Perfecting the Customer Experience is No Longer an Option Today, the key dimension on which a company succeeds, or fails, is increasingly its ability to dynamically work with its customers to create the products, services and experiences they want.

Successful companies say they know their customers. They understand the experience their customers want. They take their customers’ input into account when designing new products or services.

Unfortunately, most are wrong. 76% of consumers say they want to customize the experience they have with a company. It’s no longer simply a matter of delivering competitive products and services and great customer service. So what does this say about all the corporate efforts to date to create experiences customers want?

While CEOs and their teams have worked diligently to deliver shareholder value by right sizing their organizations, implementing efficient processes powered by leading-edge technology, and upskilling their leaders (among dozens of other corporate initiatives), the customer has ascended to a new position of power in the value creation
process. A more powerful and influential position. Enabled by the unprecedented availability of information and rapidly evolving social media tools, customers today no longer hope to be consulted – they expect, even demand it. Perfecting the customer experience is no longer an option.

Today, the key dimension on which a company succeeds, or fails, is increasingly its ability to dynamically work with its customers to create the products, services and experiences they want. “Dynamically” doesn’t mean focus groups and quantitative surveys anymore, the results of which are clandestinely analyzed and purportedly incorporated into the R&D process. Customers today expect to be part of an ongoing conversation with a company, providing continual input into the refinement and evolution of the products, services and the experiences they want…a notion championed by Venkat Ramaswamy from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business in his recent book, The Co-Creation Paradigm. This continual two-way development process is what many refer to as value co-creation.

Perhaps you already have some efforts going on around Customer Experience Design. What we have found in our work is that there are usually pockets, programs and/or streams of work that are being done across an organization. However, there is often a lack of a framework or coordinating strategy that ties these programs together in a way that leverages the learnings and provides a consistent experience design across channels, divisions, departments, products and people.

What’s missing for many organizations is a Customer Experience Strategy and Framework. A construct that ties individual Customer Experience work streams together and provides strategic direction. Bottom line, Customer Experience today must be viewed as a primary strategy for growth, not simply a complementary effort.

Last week, The Clarion Group hosted eight executives from various industries for a two-day, interactive Customer Experience & Value Co-Creation Forum. Clarion strategic partners, Dr. Catriona Wallace, one of the world’s most recognized Customer Experience experts, and Venkat Ramaswamy challenged the participants to get out of their comfort zones and old ways of thinking about their customer’s roles in the value creation process using frameworks and cases to guide the discussion.

Sound easy? Obvious? Perhaps. But successfully executing a truly co-creative process to create consistently extraordinary customer experiences requires a significant mindset shift. It’s like learning a new language. Value co-creation becomes sustainable and part of the DNA of an organization only when capabilities are developed and integrated across all four components of the organizational Operating Model – leadership, strategy, culture and organizing systems. Based on our work with Catriona Wallace and Venkat Ramaswamy, we’ve developed the following guidelines for organizations ready to take a first step towards continuously delivering truly extraordinary experiences to their customers.

  1. Think big. We’ve never experienced a world in which the customer has almost all the power in the marketplace. Capture their energy, ideas and insights to create competitive advantage with superior customer experiences.
  2. Start small. The key is to get going. Experiment based on your own hypotheses. Think like an entrepreneurial start-up.
  3. Learn fast. Embracing a co-creative approach to continually developing extraordinary customer experiences means organizations are going to be learning all the time. The customer will hold nothing back when it comes to feedback. Smart organizations learn to take ideas and insights in the co-creative spirit in which it is given; customers value partners who listen.
  4. Adapt continually. Successful co-creation is a truly dynamic, ongoing, process. True value will be created by organizations that embrace the opportunity – and establish the operational capabilities – to keep evolving and refining their products, services and customer experiences.

“The customer is king” used to be the mantra…no longer. Smart, successful leaders recognize the full, and growing, power of the consumer and are inviting their customers to the table as full members of the customer experience and value creation design team!

What are you and your organization doing to respond?

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About Jonathan Wheeler

As a Partner of The Clarion Group, Jon has had a diverse career including multiple technology sales and marketing roles for a Fortune 100 company; he also has been a management advisor supporting large scale business transformation projects in global enterprises, the general manager of a division of a rapidly expanding telecommunications firm, co-founder of a venture backed software startup, and the founder and principal of his own management consulting firm.

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