CX has seen a major shift away from product-centricity into customer-centricity, as befits the new, consumer-enabled digital world – especially true today.

A poorly implemented CX initiative is often worse for both customer and business than having no CX initiative at all. Even worse, it can be argued that it creates apathy within the organisation, which in some extreme cases can be ‘fatal’ – consider the dwindling presence on the High St of the major retail brands that failed to meet the customers’ evolving needs.

The evidence is clear that when CX is done well, it is transformative. However, there are many well intentioned CX teams, putting in huge amounts of effort and cost that still result in poorly designed and implemented projects that often deliver precisely the wrong CX answer, delivering experiences that customers don’t need. For example, at a recent judging panel a retailer presented a case where they had run an innovative CX programme to produce a technically excellent chatbot. Unfortunately, when pressed, there was no evidence that it was addressing a real customer need. In fact it was designed to answer questions that customers never asked.

How could so many dedicated CX professionals spend so much time and money in the belief that they were doing the right thing and yet get it so wrong? Because no one understood what the real customer needs were, as they assumed that their internal perspective mirrored that of their customers. Organisations need to understand their customers so well that they can create solutions that meet their customers’ needs, now and into the future, especially given the rapid pace of change, accelerated even further by the Covid pandemic.

If we are to change this, we need to ‘Think different’ about CX.

Think different

In the late 1990’s business leaders reluctantly embraced desktop computing, which was considered somewhat of a black art that often struggled to deliver on its promise. Despite this, leaders instinctively felt the burgeoning desktop computer revolution was going to permanently change the way everyone would do business.

It was against this backdrop that Apple launched its ‘Think different’ campaign. Instead of focusing on the black arts (geeky, techy stuff) they promoted a ‘counter-culture’ of fearless creativity, thinking differently. It’s well reported that this change in approach widened the appeal of their brand, moving from the tech-savvy to a broader audience who wanted to be part of a different way of thinking. Apple’s success has been meteoric and ubiquitous.

So, what’s the parallel between Apple and CX?

“Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier …” Ian Golding (Leading Global CX Specialist)

Like Apple in the late 1990’s, CX, as a discipline, has been around for almost two decades, during which it has created tools, methodologies, metrics, thought leaders and passionate individuals. CX has been embraced by business leaders, but has yet to consistently deliver on its full potential to create great experiences for customers and return value to shareholders. As a result many business leaders have begun to question the current approach to CX as a sustainable proposition with genuine business benefits.

It is time to ‘Think different’ about CX and return to a simpler and more straightforward approach, delivering business goals and customer needs and that just works; like Apple!

To that end, understanding and delivering against Customers’ Needs is key.

After a decade of listening to tens of thousands of customer stories, it has become clear that for any given product or service, typically, there are only 3 to 4 things that an individual customer cares about. When you aggregate these things across an entire customer base, you still only end up with a handful of needs that must be met. These can be defined as ‘core needs’:

A core need is something that has to be there, otherwise the product, service or experience is perceived to have failed by the customer

It follows that the delivery of core needs is vital to retain customers. These core needs must be delivered at the lowest possible cost as they do not differentiate a business. In fact, if your organisation does them really well your customer may not even notice them…..and that’s a good thing. Just delivering core needs, though, is not enough to create a sustainable, growing business.

The next article goes beyond core needs to present a brand new approach, built upon a hierarchy of customer needs.

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