Originally published on Forbes
The epic rises and falls of great companies that failed to adapt to changing technologies have now become legendary. Of the 500 companies on the Fortune 500 list in 1955, only 60 remained by 2017 — and in 2019, we’re seeing the enterprise value of companies that have failed to adapt decline as challengers roll out new products, services and business models that are simply more convenient and less expensive than traditional alternatives.
Amazon is making life difficult on bookstores (and more). Apple helped destroy record stores. Airbnb has forever changed the hotel industry. Uber is upending the taxi and limousine industry. And Netflix has replaced Blockbuster and is challenging alternatives like Redbox.
Over-the-top free communications services destroyed entire long-distance voice businesses, and movies on demand are making it even harder for movie theater operators to fill seats and make a profit. Ride-sharing services are appealing to many millennials who have no need to own a car when they live in a city, and in the foreseeable future, self-driving vehicles may pick us up and drop us off on demand.
I call the words above the five C’s that create the future of customer experience (CX). This intersection is proving that all roads lead to Rome in a world where consumers (whether individuals or corporations) are in the driver’s seat. It’s what they think and feel that counts, as they now have the ability to click, tap or swipe for instant gratification.
With over 20 years of contact center and customer experience involvement with large enterprises across industries, I’ve found that the companies that “get it” are growing, and the companies that don’t are flailing. For example, while Tesla’s design, engineering, technology, quality and safety features are superb, it’s the brand that has inspired people to line up to buy, paying for cars that haven’t left the factory. When they do leave the factory, those cars are delivered straight to the buyers’ homes.
According to a survey conducted by Autotrader, less than 1% of respondents felt the current car-buying experience was “ideal.” Yet most car companies continue to sell through distribution networks and “licensed dealers.”
Meanwhile, Tesla allows the experience of selecting the car and personalized features, financing the car, insuring the car and then driving and maintaining the car to be done in minutes both online and through a mobile app. A survey conducted by Consumer Reports (via Forbes) found that Tesla has a 90% overall satisfaction rating.
Every industry is undergoing a digital transformation, and those transformations are impacting the ability to either excel at CX or fail. Companies that are winning are also rethinking the customer experience as part of the transformation. The ones that do both will succeed.
When businesses are struggling to adapt to “digital challengers,” they tend to focus on their core products and services without remaining as aware of opportunities to improve CX as part of their own transformation strategies. This “blind spot” can lead to disastrous consequences, including a failure in the retail industry, for example, to participate in e-commerce even as consumers abandon brick-and-mortar stores in preference of the convenience, control, creativity, choice and cost associated with online experiences.
Great retail brands have been crumbling all around us for decades, from Blockbuster and Tower Records 20 years ago to Sports Authority and Toys R Us more recently. In the last few years, these brands have been victims of what CB Insights has called the “retail apocalypse.”
Companies like Amazon have excelled not because they figured out the basics, but because they pay attention in real time to what their customers are doing, and because they are using technology to provide simple, helpful recommendations and keep customers informed in real time about any delivery delays.
Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is a perfect example of combining its technology, platform, data management and intelligent systems with what consumers appreciate: fresh food, guaranteed and delivered in hours.
Amazon is now pioneering in cashier-less shops, where its members can walk into a shop, pick up food and walk out with their mobile device signaling the purchase and charging their approved payment type. While many are arguing that this is the end of consumer privacy (and it may well be), many consumers like this idea, as they liked the original Amazon and ordering groceries from Whole Foods (with discounts and other benefits).
Consumers’ voices are being heard, and many are choosing convenience and creativity. They are appreciating choice.
Moving forward, I believe you should put CX front and center when developing new products and services. Leverage the data available to not only serve your customers but inform decisions as part of your strategic road map.
You’ll also want to manage that data respectfully and with great integrity, ensuring privacy while at the same time personalizing how you serve customers. Communicate clearly to customers that their data is being collected, stored and analyzed, and alert them of the purposes for this. Make sure to clearly state your policy on not sharing data with third parties as well. You should also make it easy for customers to opt out while following all regulatory requirements, including PCI-DSS and GDPR.
If your brand is struggling to compete with juggernauts, don’t stand still. Look at your business offering like a customer. Put the customer experience at the beginning of the process of responding, and work your way backward from there. Even mediocre products and services can compete when they are bundled with consistently excellent customer experiences.
Organizations that fail to recognize the power of delivering competitive experiences, not just competitive products and services, risk becoming the next epic fail.
It can be hard to fathom a life without customer service in it. Before remote desktop support, live chat and other contact center solutions, there were complex phone trees and outsourced call centers and before that there were buggy IVR systems and telephone switchboards connecting you to the store you purchased the product from.
The past few decades have seen the business world sway multiple times between call center outsourcing and internal call center operations.