the most disruptive business forces in history: the shift to primarily digital experiences that has raised customer expectations to stratospheric heights and given them unprecedented leverage to switch brand allegiances with a click or phone swipe. Customers no longer participate in markets, they make them.
The indifferent Earthlings are companies that, despite this massive change, think they're putting customers at the heart of their business but, in fact, often pay lip service to customer needs, wants, and feedback without really addressing them. Many have chosen to rely on their enormous piles of carefully collected customer data for insights without looking up at subjective input like customer narratives and direct observations that can help them better understand the people behind the data.
Businesses may develop new products or features to solve a customer problem without understanding how the problem arose or why it's worth solving. They may segment the heck out of customer lists but still struggle to grasp what drives and motivates the people on those lists. They may gaze at dashboards monitoring app downloads and conversion rates but don't know why people are opting to download the competitor's app instead or are dropping out of the purchase funnel.
Meanwhile, critical questions can go unanswered. Does the prospect or customer feel understood and valued? Can they set up a new account without any friction? Is the initial experience using the app easy and enjoyable? Does the experience remain so over time? Are new offers that appear in their inboxes anticipating their needs and helping them feel connected to the company?
No wonder we find ourselves in an era when customers are more influential and empowered than ever before yet also too often ignored or misunderstood by the companies they interact with.
To take a deeper dive into the mistakes companies often make:
They depend on data sources that don't provide the full customer picture.
A business can have nearly infinite supplies of data charting purchases, clicks, page views, etc., and yet still fail to assemble a complete portrait of their multidimensional, human customers. People-- with their diverse lived experiences, unique psychologies, and complex identities -- are just too sophisticated to be boiled down into numbers.
Analytics certainly are good at providing a glimpse into observable customer activity, such as which stores are getting foot traffic, what services individuals are using on an app, even some tidbits of general sentiment being expressed by users and customers. This information can help identify patterns and areas to focus on.
But data doesn't drill down deep enough to show a customer's real and authentic perspective. It doesn't provide the depth of understanding needed to create experiences that enchant real, live people, make them adore the company and its offerings, and secure their enduring loyalty. None provide human insight.
They fall in love with surveys.
Surveys and questionnaires provide direct, anecdotal feedback from customers. That's a good start. But surveys have a long list of drawbacks.
For starters, it's very hard to design a survey that's both objective and accurate and thus doesn't skew the data collected. Offering rewards or incentives, a common practice to capture more responses, may drive more people to fill out the survey, but may slant results even further. Human memory tends to be unreliable, so offering a survey after a customer interaction is an iffy proposition. Finally, there's survey fatigue and even incidents of bots infiltrating online surveys.
Like data, surveys don't tell a business enough about what it's actually like to be their customer.
They pay too little attention to 'all the feels.'
A recent Forrester Research report said, "Perennially, we find that emotion has a bigger - sometimes far bigger-- impact on customer loyalty than effectiveness or ease." According to Forrester, the three most impactful positive emotions are when customers feel valued, appreciated, or respected, and the three most negative are when they feel frustrated, annoyed, or disrespected.
Emotion is the most important element of customer experience, and the hardest one to measure. Most companies use Net Promoter Scores, or NPS ("How likely are you to recommend this product to a friend?") and other surveys to gauge emotional reactions. But can the full color of emotions really be reflected in a rating scale or survey question?
They don't think holistically or long term.
Customer engagement and the creation of delightful experiences don't live in a single department, team, or division within a company, and that means it is harder to manage and continually optimize them. For example, a single traveler may be affected by dozens of different activities owned by dozens of different working groups -- the app to book or rebook, a kiosk to check-in, a customer service rep at the gate, etc.
Customer engagement is the cumulative impression a customer retains after multiple disparate touchpoints with a company, so it's important for every part of a company to work as one in nurturing a great experience.
In addition, while most companies know customer engagement doesn't stop after the first interaction, surprisingly few make improvements to the customer journey over the long term. Refining the engagements that make top-notch customer experiences overtime should be as much a business priority as setting budgets and scheduling launches.
They make changes that frustrate or alienate users.
In 2018, for example, social media app Snapchat split the app interface into two sections, consolidating friend content on the left side, media content on the right, and installing a handful of other design changes. Users were so furious that the app lost 3 million daily users over the following three months.
The lesson? Businesses risk big trouble if they change offerings in ways that fail to see things through their customers' eyes.
As these five points show, customer experience narratives, not just data, need to be the framework for thrilling modern customers. These narratives are gained from asking customers to share their first-person experiences-- conversing with customers, listening to what they are saying and how they are saying it (sentiment, pace, intonation, body language).
This collection of these human signals provides a vivid, first-hand view of what it's like to be a customer, which is the dimension many companies are missing. It's important for businesses to look up and appreciate the value of these insights.