Manuela PifaniManuela PifaniAugust 20, 2018


In the midst of the ‘Experience Economy’, where Customer Experience is the key driver of lasting customer relationships and loyalty, many organisations still leave things to chance. Instead, a clear customer strategy is essential to design and deliver coherent, meaningful and differentiated CX, says expert consultant Manuela Pifani, who is heading an exclusive upcoming Customer Strategy and Design Thinking Masterclass

Summer is still shining  – for now – encouraging us to orchestrate a fanfare of holiday escapes, weekend breaks, and social gatherings in outdoor terraces and backyards.

However, these days people seem to be dealing with these coveted moments in a very different way. They increasingly seek the enjoyment of carefully designed surroundings, the adventure of exploring more exotic destinations, or the thrill of adrenaline-rushing activities.

Indeed, all of this is reflected also in my own choice of holiday destinations, from tours of faraway countries, trekking through local villages and unspoilt landscapes, to the all-immersive relaxation of sunny seaside resorts, dwelling in lush surrounds and the bliss of crystal clear waters, or to the exciting rush of skiing down snow-white mountains away from it all.

Even in the comfort of our own home, we enjoy the great weather by increasingly delving into sophisticatedly spiced meats or delicate fish barbecues; colourful tropical cocktails and perfectly chilled prosecco; trays of Mediterranean delicacies and general MasterChef-style cuisine; to indulge ourselves and our loved ones and impress our guests.

The humble BBQ of hotdogs with ketchup and hamburgers in a bap we grew up with, is no longer good enough for many of us. It no longer offers the type of social and culinary experience we all have come to enjoy and expect.

Whether pretentious or self-gratifying, our intentions are always about achieving and delivering a memorable and immersive social experience. They are about fully enjoying those precious personal moments with all our senses, wrapped up in the warmth of this prolonged and satisfying sunshine.

In the era of the Experience Economy, simple events and humble interactions no longer tick our boxes or tickle our palate. Whether driven by this trend or healthy lifestyles, even McDonalds has progressively moved towards more refined and fresher food and created better experiences, such as introducing queue-busting digital order devices, comfortable table service, and more engaging kids toys and activities.

But more importantly, sub-optimal service and broken processes are no longer tolerated. Customers want more than just products at good prices, but expect everything to be wrapped up in a perfectly packaged experience, in a carefully designed way.

However, many organisations still leave this to chance!

They open up shop and expect customers to flow in and raid their shelves…just because!

They get set up online in a clunky way and expect customers to go through lengthy processes and slow steps to purchase their services…just because.

But reality is different. Even for long-established brands, accidental experiences that happen by chance are no longer good enough. It suffices to take a look at the UK retail sector, which only in the last few months has seen many big brands wobbling, when once upon a time they were leading: House of Fraser, Marks & Spencer, Toys ’r’ Us, Maplin, Homebase, Poundworld…

The list goes on.

From the higher end to the more price-driven side, they have all been struggling, because in my view they all failed to truly understand their customers and therefore design a value proposition and a Customer Experience to meet their needs.

I think it’s paradoxical that, reinforcing this glorious UK summer, the Greek islands’ sunshine has been the theme of the last few months, through the tunes of the Mamma Mia, Here we go again film, which has left most of us walking away from cinemas humming the notes of the memorable Take a Chance on Me song.

While we would all be happy to ‘take a chance’ on the dream of long-lost love or on the certainty of Greek summer sunshine, we are definitely no longer willing to unnecessarily chance a repeat bad shopping or service experience, or indeed even an average one.

Why should we? After all, there are plenty of other options out there, and many are accessible from the comfort of our sun-lounger, using our mobile devices without even having to interrupt the sunbathing.

No strategy, no design

Let’s be honest: how many organisations have a clearly defined customer strategy? They may have business ambitions, brand communications, and operational standards, but how many have defined what type of experience they want to deliver to their customers, in order to fully meet their needs?

Yet if they do not have a clear customer strategy, how could they possibly deliver a coherent, meaningful, and differentiated Customer Experience? If they don’t know what the deepest needs of their customers are, how could they possibly meet them? If things are left to chance, how do they expect to be able to build lasting customer relationships and the loyalty required to survive in our current hot climate?

“Take a chance on me?”

“Mamma mia! No!”

So join me at a forthcoming Customer Strategy & Design Thinking course to broaden your skills, learn new methodologies, and hear about how other organisations have successfully designed their Customer Experience.

Manuela PifaniManuela PifaniJune 20, 2018


‘Customer strategy’ is one of those terms that, to many strategists, means nothing at all.

They will undoubtedly be extremely familiar and confident with defining a ‘business’, ‘growth’, ‘marketing’, ‘digital’, or ‘people’ strategy, but having the word ‘customer’ in front of their key competency will throw them into uncertainty.

What exactly is a ‘customer strategy’, and how is that different from any other form of strategy, which normally should be built around the customer anyway?

Well, that is exactly the issue!

Many strategies are not built around the customer, but around key financial or operational drivers. We are all-too familiar with sales strategies which only try to push as many products and services to customers as possible, optimising revenue often irrespective of the audience’s true needs; or with cost efficiency strategies which take the short-term approach to remove operational costs through automation, digitalisation, and headcount downsizing, often irrespective of the impact on the customer journey.

Also, many organisations do not have fully defined ‘brand strategies’, which means that the essential link between the brand positioning and the reality of the organisational capabilities is missing. This is where many companies can invest millions in elaborated marketing strategies and integrated communications platforms, boldly announcing to the world how wonderful they are and how uniquely they will solve their customers’ ultimate problems or meet their highest needs – only to then forget or overlook a small detail: their ability (or lack thereof) to actually deliver those solutions and meet those needs in such a fantastic way.

A small detail which may impact the overall credibility and trustworthiness of the product or service proposition in question, if not of the brand itself! And that’s where the marketing funnel transforms itself into a leaking colander. All those marketing millions spent to attract customers – wasted into suboptimal experiences which do not deliver those brand promises.

A great Customer Experience does not happen by chance or miracle. It is not enough to communicate something, internally or externally, for it to manifest itself in reality…unless you have Harry Potter’s magic wand…

“Expecto Great Experience!”

This is where the customer strategy provides the essential link, bridging the gap between strategy and reality. Its main objectives are to define the experience principles required to deliver the brand strategy, and design the experience required to deliver its promises – in line with the financial and operational objectives of the overall business strategy.

This clear ‘design’ will also enable a consistent delivery of the Customer Experience across all touchpoints and the overall alignment of the organisation behind it, through clearly designed customer journeys.

In all my business CX roles, the ‘customer strategy’ was always one of my first areas of focus, because it was a key step in securing the engagement of the Executive Board. Once the execs were comfortable with the strategic direction and its requirements, not only did it become easier to obtain the support and investment required to deliver their components, but it also drove clarity of focus and cross-functional alignment and accountability.

Sounds easy. But unfortunately, the customer strategy is not a magic wand, and it requires some ‘muggle’ style hands-on work and specific skills. Recent studies have concluded that as many as nine-in-10 executives confess that their CX initiatives failed to create the desired competitive differentiation, and only two-in-10 confirm they achieved the desired business benefits from their CX investments.

My experience tells me that very often this is due to a combination of poor strategy and bad execution. And let’s be honest, a poor strategy or no strategy at all makes it more difficult to deliver transformational activities successfully, which elevates the absence of clear strategic direction into the main pitfall.

You need to clearly define your strategic customer objectives and design the target experience, to then transform and align the organisation behind it.

The Customer Strategy & Design Thinking course can help you with this, as it aims to strengthens your skills and knowledge in this space, providing a set of tested tools and best-in-class examples that you can then use back in the office to define an effective, successful, and differentiated Customer Strategy.

The course also covers how to deliver the customer strategy and, most importantly, how to embed its principles in the DNA of the whole organisation to facilitate a sustainable and value-creating business and cultural transformation.

Special attention is also placed on explaining and practicing design thinking methodologies, which represent a key and effective tool to create design-led customer propositions and experiences.

The course is built on my personal business experience across sectors, and enriched by a number of academic and consultancy frameworks and inputs, as well as several best-in-class or bad examples to bring things to life. Through a combination of theory, case studies and practical exercises, this highly interactive and grounded course can boost your skills and career – so get in touch today to secure your place at the next available event.

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Customer Experience Magazine is the online magazine packed full of industry news, blogs, features, reports, case studies, video bites and international stories all focusing on customer experience.



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