I thought Customer Experience was supposed to be a ‘top priority’ in 2016

Brands claim customer experience is a top priority, really they’re just paying it lip service

I have to admit, I am not the most patient person. I am even less patient when it comes to being put on hold by so-called ‘customer service departments’. We are all familiar with the inevitable message, “your call is very important to us, we will be with you shortly”, while you die a little bit at the other end of the line.

We are hearing a lot about customer experience lately. I cannot help thinking, however, that brands are really just paying lip service to it.

Banks are supposedly embracing customer experience while at the same time operating branches with no till staff.

This is the big opportunity in marketing: the selling of ‘experiences’ versus the selling of ‘things’. It is the experience of having and driving a new car that we like; the car is just an object. Far too little thought is invested in the experience and for bigger companies, there is the constant pressure to standardise and commoditise experiences.

Yet talking directly to a well-trained person behind the counter or on the phone is often the best possible customer experience of the lot, and one that really lowers the cost of customer acquisition by improving retention.

I came across a scholarly article in the Managing Service Quality: An International Journal’, no less. Pretty highbrow, huh? The article was called ‘The relative importance of technology in enhancing customer relationships in banking’. Not very snappy or clickbaity, but you cannot have everything. The article in question said:  ‘In such a competitive sector (banking) where quality of service can be a differentiator in the marketplace, the balance between personal interaction and technologically delivered services must be right if customers are to be retained over time. Research was carried out to elicit the views of personal bank customers, business customers and bank staff with respect to the use of different banking technologies. The findings point towards the need for a balanced approach that avoids over use of technology at the expense of the personal approach to service delivery and towards the need to provide customers with some technological training rather than assuming they will automatically accept technology and make use of it.’

Not exactly a stunning insight. But this particular piece of insight does not appear to have crossed the mind of most CFOs or operations people.  Despite customer experience now being seen as a priority, the beancounter’s focus on the  cost for each extra ‘head’ and the lack of positive effect on the bottom line.  The value creation for the consumer and brand is the customer experience, and yet the banks continue to close locations hand over first and force you to work through an ATM.

By the way, the above article was written in 2004, before the mass adoption of the internet and smart phones. And yet most services business still have not worked it out.