The CX Angle Podcast: Why Talk About Customer Experience?

The CX Podcast series

We are in the midst of a Customer Experience (CX) revolution and customers are demanding an enhanced experience.  In this first episode of The CX Angle, itelligence Corporate Communication Manager, Jeremy Cross, and Customer Experience Account Executive, Ryan Kubec, discuss the importance of CX, and why we should be talking about it.

Read the transcript below or listen to the podcast.

We are in the midst of a CX revolution. Companies are investing massive amounts of money into new technology and reorganizing to focus on customer experience. The CX market is currently estimated at $7.5 billion, and is forecasted to grow to $14.5 billion by 2024.

(Jeremy Cross) So, Ryan, why talk about CX right now? We see the numbers behind it, but why is it important to look at CX?

(Ryan Kubec) Yeah, so the numbers are definitely behind it, and what we see in trends in the businesses that we are engaged with … honestly, I think it’s a little all over the map right now.

You’ve got some folks who don’t know even what it is, so they keep hearing customer experience is important and they value the experience of their customers, but they have no clue where to start, what does it even mean, how do they measure that, and what does customer experience look like for them. All the way through to customers who seem to have a very solid strategy about how they want to roll that out, what type of experience they expect their customers to have; they are very active in getting feedback.

So it’s kind of all over the place right now with the businesses we work with, and that’s some of what we do, we try to help companies identify that strategy and improve their overall customer experience.

But I guess we haven’t really even defined what customer experience is.

(Jeremy Cross) I was going to ask you that. How would you define customer experience? This isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that has really risen to the surface with customer demand and what customer expectations are. So, how would you define CX?

(Ryan Kubec) There are a lot of different ways you can define it, depending on industry, but one of the better definitions I’ve seen came out of Forrester, and they define customer experience as “how customers perceive their interactions with your company.” That was from a 2010 definition, so even though it seems like it’s building a lot of momentum now – or at least in recent years – it’s not a new concept. This has been around for a while.

But, you know, at the end of the day it’s just, are your customers happy with their overall experience with you and are they likely to come back? That’s really what you want as a business owner, or as a CEO or executive of a business — you want customers to be happy.

And customer experience seems to be the new competition field. It’s the new playing field, because all your competitors probably have quality products, all your competitors probably offer a good level of service and customer service. And so the new place where people are going to compete is, we want our customers to have a better experience being one of our customers … all the way to where you have these brand evangelists that essentially take up the torch, and they’re so excited about the experience of being a customer for some of these brands that they almost become an uncompensated sales rep, where they start pushing and advertising and promoting those companies, just because they really enjoy being a part of that.

(Jeremy Cross) There’s a fantastic author that I follow – his name is Mark Schaefer – and he comes from a marketing perspective here, but he has said that brand is no longer what it wants to define itself to be. Brand is what consumers tell other consumers. It all comes back to the experience that one customer has, and what they share with somebody else. That’s what a brand is now – or at least that’s where the new branding is going.

(Ryan Kubec) Yeah. The days of Don Draper [from Mad Men] and the advertising men telling you what a brand is, it’s done. That may be how you can launch a new brand, but as soon as you start getting some Google reviews and you’ve got people reviewing your products, your service or your business anywhere online, that takes on its own identity itself, and you can succeed that way or you can quickly fail that way.

(Jeremy Cross) So, here’s what I would like for you to do. Because we’ve talked about this. Customer experience is one of those things that I’ve said is agnostic of industry. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, there’s an element of customer experience that’s going to be there. When you look at customer experience, we are all consumers, and so we’ve all come into contact with customer experience at some point.

Can you give me a good example … you’ve brought up some before … tell me about how, as a traveler, I might interact with customer experience from the different companies that I work with in just a single trip?

(Ryan Kubec) Okay. From that travel standpoint, I flew down here yesterday to our Cincinnati office from where I live in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area.

Not too long ago, what that process would have looked like was me either working with a travel agent or searching for multiple rates to get a flight booked or calling an airline directly. Instead, I pulled out my phone and went directly to my Delta app, found the flight that worked for me, booked it and was able to select my own seat.

Then, when I got to the airport … not too long ago I would have had to wait in line, go up to the check-in counter, check in, get my boarding pass printed and handed to me. Instead, I pulled up my app, checked in 24 hours in advance online, was able to change my seat if I wanted, saved my boarding pass online on my phone, and then the next step is going through the security line.

So, a lot of travelers wait in that really long security line to get through TSA, but there’s a better customer experience that you actually have to pay more for — which is the unique piece that you not only have to compete on price, but companies like CLEAR and TSA Precheck and Global Entry – those cost extra money, but the value is there because it’s a better experience.

So when I go into the pre-check line, I don’t have to take my shoes off, don’t have to pull all my stuff out of my bag – my laptop and everything – to get through. So, a better customer experience there.

Then, when I land, 7-10 years ago you would have to hop in a cab, have no idea what it’s actually going to cost … you’re sweating watching the meter run as you’re sitting at a red light or caught in traffic. Instead, you pull out [your phone] and book an Uber. I know exactly how much it’s going to cost to get from the airport to my hotel – a better customer experience there.

Getting to the hotel to check in, waiting in line to show your ID and get your room key … [instead,] I pull up my app for the hotel on my phone, grab my mobile key and go directly to my room because I checked in online.

So all of that, aside of being more modern, what it really does is save time, and [not] sitting around waiting in line is just one way in that travel example. You know, I travel for a living, so there’s a lot of value in saving time for me there, because waiting in line means I’m not sitting down here talking to you or responding to the hundred emails my boss wants me to get back on. So it’s offering that better customer experience.

Now, would I book an airline that’s a little cheaper and doesn’t offer any of that? Probably not, both from a professional or personal perspective, because there’s the value of having that better experience like we talked about with the security line.

People pay more if it’s a better experience. And you see, even at places like Disney World, people pay extra for the FastPass, because you’re going to have a better experience in the park. Or people buy the upgraded package because there’s a better experience. And a lot of businesses – both B2B and B2C — are starting to say, “How can we offer a better customer experience?” But a lot of times they don’t realize that you can charge a premium for that better experience, and a lot of companies are willing to say, “Yes, that’s worth it.”

One pitfall that some businesses fall into is thinking they have to provide this perfect, end-to-end experience. What we’re finding is that there are certain areas where if you can reduce friction or you can reduce headaches with what that customer experience looks like, those are going to be areas that can be statistically impactful on those customer experiences.

So you never want to forget about the overall customer experience and get so down into a rabbit hole that now you’re having three-hour meetings over what color the background of your app is going to be. Pick one!

(Jeremy Cross) What’s so interesting in the example of the app that you gave, really all of this goes back to 2007. I mean the invention of the iPhone App Store. All of these things when we now think of customer experience, it is how many customer experiences do you have that are being driven through an app?

(Ryan Kubec) And that is one of the core pillars of customer experience. We can go down the technical and official definition path some other time, but it’s about providing customer self-service options. Having an app where you can order your own drinks … you don’t have to wait for a server to come back … and a web-front like Amazon really drives a lot of the standards for customer experience.

Have you ever called Amazon and said, “Hey, I just wanted to call and check the status of my order”? No. You just log into your online profile, check your order number, grab the tracking number and see exactly what distribution center or what UPS branch has it – all the way down to, sometimes, a 10-minute window. You know exactly when it’s going to be at your house.

Self-service options are what I think customers are demanding. Definitely on the B2C side – if you do not have customer self-service, you’ve got to find a way to incorporate that.

Now, that varies by business. Small business owners have smaller budgets, smaller staff, so that may be difficult. But getting creative and finding ways that you can allow those self-service capabilities where they make sense, all the way up through Fortune 500 companies, of having some type of self-service. Customers can go in and check their own status; they can pay their invoices online.

Both B2C and B2B — because those worlds are blending together so quickly – like you mentioned earlier, customer experience is really industry agnostic and what you’re being judged against isn’t just you and your competitors. If we’re a complex manufacturer, we’re not being compared to three other complex manufacturers.

You know, Janet, who is the buyer at one of our customers, could be calling her health insurance company during her lunch break. If the health insurance company answers her questions right away, knows exactly what Janet’s policy is, can quickly get to that claim and explain what the issue is and get it resolved, it is proactively able to provide a really great customer experience.

Then, Janet comes back from lunch and calls our center, and we’ve got to route her to 15 different people and she gets disconnected, and even if they have a long-term relationship with us, Janet may be going to her boss and saying, “This is just a waste of time; it took me three hours just to get an order placed with these guys.”

And so that’s where we see you’re not just being judged against and competing against your competitors in CX, you’re really competing against everyone’s day-to-day life and what they’re experiencing. Think about how many different companies you interact with in a day – you mentioned your iPhone – just on your phone. How many different company applications do you use in a day?

(Jeremy Cross) I think what we’re establishing here is that CX is a topic that impacts people across the board. B2B … B2C … throw out any other acronym that you want. It is something that is impactful.

So, what Ryan and I are doing here is, we’re establishing this podcast, and here’s what you can expect from us moving forward. We’re going to give you real-world examples about the importance of CX. What are the takeaways here? What are we talking about? We’re going to talk with industry experts, we’re going to talk about technology and we’re going to talk about it from the customer standpoint, what’s happening in the market. If it has to do with CX, we’re going to talk about it. That’s what you can expect going forward out of this podcast.

(Ryan Kubec) Yeah, and there are some podcasts and commentators around that get very technical, and it sounds like they have PhDs on the subject – which is fantastic, and the world needs those – but we are going to bring it down to easy-to-understand and easy-to-digest, practical real-world examples of who’s doing this well, how can you bring customer experience elements into business – whether that be small business owners all the way to up Fortune 500 or Fortune 100. If Exxon wants to call … or Amazon … we’ll gladly take your call. 😉

How do we incorporate those elements and why are they important, and also just sharing our own personal feedback of who’s doing it really great, who’s providing a good customer experience, and go from there.

(Jeremy Cross) All right! Well, thanks for taking the time to listen to this first episode of The CX Angle. We hope that we’ve given you enough reason to check out Episode 2, and, again, hope to hear from you next time. Thanks!

Listen to more podcasts:

Episode 2: CX Winners: Domino’s

Episode 3:  Barriers that Impact Customer Experience

Episode 4: CRM Pitfalls and Recommendations

Episode 5: AI, Smart Speakers and Virtual Assistants

Episode 6: Solving Customer Experience for Black Friday

Episode 7: Customer Experience and Manufacturing

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