In this blog we will talk about just two aspects of this very vast and important subject of Customer Experience.
But first we must start with what is Customer Experience. While there are many definitions, the one which we think is simple and meaningful is:
Customer experience (CX) is the “cumulative impact of multiple touchpoints” over the course of a customer’s interaction with a brand and/or an organization. (Forbes)
Let’s understand this in more detail. Suppose we take a hypothetical case of a physical product and map out the possible touchpoints. While we have taken the example of a product here, we must emphasise that the same process map can be made for a virtual product such as software or service as well.
There are 7 interactions, or touchpoints, that this customer had with the hypothetical product, and they ALL add up to ONE customer experience. The same will be true for a service as well.
Social Entrepreneurs must understand that Customer Experience (CX) starts well before the customer has purchased the product and ends much after the customer has purchased the product.
Brands that have paid great attention to customer experience (CX) have made them leaders in their industry. Apple, Taj hotels and Toyota are three industry leaders that are known to pay great attention to customer experience.
But even small businesses, in niche or regional markets, are known to delight their customers especially when their product is not branded. One example is SFO Hotel, a boutique business hotel in Bangalore that foreigners prefer over 5-star hotels.
For that matter, any enterprise, regardless of size or brand can provide a very positive CX.
Social entrepreneurs too can grow their enterprise tremendously and create competitive advantage if they pay attention to CX.
But you cannot create great customer experience unless you, the social entrepreneur, experience the customer. And it is not that difficult.
The first step in designing great CX is to understand the customer. This can be done by:
- Visiting many potential customers and live their journey of purchasing a similar kind of product. All the seven steps listed above. And from this noting down the customer touchpoints. It is not uncommon to visit 100 potential customers.
- Collating all the customer visits and finetuning which are the important customer touchpoints.
- Then using these insights into building the:
- product design
- pre-sales experience
- sales experience
- post sales experience.
A good example of paying attention to customer experience is Apple. Apple observed that the mobile phone was kept in the trouser pocket or in the purse. In both cases the mobile phone came in contact with other items like coins, pins and pens. Things which could scratch the glass and reduce the visual experience of the customer. Apple designers worked with Corning Glass to develop Gorilla glass which is virtually scratch proof. Thereby improving the post-sales experience of the customer.
Once the consumer touchpoints are identified, the social entrepreneur needs to maximize the CX. This can be done by establishing factors that affect CX and planning for them. A few important ones are given below:
- Establish the process with tangible steps and service levels. The process should be end-to-end, starting with supplier, assembly/manufacture, sales, and after-sales service. For example, stated delivery times once an order is placed.
- Have clarity of process and communication for both seller and customer. For example, where does the customer wait when his phone is being serviced.
- Pre-establish conditions for exceptions to accommodate reasonable customer expectations. For example, if the customer wants urgent delivery, how much will she be charged and in how many days will it be delivered.
- Training for persons providing service so that it is consistent across customer touchpoints. For example, the customer should experience the same kind of courtesy while purchasing the product as well as when the product is getting serviced. A good example of consistent training is McDonalds. Whether you have a burger at Guwahati or on the highway near Pune you can be sure that the experience will be the same. McDonalds invests significantly in training so that the consumer gets the same CX wherever she goes.
In our experience as mentors, we find that many social entrepreneurs look at only a few touchpoints and not the full gamut of customer experiences. They usually look only at the 3rd or 4th stage – the sales process. This puts them at a disadvantage. If social entrepreneurs understand the full gamut of touchpoints and build that into their customer offering, they will gain long-term competitive advantage.
The advantage that social entrepreneurs have is that since they have small enterprises, they have the opportunity of creating a unified customer experience which will stand them in good stead as they grow. They are close to all the things that go to create a unified CX.
Large organizations on the other hand struggle to create a unified customer experience as different departments have competing agendas, or they think in silos. Nor are they aligned to create a single unified experience.
But the distinguishing advantage social entrepreneurs have is many of their customers resonate with his/her mission of doing good, and this is ready fertile ground for creating a warm experience, provided the entrepreneur doesn’t squander it by either taking the customers for granted through complacency and a belief they will be more tolerant of a lesser quality product/service quality, or the overall customer experience for that matter. They won’t!
Anil Kulkarni, Pramod Athalye, May 2022
Anil is passionate about two aspects of business –leadership development and customer centricity. He is an ICF accredited executive coach and works with senior talent on becoming better leaders. He has worked in blue chip companies like Unilever and Britannia and respected Indian companies like Raymond. And he has been mentoring social entrepreneurs and NGOs for over five years. Anil is curious by nature and enjoys writing, photography and loves to cook.
Pramod has been mentoring social entrepreneurs and NGOs at PIC for the past five years. He has over 35 years of corporate experience in MNCs in the US and India, in areas ranging from Strategic Marketing, Pricing to Risk Management. He co-founded a management consultancy in India. His qualifications include B. Tech (IIT Madras), MBA (Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley), and CFA. Pramod loves to travel globally to get immersed in other cultures and is a lifelong learner.