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The internet age hit the marketplace like a tidal wave, sweeping aside old assumptions and re-writing the customer relationship. There is still some way to go but we have already seen the birth of a new interaction, one in which the creation of a genuine business/customer partnership, geared up to provide exceptional customer experiences and founded on trust is emerging.
The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.– Jerry Gregoire, CIO, Dell Computers
When did the idea of the customer experience start? Did it evolve from the days of mass market holiday complexes which sold the dream to those for whom holidays were previously out of reach? Perhaps it was brewed up in organisations which insisted that every interaction ended with a wish for customers to ‘have a nice day’? Or was it a marketing reaction to the realisation that with large store shopping came customer distance and a corresponding breakdown in previous customer/business loyalties?
Cynical ideas perhaps but whatever the reason, in its infancy the idea of the customer experiences was still very one sided. In effect the business provided the experience and the customer accepted it. The emphasis was far more on an outward show of caring rather than genuine concern for customer welfare. So whilst front office staff parroted phrases, the rest of the organisation went on its merry profit taking way.
Enter the internet into the equation, forcing businesses to take a fresh look at interaction. Early adopters swiftly realised that when one internet posting can flash round the world in an instant, what better way to get free publicity than to get some feedback on line. Of course, in its infancy the internet was a fairly lawless place. Quantity triumphed over quality with early search engine matrices ranking more on volume of mentions than of content.
Luckily common sense prevailed and search engines became sophisticated enough to differentiate between positive and negative posts and between meaningless bulk links and genuinely helpful ones. And whilst some businesses reacted by paying people to post fake positive reviews, others started to realise that if they wanted a genuine relationship with their customers then they had to be genuine in their interactions.
Partly this realisation was driven by a seed change in the attitudes of on line users and partly by a change in consuming habits. When the internet was in its infancy it was adopted by a generation who had been brought up in a world of face to face interactions. Now more and more users have grown up in the internet age and they are far more savvy about sifting the truth from the marketing.
Google may only be sixteen in September 2014 but those who have matured under its influence are a far different breed to those who were born pre-internet. Generation Z have not yet entered the workforce but they, and the generation before them, are already heavily influencing the way in which businesses interact with their customers. Out goes selling and in comes collaboration, out goes things and in comes experiences.
In effect this means that businesses which want to succeed in this new age need to ditch the old one sided marketing speak in favour of a genuine collaborative partnership. The customer experience born out of genuine interactions is now the name of the game. That doesn’t mean that the practice of posting reviews on line is dead, it simply means that any reviews posted have to be genuine and trusted. For example, review platform Feefo only posts reviews from customers who have actually made a purchase. This means that a Feefo review is trusted both by consumers and by the search engines; helping potential customers to make informed decisions whilst at the same time improving the business’ ranking online. So using Feefo to manage customer feedback is seen by a growing number of businesses as a way of showing how much they care about creating genuine rapport with existing and potential customers.
The internet age hit the marketplace like a tidal wave, sweeping aside old assumptions and re-writing the customer relationship. There is still some way to go but we have already seen the birth of a new interaction, one in which the creation of a genuine business/customer partnership, geared up to provide exceptional customer experiences and founded on trust is emerging. Is customer experience a battleground; perhaps, but for the winners it is one in which both customers and businesses are on the same side.