If you heard the phrase ‘customer experience’ ten years ago, you’d have put it in the same bracket as ‘blue sky thinking’, ‘circling back’ and ‘leveraging solutions’, dismissing it as meaningless management twaddle.
But customer experience is now most definitely here, and it’s for real. What’s more it’s even making boardrooms around the world sit up and take notice, as the recent article about Tesco in the Evening Standard explains.
It says: ‘The experience of shoppers, staff and suppliers will now play a part in setting what remuneration Tesco’s chief executive Dave Lewis gets. 20% of the award will be based on factors including the share of customers recommending it as a place to shop as well as supplier and staff satisfaction.’ This is a massive step forward, linking the experience of customers to the performance and pay of executives.
But to look forward, we need to take a step back – if only to see how far we’ve come. Back then companies had a marketing department, and they had a customer service department. And never the twain would meet. Marketing would promise one thing and customer service would try and sweep up the mess from the resulting complaints. The poor customers were always the ones who suffered. In the early days of the lorries, we used to be the negotiating bridge between the two ‘factions’ – and often needed all the diplomatic skills of the United Nations.
But then some bright spark worked out that it was probably best to keep existing customers happy, and well, keep them, rather than letting them go to the competition after a bad experience. Much better than spending lots of money trying to attract new ones. No shit, Sherlock!
So we saw the beginnings of a brave new ‘customer-centric’ world with its ‘holistic customer experience’ and ‘end-to-end customer journeys.’ And we saw the rise of new job roles – customer experience managers, and now board-level customer experience directors – to ensure the customer gets the same experience, from acquisition to after sales.
Now a whole industry has been spawned. You know when an industry has made it when it gets an award ceremony – and the Customer Experience Awards is testament to just how far customer experience has come. Even the top management consultancies like McKinsey & Company are now extolling the virtues of looking at the whole customer journey holistically – through the customer’s eyes not the company’s.
The Tesco announcement may not be much more than a token PR effort to help soften some of the reputational challenges the company has faced – from horsemeat to accounting scandals. And it probably won’t make much difference to Dave Lewis’ huge pay check.
But…it does make a point. It’s a step in the right direction. Finally organisations are recognising the people that help keep their businesses going – their customers and staff. And just as importantly, they’re recognising the tight link between their financial results and the customer experience. That’s progress.