“The customer is always right.” An old adage that has come to reflect an essential truth – customers are the ones who drive successful businesses, and their input is, therefore, worth prioritizing. While discussion surrounding the importance of the customer experience can often sound buzzwordy, experience quality directly impacts and correlates with competitiveness.
Don’t take our word for it; listen to the customers themselves. Research from Salesforce found that 80% of consumers considered their shopping experience to be as important as the products and services they were shopping for. Notably, 66% of consumers expect corporations to understand, meet, and exceed their unique needs and expectations – yet, the same percentage often feels neglected. Personalization is a priority moving forward, with 71% of consumers expecting personalized, white-glove service experiences from their companies and 76% getting frustrated if they don’t receive it.
According to Gartner, 81% of companies have recognized this and expect to compete on the basis of experience in the coming years. The phrase “customer-centric” is often used to describe the organizational pivot needed; yet, it isn’t the right phrase to describe the mindset organizations must adopt to remain competitive.
Yes, the “customer-centric” approach positions companies to provide better service – however, it rarely encourages leaders to explore the full range of emotions, perceptions, and actions that encompass the full experience of consumers, employees, and vendors. Customer-centrism is a lens that is too narrow for this level of complexity; but experience-centrism, a more fully-realized perspective on the stakeholder experience, has no such limitations.
Experience-Centric: Looking through the lens of the customer experience
So, what does “experience-centric” mean, and how does it differ from the more common, buzzwordy “customer-centric?”
In the recent white paper “Execute an Experience-Centric Strategy to Accelerate Growth,” Gerent Experience Marketing Strategy Lead Dennis Warner noted that the experience-centric approach centers on “customers’ perceptions, their emotions; “the ‘think, feel, and do’ that happens. The experience ecosystem encompasses several segments – marketing, sales, and customer service, for example — all of which leverage customer data, brand content, and engagement to deliver impactful human and digital interactions.”
Gerent Experience Practice Lead Gordon Forsyth also spoke on the topic, following Warner by stating that "being experience-centric means you understand that all those elements fit together to deliver on a specific experience outcome aligned to a desired business outcome.”
In short, a “customer-centric” approach doesn’t do enough to recognize, meet, and exceed customers’ unique needs. Ironically, the customer-centric mindset fails to account for all the factors involved in ensuring a positive customer journey. It attempts to anticipate customer needs with too narrow a focus and avoids delving deeply into the “think, feel, and act” of customer behavior – a practice that will always fall short in execution.
On the other hand, the experience-centric mindset centers the whole experience ecosystem around stakeholder thoughts, perceptions, and actions. Adopting this approach requires leaders to take a thorough look at their processes through the lens of the stakeholder experience, then re-evaluate how they can bring their business goals and operations into alignment with customer needs.
It is a subtle shift, granted, but one that makes all the difference. According to a Qualtrics survey, experience-centric companies perform 80% better than their competitors who haven’t made that pivot. Additionally, over 95% of customers say that customer service – and, by extension, experience – is a crucial factor in developing brand loyalty. Experience-centricity allows organizations to cultivate experience ecosystems that result in quantifiable returns on investment, such as happier customers, staff, and vendors, long-lasting loyalty, and stronger performance overall.
Defining a transformation strategy: the first step toward attaining experience-centricity
Now that we’ve answered the “what” and “why” of experience-centric transformation, it’s time to address the “how.” The first step in pivoting towards an experience-centric change initiative is to define a strategy, as poorly-planned initiatives are more likely to frustrate and result in failure. Having an understanding of the big-picture goals of transformation is crucial – yet, it’s equally important to define and be able to follow how those big-picture goals are realized.
As such, the first step of any transformation initiative should be to break the process down into small stages with distinct, concrete goals. Leaders must consider what milestones they wish to set and recognize to keep their digitalization on track. Doing so makes the overarching lift more manageable for teams, allows leaders to recognize and celebrate successes, and prevents bloat or ambition from hindering progress.
This is merely the first step organizations should take to pursue change; organizations pursuing a successful, thoughtful digitalization must continue aligning their changes with the customer experience. For a practical, step-by-step guide to actioning a successful experience-centric transformation, check out our white paper!
If you’re new to digitalization, an experienced, industry-knowledgeable consultation partner like Gerent can add significant value. Take the first step on your road to transformation by visiting our microsite, or give us a call to start a personalized journey with one of our consultants.