Finding a great customer experience is a little like falling in love. It’s hard to define and often unexpected, but you know it when it strikes. The French describe it as a ‘lightening bolt’ – the coup de foudre.

I had one of those ‘out of the blue’ great customer experience moments recently. Like many people, I’ve been spending too much time on video calls and was having trouble sleeping – an issue exacerbated by my ancient mattress. Pre-COVID, I’d have gone to a store and tried one out. Stuck at home doing online research, I discovered precious little information from traditional retailers to help me choose the perfect sleep support or give me confidence I was buying what I needed.

But then, I came across some of the new “mattress in a box” companies. While sceptical at first, I discovered I could easily compare mattresses over my morning coffee and the one I chose (from Koala) was delivered that very afternoon – with a money back guarantee to overcome my hesitation of buying a mattress online.

I was ‘in love’.

What Koala got right was what Scandinavian Airline CEO, Jan Carlson, called the “moments of truth”. At every touch point, Koala demonstrated it understood my situation, my concerns and my barriers to purchase, delivering a great end-to-end customer experience. It fulfilled its brand promise: “To fix furniture buying, because the old way sucks!”

While fulfilling your brand promise may sound easy – it is not. It requires a fundamental change in how companies organise to close the ‘experience gap’: the difference between what the brand promises (we’re friendly, we’re easy to do business with, we understand you) and what the customer actually experiences.

How to close the experience gap

The experience gap closes when you have human centred design across the entire customer journey. This requires understanding, designing and delivering product and service experiences that fit into the way customers actually live their lives. And, to do that, you need to make experience everyone’s business by creating an organisational culture and structure aligned around the customer – not organisational silos.

To begin organising around that idea:

  • Expand the experience remit – Your organisation needs to understand that every person in every function bears responsibility for delivering a great customer experience. Every part of the business must be interconnected and collaborative, functioning as one cohesive unit with experience as its north star.

To achieve this, your organisational pyramid may need to be inverted and aligned around the customer, with teams empowered to work across silos and make decisions at the front line. Then leadership can focus on enabling front line team members and providing the tools and capabilities to successfully deliver for the customer.

  • Grow your culture of accountability – To make sure every single employee feels a sense of ownership and responsibility, you need to look carefully at how best to reshape their understanding of their role in the customer experience. A couple of emails or presentations won’t fully ground the message. Everyone must understand, believe in and be ready to put in their piece of the customer experience puzzle. That means augmenting traditional KPIs with Experience Performance Indicators so customer experience is a focus in performance reviews, career progression, company meetings, team building exercises and training.
  • Synch the tech, data and human agenda – Underpinning all of this is analytics and data. You need to measure the customer experience through both soft and hard data across all customer touchpoints. Just as important, you also have to measure the core processes and technology underpinning how the customer experience is delivered.

To make this work, you need to find and integrate the right technologies, tools and processes to keep your business focused on experience and adapt when customer needs and expectations change. Get it right, and when people’s behaviours change again — however radically or suddenly — your organisation will be agile enough to change the experiences you offer quickly and retain your hard-earned customer relationship.

These changes take time and effort – but they’re worth it. When every part of your organisation works to deliver a great customer experience, that’s when people fall in love with your brand.

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