If Customer Experience was a person then it would remind me of the people in funeral plan adverts. They are sprightly, active and relevant but the signs of old age are starting to creep up. In fact, you know when you are getting a bit older when they look younger than you do.
Customer Experience feels a bit like that. It’s not that there is a massive loss of relevance, but it does feel the world has moved on a bit and it has lost a bit of its impact.
There is a new incarnation of customer experience emerging that could just put this issue right. It’s called Customer Outcome Management. Don’t dismiss this as just another business term with a slight flavour of what’s already out there – it’s a 180 degrees flip. It takes the world of Customer Experience as we know it, turns it around completely on its head and pushes it into a completely different dimension!
- This thinking creates the basis for business performance change that puts every other change approach in the shade
- It represents a 180-degree turn from how company best practice traditionally drives change
- It creates the focus and basis of innovation
- It defines a basis for competitive differentiation that goes beyond the cheaper, better faster extrapolation of where people were previously
- It creates the central focus for our strategies, structures, processes and our performance indicators. This thinking impacts every aspect of the organisation
- It places the customer truly at the centre of a Company’s operations
- It makes Customer Experience, as we traditionally know it, a secondary consideration
- It explains why so many of our accepted best in class approaches fail or under-perform
No pressure then! From our research less than 1% of Companies practice it – but those who do are either dominating their markets or moving towards a leading position. It’s just not widely spoken about yet.
Let’s be clear here, I have not invented the concept. All I have done is codify the behaviour of the succeeding organisations into a winning strategy we can all use and benefit from.
Reviewing Customer Experience in how it is traditionally practised.
Customer Experience in business today is akin to the icing on a cake. The icing has a role. It makes the cake look better and taste a bit nicer. But it does not fundamentally change the cake. The basic ingredients are the same and it you take away the icing you have the cake exactly the same as before.
This is the point with customer experience as it is traditionally practiced. A well-executed customer experience strategy will have some impact on products, services and basic processes but fundamentally the company remains the same. The interactions between company and customer may improve but it’s raison d’etre, basic structure, products and internal processes do not.
I am not suggesting that CX in traditional form is not useful. But I am suggesting that it could have a lot more impact.
Now let me ask you a questions.
Why is it only 3% of companies (in the eyes of the customer) create a good enough customer experience to make it a genuine differentiator?
In 2018, really!
What is Customer Outcome Management?
It’s best thought of as a divergent process of unpacking wants and needs to a depth beyond what a customer understands about themselves.
The term “unpacking” is deliberate. It goes way further than asking customers about wants, needs and preferences. This only gives a relatively superficial understanding. “Unpacking” is the process of looking at wants and needs from different perspectives. When a question is re-framed or looked at differently new and deeper perspectives can be attained.
Another way of looking at “unpacking” wants and needs is via understanding divergent versus convergent thinking. Divergent thinking opens thinking patterns to a wider and wider perspective, so insight becomes deeper and deeper. This can result in customers realising things about themselves they never previously knew.
Divergent thinking is not a natural mindset for most business people – in fact quite the opposite. We are trained from the year dot to think convergently: take only the required amount of thinking then quickly converge on the correct answer. Convergent thinking is agile in that it enables us to process information quickly. But the problem is, it misses opportunities!
If you ask a customer questions on their wants and needs, you will undoubtedly get some insight which an extrapolation of is almost always where they already are. “We want this problem solved. Get us there faster…….better (whatever that means)……..cheaper.”
The outcome unpacking process gives you an understanding of customer that looks at the customer from different perspectives and each perspective unlocks ideas on how these outcomes can be created. The world of “different perspectives” is not new – it’s just not been added to the tool kit of the customer-centric change agent.
Consider a doctor assessing a new patient. They can check pulse, blood pressure and oxygen. They can go on to do blood tests, X-rays, MRI scans etc etc. Every diagnostic gives a different perspective on the patient. In the medical world this is completely accepted. A symptom and a cause are often not obvious and other perspectives are required to get to the bottom of exactly what a patient needs.
Outcome-based thinking does the same in the business world. And – yes, symptom and cause are often not directly related either.
In part 2 we’ll look one of the most successful examples of outcome-based thinking – which might be sitting in your pocket right now.