In the race for the next customer, businesses have access to a mind-boggling array of technology ranging from social media to artificial intelligence and Big Data. These tools seem to offer businesses the opportunity to understand their customers like never before. Are they helping, though? Businesses now know more about their customers but are they missing something deeper? The Customer Experience Book: How to Design, Measure, and Improve Customer Experience in Your Business believes that we are.
What is The Customer Experience Book About?
“The simple fact is that most companies do not think through the actual experience that they want to deliver…and so they do not actively design for that experience.” — Alan Pennington, The Customer Experience Book
The Customer Experience Book claims that most of what we call “customer service” is superficial. Business leaders praise the concept of “customer service”. They launch initiatives and create marketing materials that boast about the incredible customer service their business offers. Things don’t change that much, however. Customers still experience excessively long wait times, redundant customer service process (such as repeating your customer information to the fifth customer service agent in a row!), and unfriendly policies that treat customers as liabilities.
To top it all off, these customers receive a customer service survey that asks the same superficial questions (“How are we doing?”) and usually leads to the same bad conditions as before the survey.
The Customer Experience Book suggests that these customer service nightmares stem from our narrow view of “customer service”. The book argues that we should embrace the “customer experience.” Instead of settling for the minimum requirements needed to retain our customer base, customer experience focuses on the customer’s expectations and perceptions while interacting with a business.
In other words, the book invites readers to analyze the entire customer experience from start to finish rather than the transaction or data point. Embracing this perspective requires the commitment of the entire business, not just the “customer service department”. Getting the entire business involved allows that business to actively tilt the customer experience in their favor. Businesses that are able to provide a positive experience have an easier time acquiring and retaining customers. Why? Customers are loyal to experiences, not transactions.
Author Alan Pennington is a consultant and educator who launched his consulting business from scratch. Today Pennington is executive chair at Spectrum, an advisory firm which has become one of the leading experts in the emerging discipline of customer experience.
What Was Best About The Customer Experience Book?
The Customer Experience Book totally upends the traditional concept of “customer service”. In fact, it broadens the definition of the “customer service” concept as well as offers a framework (Customer Journey Map) for managing this new concept. This new approach to customer service offers a lot of potential by combining two innovative trends in customer service. These are a focus on the numbers with Big Data and a focus on qualitative data (like sentiment analysis, social media, etc.) in a bolder, more proactive way.
What Could Have Been Done Differently?
The potential obstacles in a book like this lie paradoxically in its strengths. The Customer Experience Book puts the business in the driver’s seat of creating, measuring and refining a consistent experience across all channels for the customer. Maintaining this cross-channel consistency can be difficult, especially with all of the various touch points even a simple business can have (retail storefront, Google, social media, etc.) More information is needed about how to integrate measurement of important metrics like social media, email open rates, etc. into the Customer Journey Map for those businesses who are exclusively digital or have a heavy digital component.
Why Read The Customer Experience Book?
The Customer Experience Book is the kind of book that a leader, whether an executive of a multi-million dollar company or a manager of two employees, may want to read with his or her team because it is a conversation starter. The book’s primary “super power” is its ability to encourage readers to transcend the traditional idea of “customer service” into “customer experience”. This dramatic shift requires the entire business to commit or the efforts will be limited, as predicted by the book. The idea behind the book is rather intuitive (“Everyone in the business should help customers”), but that’s the beauty of it. Customer service, as it is practiced today, is the opposite of that, the book claims. It takes a dedicated commitment from the entire business in order to create a place where positive customer experience looks easy.