What Is A Great Customer Experience?

Richard Howells

Two weeks before the start of basketball season, my son went online to buy a pair of customized sneakers. He selected his team color, put his number on the side, and added the important “C” for captain. He had everything he wanted and he was so excited. He clicked on “order”… “6 weeks for delivery” was the reply. He canceled the order.

It just goes to show that there is no point in having a great order experience if your processes are not designed to deliver on the promise.

Great customer experience doesn’t end when you place an order

If you do it right, delivering a great customer experience doesn’t even start with placing the order.

Don’t get me wrong; a great order experience is important. But, as a customer, I want a WOW moment before I place my order. I want to be wowed when I go online or walk past a store and see just what I want, even though I didn’t know that I wanted it.

A great design experience

It all starts by designing and manufacturing what a customer wants. And that requires the ability to listen to your customers and learn and predict what they will want next based on their experiences and desires.

This information can come from traditional sources such as market research and competitive analysis. But to really listen to the customer, you need to take into account what they are telling you both directly via customer service and indirectly via social media and sentiment analysis. As we design smarter products, we can even leverage data directly from the products about how they are being used and how they are performing.

A great order experience

Today’s customer is always connected and can research and order products and services at any time, on any device at the click of a button. This requires an omnichannel sales strategy to enable your customers to buy or subscribe to your products on their terms.

For example, there are many situations where a great order experience means you don’t actually buy anything but subscribe to a service. When was the last time you bought a CD or DVD? Apple, Netflix, and other streaming services have disrupted their industry. If you translate this to the business world, why would you make a capital outlay for an expensive asset when you could simply pay a monthly subscription, or, even better in some cases, pay based on usage?

A great order experience can also mean a personalized experience. Not only on the personalized offers you provide to a customer based on previous buying or browsing habits but actually delivering a personalized or configurable product.

Increasingly, customers want to do business with companies that align with their own values – which could be about the environment, labor practices, or diversity. And, research shows that they are willing to pay more to do the right thing. And worse, they expect every level of your supply chain to comply as well.

A great delivery experience

And when you have omnichannel sales models, you also need omnichannel logistics models to deliver what the customer wants, when, how, and where they want it.

If I can place an order in 10 minutes online, I expect the same level of response in delivery, be it two days, or two hours, but not six weeks!

With an ever-growing focus on customer experience, old models upend the established process, bringing consumers and companies together like never before. And with omnichannel sales, many companies are cutting out the middleman and selling and delivering products direct to consumer (D2C). This can not only improve the customer experience but also reduce the total supply chain costs, which can then be passed on to the consumer.

However, selling directly to customers doesn’t necessarily translate to better customer experiences. There is no point delighting the customer with the initial sales and marketing experience if you don’t have the necessary insights, processes, and culture in place to deliver on that promise. To keep customers coming back for more, a great customer experience is directly linked to a great delivery experience.

You need to have the business processes in place to manufacture what the customer desires and deliver it how, when, and where they want it. This means a different (and often more complex) logistics network, especially in the last mile of delivery. You can’t have a truck with full pallets of products making door-to-door house calls. You must have an inventory of key products stored in a more regional approach to reduce delivery times. And you need the visibility of what is where and how much is available to satisfy higher volumes of much smaller orders.

A great service experience

Another approach being taken by many businesses is the service or subscription-based model. Just think about your personal life. When was the last time you bought a CD or DVD? No, these industries have been turned on their heads by streaming services where you pay a monthly subscription and can listen to unlimited music or watch the most recent movie blockbusters. And this is fast entering the business world, where you can reduce capital expenditures for expensive equipment and only pay a monthly fee or, even better, pay based on how much you use the asset.

For example, if you are thinking of moving from selling, let’s say a drill, to delivering a service based on hours of usage, you must rethink your business processes – from the design of the product or asset, all the way through to how it is used and operated by the customer. You also want to know that it is performing well because if it breaks down, everybody loses. The customer is unhappy (bad customer experience), and you don’t get paid. So, the drill must be designed with IoT sensors that not only track usage but also can sense when the drill is going out of calibration so that you can send a replacement or a service technician to fix it before it breaks down (great customer experience).

A service experience might mean that your customers are interacting with people who don’t work for you but still represent your brand. Call center workers or on-call engineers are just as much “stewards of the brand” as your own employees, but they may not have the same onboarding experience or training and you’re not evaluating their performance directly. This introduces risk.

A great product experience

The ultimate test of customer experience is how the product performs once it is in use at the customer’s location. Are they delighted by how it runs, looks, feels, and performs? Is it fast enough? Does it make their life, business processes, or daily tasks better? Does it deliver all the features they expected? Does it deliver on the promise they were sold?

Summary

So when you think of great customer experience, you need to consider the complete lifecycle of the customer engagement – from designing what they want, to delivering the product or service, all the way through to how it performs when they use it. Only then can you gain a customer for life.

To learn more on how to drive sustainable business processes, download the IDC report “Leveraging your intelligent digital supply chain.”


About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.