Presenting Recent Books: “The Customer Experience in the Age of the Customer: Best Practices, Lessons Learned and Research Results”
How to Turn a Customer into a Fan
Henry Ford knew it way back when: dissatisfied customers are bad advertising. He was referring to dissatisfaction with a product, but today, products are interchangeable. Only companies that offer their customers exceptional service experiences will be successful in the long term. In the book "Customer Experience im Zeitalter des Kunden: Best Practices, Lessons Learned und Forschungsergebnisse" (The Customer Experience in the Age of the Customer: Best Practices, Lessons Learned and Research Results), 16 authors explain how companies can meet this challenge.
Prices, product ranges and technology are no longer competitive advantages – Andreas Rusnjak and Daniel Schallmo make that clear in their article “Gestaltung und Digitalisierung von Kundenerlebnissen im Zeitalter des Kunden” (Designing and digitizing customer experiences in the age of the customer). They say the most important factor for competitiveness or even market leadership will in the future be customer experience. This topic is inextricably linked to the digital transformation as consumers adapt much faster than companies to technological advances. Given that this is the case, the authors argue, an agile approach is required to develop sustainable customer experiences.
The first step is evaluation. In the context of customer experience, this means understanding who the most important customers are, how they interact with the company’s business model and what benefits or experiences they associate with it. First, the current status is determined. Important questions here include: How do customer experiences relate to the brand promise? What bad experiences have customers had with the business model? What are their requirements? The second phase is the assessment of the business model. Among other things, these questions will be answered: What are the most important digital trends and how do they affect people, businesses, markets and ecosystems? What customer experiences can be created by adopting trends? How can innovations be used to create better customer experiences? Opportunity fields, which provide the basis for formulating a business model vision in the third phase, are derived from the corresponding answers. This vision should be short, realistic, engaging, positive and authentic. In order to elaborate it, the following questions need to be answered: Where is the company coming from? Where does it currently stand? Where would you like it to go and which opportunity fields are available?
The fourth phase deals with the business model strategy. According to the authors, it is not technologies that determine the success of a digital transformation, but rather the existence of a clear business model strategy and its implementation with a focus on customer benefits. The strategy outlines how a business model can survive and grow in an increasingly digital world. Its focus must not be limited to the mere development of products or solutions but instead use digital assets to develop and expand customer benefits. The fifth phase is business model design. This involves achieving the vision and implementing the corresponding strategy. Both existing business models can be adapted and new ones developed. As a starting point for this, it is advisable to combine the developed opportunity fields with suitable customer segments. Based on the identified customer needs, a pool of ideas with possible solutions is developed. The best ideas in the interest of an ideal customer experience are detailed and transformed into product or service designs.
In principle, this process of digital transformation should be designed and supervised by an interdisciplinary team. Especially in the design of customer experiences, employees who have close customer contact should also be appointed to the team.
Holistic brand and customer experiencesa
Kai Kruthoff, Glenn Oberholzer (both from Stimmt AG, Zurich, Switzerland) and Adrian Zemp (CSS Versicherung, Lucerne, Switzerland) describe in their article how the Swiss health insurance company CSS was able to create “holistic brand and customer experiences” across all contact points. For this purpose, CSS used what is called the “four-in-a-row” approach, which consists of the action areas “define brand positioning,” “promote brand promise,” “deliver brand experience” and “check brand performance.”
In order to develop the new brand positioning – the first action area – the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks of CSS were first identified and the contents of the future brand identity were developed. On this basis, the positioning was developed and evaluated by customers and non-customers in a survey. The final brand positioning was then formulated as “highly effective and customer-focused.” With “highly effective,” CSS emphasizes the persuasive quality of its products and services; with “customer-oriented” it shows that the customer is always at the center of attention.
Since strong brands ideally exude their appeal from the inside out, the new positioning was first communicated to employees in the second action area: activation campaigns were launched on the intranet and in the employee magazine, training courses provided information, and internal competitions for ideas on brand attributes encouraged people to participate and contribute. The brand promise “CSS. Completely personalized” and the campaign “Anything but average” were created for the external communication. The message: For CSS, there is no average customer – each is considered individually. The accompanying advertising campaign deliberately used scenes, images and representations that stand out from mainstream insurance advertising. In addition, a total of 41 measures were implemented to close the gap between the current and targeted level of fulfillment of the brand positioning. Among other things, the external design of the CSS agencies has been standardized.
In order to keep the promise resulting from the brand positioning and to be able to offer customers a positive brand experience – the third action area – CSS needed a new approach and internal change that puts the focus on the customer. To this end, a customer experience management system was set up and firmly established in the company within two years. It continuously ensures that the following tasks are fulfilled:
A survey of how well CSS meets customer expectations
Responding to negative customer feedback in the form of prompt recalls to increase customer satisfaction
Redesigning customer experiences when needed
Internal sensitization for high customer focus through training and workshops
The customer experience cycle and customer journeys have proven their worth as a means of analyzing and designing customer experiences. The customer experience cycle represents the whole customer relationship, from first interaction all the way until loyalty is established. Customer journeys are individual periods of the customer relationship with a clearly defined start and end.
In the fourth action area, the goal is to continuously monitor brand success. Since 2015, customer satisfaction targets have been in place for all operational areas of CSS, and the company has been promptly measuring customer satisfaction and the degree to which goals have been achieved – usually within 20 minutes. The findings from all customer surveys are available to the operational units in the form of a daily cockpit. Teams can see immediately whether they have reached their goal. The data is also used for a continuous improvement process. For example, the 2014 survey revealed that about one third of customers reported their concerns were not resolved after telephone contact with the service center – with proportionate effects on customer satisfaction. Various measures have reduced the share of unresolved issues to 23 percent, thus increasing customer satisfaction.
In this process, CSS has identified key success factors that can also benefit other companies:
Action area 1: When preparing a new positioning, define the accompanying measures to close gaps between the actual and target state.
Action area 2: Communicate a new brand promise internally initially and ensure acceptance of it.
Action area 3: The customer experience path makes it possible to visualize and embed brand identity and positioning internally.
Action area 4: Fulfilment of the targeted brand perception is a continuous process that must be measured and adapted at all levels and points of contact.
From customer to fan
The other articles in the book deal with, among other things, the role smartphones and wearables play in today’s buying behavior and their influence on the customer journey; the role the digital transformation plays in the customer experience in B2B sales; and the process-oriented measurement of the customer experience using the telecommunications industry as an example. One thing is clear in all of the articles: the experiences that customers have with a brand are a central building block for business success. And customer service plays an important role in the process – since that is what turns customers into fans.
“Customer Experience im Zeitalter des Kunden: Best Practices, Lessons Learned und Forschungsergebnisse” (The Customer Experience in the Age of the Customer: Best Practices, Lessons Learned and Research Results), Springer Gabler, 2018, EUR 44.99
Prof. Dr. Andreas Rusnjak teaches, researches and consults at Flensburg University of Applied Sciences in the areas of strategy and business model development, digital commerce, customer experience management, entrepreneurship, strategic innovation management and digital transformation. Together with Dr. Daniel Schallmo, he heads the Institute for Business Model Innovation (IfBMI).
Prof. Dr. Daniel R. A. Schallmo is a professor at Ulm University of Applied Sciences, heads the private Institute for Business Model Innovation, is a member of the Institute for Digital Transformation and works as a lecturer in management training as well as in bachelor’s and master’s degree courses in the fields of design thinking and strategy, business model, process and innovation management.
Author: Editorial team Future. Customer. Image: photon_photo – AdobeStock