“The Customer Experience Chart is a tool for dividing a customer experience into individual components which can then be analyzed providing valuable insight as to how that experience can be improved.”
With the advent of the internet the customer experience has changed dramatically. When a customer shops online it is with the perception that they will save money at the expense of customer service. When the customer shops at a bricks and mortar location they understand they will pay a little extra for that personal touch. However customer expectations are rising on both fronts. The demands of customers for better care from online retailers is forcing them to rethink how they sell, deliver, handle returns, etc all while keeping prices low. For main street retailers customers are seeking lower prices and have higher expectations of service in exchange for the premium they are paying. With Customer Experience Charts companies can break down the customer experience to the its basic elements and seek to create competitive advantage through the reengineering of RPCs, the introduction of Awesome actions, as well as through the identification of potential threats and opportunities within current customer experiences. Through specific tactics that can be introduced through the use of this tool a company may continuously improve the customer experience allowing them to compete more effectively.
Parking Lot to Parking Lot– This analogy uses a customer going to a grocery store. From the first appearance of the building as a customer drives into the parking lot, the condition of the parking lot, proximity of cart racks, etc all the way till they leave the store and drive home. What is the experience for the customer when buying a new product, how about when the customer is making a return?
Focus on Differentiating Factors– How do the various factors which comprise the customer experience differentiate from that of the competition? Are they in line with the quality expected in the industry and from the competition? Can those factors be improved or modified to allow positive differentiation from the industry and the competition?
Adding Value– Where in the customer experience can value be added? Are there specific points in the process where, with modification or change, value can be added for customers subjectively or objectively, or both?
Creating Awesomes– Are there any Awesomes in the customer experience? Are there opportunities to create an awesome based on location, customer demographic, etc?
Diagnosing Situations or Potential Ones– In analyzing the customer experience, are there components or factors which might develop or contribute to the development of a situation if they were left unaddressed? For example are there components of the customer experience which might develop into a safety hazard under the right circumstances?
Opportunities– On the same note are there specific components of the customer experience which may present unique opportunities for enhancing the experience?
Threats– Through understanding the customer experience within an organization, users can identify threats that are presented through the study of competitors and the changes they implement on a regular basis. The study of competitors and their evolving customer experiences is a type of competitive intelligence which can be used to build advantage and retain valued customers.
RPC Modifications– The observation and analysis of customer experiences can lead to modifications of functional activities and functional tasks. This in turn leads to change or modification in Routine Procedure Checklists which allow for uniform and consistent implementation throughout an organization.
The customer experience has gotten a lot of buzz but not a lot of practical attention in the last decade. When the internet was set upon us, the novelty of it overwhelmed the focus on the customer experience for both customers and organizations alike. The focus changed to expanding the product range, providing a lower cost than main street competitors, and creating flashy web brands that could be sold off in an IPO for a bundle of money.
However countless books have been written on how to improve the experience of customers, most of which contain lots of little bells and whistles. Some have been effective and some have been dismissed. Most books and teachings focus on cosmetic modifications which artificially and temporarily enhance the customer experience. For example the self-checkout lines that you see in most grocery stores drastically improve efficiency for customers but also result in the decline of personal or human interaction between the organization and customer.
A richer modification or experience is one that creates or enhances a positive connection between an organization and a customer. Employees have to be developed to not only communicate but do so in a manner which is positive both in terms of customer perception as well as for the future relationship between the customer and the organization. The primary and most important chance for an organization to build a long term relationship with a customer is through these rich or humanistic experiences.
Organizations often view the customer experience in a one size fits all manner. They try to reach and then maintain the average customer experiences found within their industry and focus elsewhere to build their brands, believing the return is higher. This approach has caused considerable frustration as organizations outsource various elements of their customer experiences in order to save money and lower their headcounts. This is a dangerous tactic as this often removes the only real face an organization has. For example outsourcing customer service functions is much riskier than outsourcing a HR function since customer service presents a face of the organization to the customer.
As the novelty of new age organizations and web companies continues to wear off, customer experiences will again lead the attention of organizational leaders. To provide a one size fits all approach for enhancing the customer experience is not feasible or practical. What is required are better methods or tools for measuring customer experiences within a given organization and then developing or customizing ways of improving those experiences.
Organizations around the world are becoming more competitive as economic borders continue to disintegrate. New products and services are continually vying for some of the same pool of money. Customers can almost always find a similar product or service to the one your organization is providing, but they will be hard pressed to find a comparable alternative to an exemplary customer experience. Providing these exemplary customer experiences requires a careful continuing analysis of the customer experience your organization provides as well as developing new innovative methods for improving the components of that experience.
The Customer Experience Chart is a chart which allows the user to break down the complete customer experience into a number of individual components which are classified as subjective, objective or both. The user first determines which customer perspective to use. Using a previous example the chart might be completed from the perspective of a customer looking to buy a product in the store first and then from the perspective of a customer returning a product they already bought to the same store. Different motivations often result in different perspectives when it comes to the customer experience.
Subjective customer experience components might include how they are greeted, their perspectives of how their concerns or questions are addressed, etc. These often form the basis of a customer’s attitudes towards an organization and as such they present a great deal of risk to the organization. On the other hand positive and genuine subjective experiences usually endear an organization to its customers and generate brand loyalty. Subjective experiences are extremely difficult to modify once set and customers hold a long term opinion of the organization based on them. Many organizations inadvertently minimize subjective experiences through cost cutting which may reduce the size of the customer oriented workforce with corresponding cuts or shifts in training programs.
These subjective components are measured through surveys, observation, and artificial customer analysis. Subjective components of a customer experience can be improved or enhanced through the introduction of new procedures, specialized training, and simulations.
Objective experience components include the physical setup of a store, the response time to a customer service query, checkout times, etc. These can usually be changed easily and carry less weight in the mind of the customer then subjective experiences do. Components of objective experiences can be improved or enhanced through the introduction of new technologies, redesign or realignment of relevant factors, additional investment in human resources, etc.
Some components cannot be classified as either subjective or objective but rather they overlap both. An example might be automated telephone routing systems. Not only will a comprehensive routing system have an objective effect in terms of time elapsed in order to reach the right party, but may also depending on their design lead to feelings of frustration for the customer.
When the chart is complete the user can then start to determine where various components can be improved to achieve parity with industry standards, or differentiate positively from those industry standards, or even develop Awesome components which are memorable and create brand loyalty for customers.
The Customer Experience Chart is a powerful tool to use for differentiating your organization from the competition and can help to create powerful brand presence in the minds of customers.
1. Determine which customer experiences are to be charted and then develop a list of possible customer perspectives. Two customer experiences may include a customer making a purchase and another customer making a return.
2. Using the parking lot to parking lot mentality take each of the customers through the chart and break the customer experience down into observable component for measurement. This can be difficult as it requires a detail oriented view as higher levels of detail go hand in hand with opportunities to improve the customer experience.
3. Ensure that each of the components is placed into the subjective, objective, or both categories as appropriate. Remember that subjective can be generalized more often than not as having a human element in nature. For example the component has some level of human interaction or noticeable lack of.
4. Score each component based on the experiences of the customers for each element on the chart. Solve uses a score of between 1 and 10 for this step. You should be able to support each score with an itemized list of statements, observations, or data points that lead to that conclusion.
5. Now you will categorize each component again as being a positive, negative, or Awesome component. This will require you to break down the scoring range above into categories such as 7-9 being positive and 10 being awesome.
6. Using the completed chart you can begin to question each component. If a component is negative, how can we make it a positive? If the component is positive, is there a way you can make it awesome? You should direct resources first into converting negatives into positives and then investment can be made to convert positives into Awesomes. The reason for this is, is that negatives are often a lot more noticeable and memorable for a customer than positives or even Awesomes would be.
A. You may wish to create the same chart for visits to competitors for purposes of comparing those experiences at your organization to those of the competition. When you have completed Customer Experience Charts you should monitor those against changes or modifications that the competition makes from their own experiences. In this way the charts become a form of competitive intelligence which can be used to gain competitive advantage over the competition.
B. This tool can be modified to enhance employee relationships. For example employees can be seen as customers for HR. HR provides services to employees throughout an organization and so those employees can be considered customers. HR or Organizational Leaders can use a modified version of this tool to identify situations which might impact an employee’s productivity or morale and provide a response accordingly.
C. It might be useful to value the weight of each component of a customer experience chart. For example providing a value of A, B, and C to reflect how much impact a particular component has on a customer. The user would then work to modify or convert components by category and then by value. For example a component with a value of A and which is considered a negative component of the experience would take precedence over another with a value of B and is also negative.