7 Provocative Questions to Build a Great Customer Experience in 2024
By Colin Shaw, Founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy LLC
As a new year approaches, let's plan next year's landscape with a renewed lens. To guide us, let’s use seven challenging questions I have developed over the last 20 years to challenge, educate, and change the experience your organisation is trying to deliver to its customers. My challenge is this: If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you should, and I recommend that you think about them before the new year starts.
- WHAT IS THE EXPERIENCE YOU ARE TRYING TO DELIVER?
I've been asking this question for decades, yet when I pose it to organisations, they often echo back with silence or discordant answers. Why is it that individuals can articulate an experience, but an entire organisation flounders? The absence of a shared, well-thought-out strategy spells doom, leading to divergent actions that dilute the customer experience.
Take Maersk Line, the largest container shipping company in the world. We helped them define their experience, and they amassed a 40-point surge in their Net Promoter Score over 30 months. Their clarity about wanting to instil “Trust, Care, and Pleased’ in their customers paid dividends—a 10% increase in shipping volumes.
Interestingly, these goals were emotional. Yet, most clients often tout 'convenience' or 'reliability', forgetting the profound emotions driving a memorable customer experience.
- CUSTOMER-CENTRIC OR PRODUCT-CENTRIC—WHERE DO YOU STAND?
Customer-centricity is not merely a strategy; it's a cultural ethos. However, when quizzed about their position on the customer-centricity spectrum, many organisations must be more pessimistic.
Let's divide the spectrum:
- Naïve companies are customer-agnostic.
- Transactional companies prioritise operations over customer happiness.
- Enlightened companies are aware but haven't fully committed.
- Natural companies are the customer-centric zenith.
Alarmingly, even the Enlightened and Natural companies are showing a troubling pivot away from customer-centricity. This erosion is reflected in a 17-year low in customer satisfaction metrics. It's not just pandemic fatigue or the Great Resignation; old habits die hard.
- HOW WOULD YOUR CUSTOMERS DESCRIBE THE TIME THEY GIFT YOU?
We dissected this topic during a recent podcast with Lou Carbon and Joe Pine. Pine introduced three descriptors:
- Time well-saved: Was the experience seamless?
- Time well spent: Did it offer joy, or was it futile?
- Time well invested: Did they gain anything meaningful?
Let me add another - a waste of time. With too many companies, I worry this would be the answer they would give. If the answers you suspect are far from your goals, you've got some recalibrating to do.
- THE HIDDEN DESIRES AND TRUE VALUE DRIVERS OF YOUR CUSTOMERS
This question is the natural successor to the previous one. Your customers' words are only sometimes an accurate reflection of their actions. For instance, while Disney park-goers professed wanting salads, sales data screamed chicken nuggets.
The reality is that often, customers need to figure out what they want. What they say they will do and do can be very different. The real surprise comes when you dig deeper into desires. Astonishing, isn't it?
- PREDICTIVE EXPERIENCES—ARE YOU IN THE GAME YET?
The future is predictive Customer Experiences. Companies that harness past behaviour to forecast future needs will be the victors. Think of Spotify’s intuitive music recommendations or how Starbucks' app launches as you approach their café. Your business may not build phones, but you can predict and meet customer needs in creative ways.
- HAVE YOU SURFACED ON THE CUSTOMER SCIENCE WAVE?
Customer Science is the next frontier, merging customer data, artificial intelligence, and behavioural science. Yet, remember, just data and AI without understanding 'why' is a half-baked recipe.
- ARE YOUR CUSTOMER MEMORIES CRAFTED OR ACCIDENTAL?
If you don't deliberately construct the memories you leave with your customers, you leave money on the table. Customer loyalty is intrinsically tied to these memories.
EMBRACE THE FUTURE TODAY
Only a tenth of organisations can confidently answer these seven crucial questions. Given the whirlwind of daily operational issues and stakeholder demands, it's unsurprising. However, investing time in these questions can radically reshape your strategic direction, driving year-over-year growth.
The past is gone; the future is what you make it today. So, focus from the next few hours to the coming years. Your future self—and organisation—will thank you for it.
About the author
Colin Shaw is a LinkedIn 'Top Voice' with a massive 280,000 followers and 82,000 loyal subscribers to his 'Why Customers Buy' newsletter. Shaw is named one of the world's 'Top 150 Business Influencers' by LinkedIn. His company, Beyond Philosophy LLC, has been selected four times by the Financial Times as a top management consultancy. Shaw is co-host of the top 2% podcast 'The Intuitive Customer'—with over 600,000 downloads—and author of eight best-sellers on customer experience; Shaw is a sought-after keynote speaker.