Is Customer Experience really paying its way?

There has been a lot of debate recently from a number of customer experience luminaries and from general observations that the whole customer experience effort stalled during 2017. At the same time we have seen any number of mainly retail stores both high street and retail park fail. Is there a correlation here, is it a coincident? My colleague David Tovey wrote recently about the demise of “Toys R Us” stating that “It’s not engagement or CX ‘initiatives’ that are needed – what works is the embedding of an engagement and customer experience philosophy that is lived by everyone from the bottom to the top of the organisation.” However embedding a new way of working, thinking and operating takes time and most senior execs we’ve worked with don’t have the patience for this.

There is no such thing as a coincidence

That stores such as Toys R US, Mothercare, Maplin’s, etc. are closing down with other companies such as Homebase, NEXT and even M&S closing stores we are continuing to see a demise of the high street and even retail park businesses. So is this just a coincidence that these closures are happening as we are seeing efforts in improving the customer experience slowing? Many would argue that this is due to the general trend to online with many citing Amazon as the main culprit, but is this really the case. That there is a trend towards online purchases cannot be denied but there is also a much higher expectation for the quality not only of the product or service but also in the way that product or service is supported. More importantly customers have much more knowledge, choice and journey options and businesses need to tune into these to attract their customers with the key to this being the ability to merge the journeys and hence the experience.

Is on line or off line best?

Our buying habits have changed and this isn’t just a millennial thing either, we are all doing it. We decide we want a new laptop or holiday or insurance policy or whatever. We research for price, availability, quality, we look for comments and feedback before we even decide on the vendor. We then go looking armed with the knowledge and with pre-set expectations. It is now up to the businesses vying for our customer to make meet and exceed these expectations.

I was in a local bathroom retail outlet recently looking for a new shower unit, I noted the models prices etc. and then compared with the online prices taking into account the “Top Cash” discounts and found that if I bought online then I could buy the item 15% cheaper. In an attempt to offer the business to the store I asked them if they could meet the deal, to my surprise they said they would and deliver next day culminating in a win for off line retail over online. The message here is that neither online nor off-line in best what is best is the overall experience in journey to winning the piece of business.

So is Customer Experience paying its way?

Yes most definitely but only if businesses adopt and adapt and this seems to be the part that’s missing, especially from those businesses who are now going under. Yes there are exceptions there always are, BHS for instance was severely miss-managed or worse but would they have gone under eventually anyway as did Woolworths.

The world is changing and changing quickly but many businesses are not changing anywhere nearly as quickly or even at all and it is those businesses who recognise the need to change and make those changes that are winning and the rest will lose, with the real winner being the customer because they are getting the overall experience they want.

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