“Customer Experience” Honored More in the Breach Than in Reality?

Sep 03, 2014

Focusing on the “Customer Experience” has become an “interesting” buzz phrase for several reasons:

1. Isn’t it obvious that companies should satisfy customers in order to retain them and to generate repeat sales? Doesn’t it cost much more to keep existing buyers than to continually acquire new ones? Particularly in this slow-growth economy where there are fewer valuable customers to replace those who have been lost, as a result of poor customer service? And where customer loyalty, purchases and brand reputation hinge on the latest customer experiences expressed through viral posts and Tweets?

To paraphrase George Orwell, some customers are more equal than others, namely the “1 percenters” when it comes to providing an excellent customer experience. Airlines prove the point as they lavish attention on the front of the plane and treat the rear of the craft as protoplasmic baggage.

2. On the other hand (and more insidiously), isn’t this customer experience focus a motherhood statement, like “free market”, that is honored more in the breach than in practice?

Here’s why: Customers (even the 1 percenters) tend to choose features, convenience, style and price over customer service and quality. Moreover, the goal of the free market, namely low prices from fair competition, runs counter to the best interests of the companies who play in it. Companies maximize profitability when they control the market. Companies can then charge more and cut costs like customer service to the bone without losing customers and revenues.

Take the cable industry for example, customers can scream loudly about Comcast, to cite one well-publicized example, but as Time magazine recently pointed out, are they going to drop Comcast and go to another cable company or to DSL, fiber, satellite, or wireless?

How about the Microsoft Windows software embedded into laptops and PCs? I along with many others have uttered volumes of FCC-disallowed words describing our experiences with ME, Vista and based on secondhand remarks, Win 8. Yes, Apple has long had a better OS, but Apple has always been more expensive and less open, which was why Apple struggled until it changed the game with mobile.

3. Unfortunately and ironically, the customer experience solutions industry is not exempt from delivering a poor customer experience. I’ve learned of and been told horror stories about CRM, IVR, and hosted and on-premise installed contact center products in particular, but because this is a B2B rather than a B2C market, the customers are quieter because few would dare to openly admit that they bought or approved poor quality, badly serviced and overpriced software and hardware.

Is there a way to create an environment where companies will be compelled to improve the customer experience? The answer is yes. Through mergers and acquisitions into two or three market-dominant and market-share-hungry firms who can afford to buy disruptive technologies (and vendors) as weapons to wield against their competitors, in order to woo the customers’ favor.

Brendan Read


Brendan Read is Senior Industry Analyst with over 25 years’ experience covering business, communications, staffing, and technology. He has worked in, prepared reports, and blogged on a wide range of topics including customer contact, CX, CRM, IoT, social media, supply chain, and BC/DR. He also has backgrounds in construction, manufacturing, materials, resource extraction, site selection, and transportation. He examines the broad economic, environmental, innovation, political, and social mega trends, and their impacts on businesses, markets, and society.

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