Why being authentic is the next winning Customer Experience strategy

According to studies, the ability to provide excellent Customer Experiences is going to be the number one brand differentiator over price and product by 2020. And that is good news for my peers since we’ve built a career on helping businesses transform products and services into customer experiences. But recently the race to provide the best experiences has brought a paradox to the table: With more marketing tools available than ever before that let marketers build personalised experiences all the way down to 1:1, we have forgotten the essence of excellent customer relations: authenticity.

In the following, I will elaborate on some of the pitfalls I’ve seen from working with clients from a broad variety of industries, and some thoughts on what to consider when outlining your customer experience strategy.

The common pitfalls

So what are the common pitfalls when trying to achieve closer customer relationships and providing experiences through fancy personalisation tools. The primary thing is in fact that we try so hard. We should start by asking ourselves whether the customer wants this relationship to grow or whether we are just blindly doing what everyone else is doing. Here is what happens then:

  1. We forget to respect the most precious asset of our customers or users: time. Whenever we send an (automatic) e-mail or try to onboard the customers on a new platform, we require time from our customers. And time is one of the few things that they will never get more of.
  2. We think that we are the centre of the world when mapping out the user journeys around our product or service. We are not. Often our product or service is only a tiny fraction of a palette of tools that the users engage in during their day or week. And often it is not even something that the users want to spend time on, and it might be a necessary evil.
  3. Personalisation is not necessarily the key to a meaningful customer relationship. Segmentation of messages makes a lot of sense in some cases, but unless you deliver actual value with the communication, it can become a waste of yours and your customers time. Worst case, personalisation can be the opposite of great customer experiences if your organisation is not geared to deliver on it.

So what to do:

  • Get back to the roots. Innovation can also be to get rid of complexity, information overload and all the additional messages that you spam your customers with. Just because you made it personal, it is not necessarily genuinely relevant. Find out what the actual core value proposition is, and cut the rest.
  • Do not confuse the level of engagement with time spent on your platform. This is one of the real pitfalls that I’ve seen across business types and sizes. A lot of product owners automatically assume that engaging customers is about getting as much attention as possible. It is not. Being there for the customer in that few seconds or minutes when it matters, and being efficient and relevant in the moment, is often much more powerful than long e-mail “conversations,” and time spent logged in filling out endless forms on your platform.
  • Acknowledge when your product is not highly engaging and do not try to push it! I have worked with several low-engagement products and services, and it is critical to understand that you should not try to persuade your customers to engage in the product or service more than they find relevant. It is just annoying. Instead, try to figure out a way to make the friction as little as possible. It is not especially fun to adjust my pensions, but it is undoubtedly essential. If you time your message when it is relevant for me and provide me with a next-to-no-time-spent service to improve my setup, I’ll do it. But if you require me to participate in seminars or try to trick me to onboard onto something else, forget about it.
  • Be sincere. We all fail. And it is human. Being authentic is all about being just that! Have the courage to say We are sorry when you did not deliver on your promise and do not try to hide your mistakes behind happy go lucky messages.

So authenticity is not about being unique or about standing out by delivering a loud, cool and edgy message. On the contrary. It is about daring to cut the crap out and be whatever is genuinely relevant to your core business, and customers.

About the author: Teresa is co-founder of Blixt & Dunder, and has been working with improving user experience on digital touch points for more than 12 years.

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