To get customer experience right, companies first need to get the definition right, according to an enlightening talk I had with Esteban Kolsky, the principal and founder of ThinkJar. He says that the digital transformation of businesses and the inbound revolution have brought about a radically different way of doing business, which has changed the meaning of the customer experience. Kolsky offers the following five insights into how the customer experience is being redefined.

1. Customers are not listening to what you have to say

Inbound marketing came about because customers aren’t listening anymore. “Customers have the information and no longer rely on the company for this,” says Kolsky. Inbound marketing is more about managing social channels than about managing content and the flow of communication. 

2. Customers know more about your business than you do

Kolsky uses the example of duct tape, created as an adhesive tape for use in space. His daughter spent the summer building wallets and t-shirts out of duct tape. “A company can intend a product for a specific use, but very quickly loses control of the product and its use,” says Kolsky. The question becomes, how do you leverage what customers are doing, and how do you use the information to dynamically change the way you do business? This is the digital transformation that goes with inbound. It’s not just about the customer; it is about what the customer chooses to do in relation to your business.

3. Customers create their own experience 

Companies need to throw out the notion that they can control the customer experience, Kolsky states. Customers create their own experiences. They do not wait for companies to tell them how to do it; they push companies to enable them to do what they want. Companies must transform their businesses and get out of the way so customers can create their own experiences; this is the true definition of customer experience. It is about building the infrastructure that allows customers to do whatever they want to do, through whatever channel they choose to do it.

4. Customer interactions are complex and unpredictable

In the old days, customers would call the number listed for customer service. Today they send an email or call the main number, and they know you have to answer it. Companies can no longer have a silo that corresponds to CRM. Interactions have changed from well-defined to anything-goes.

CRM has become the place where the data is stored in a common infrastructure-;an interface to the experience. It is an access point for customers to draw the information to create their own experiences.

5. Customer communities are where the knowledge is

Kolsky found that knowledge decays at the rate of 50 percent every minute. The problem with knowledge stored in books or accessed via search engines is that it is not contextual. “If you can ask a person a question and get an answer in 30 seconds, then not only is that person’s reputation increased but your knowledge of where to go for information is increased,” he says.

Communities are going to replace knowledge management systems, because that is where the knowledge resides. There is no value to a knowledge base that decays over time, when you can directly query knowledgeable people. This is the whole purpose of social media. Community members will have reputation scores and earn the trust and respect of peers, where the strongest voice rises to the top of the forum.

Watch the full interview with Esteban Kolsky.