The real reason why customer experience matters

It’s no longer just something good to do, now Customer Experience Matters for business survival.

From the editor: I’ve been saying it for quite a while – if not now, but in the very near future, the only thing that’s going to separate one company from another is the customer experience.

So it’s no surprise that the smart companies are continuing to pour lots of money into ensuring their customer experience is better than their competitors.

I came across a LinkedIn blog from Don Peppers which given his global audience and numerous books, its no surprise that he articulated it a lot better than I can!

The Increasing Relative Value of the Customer Experience

Technology is a marvellous thing.

So many products and services we used to pay handsomely for can now be had for virtually nothing.

When is the last time you paid for a long-distance call, for instance?

Even overseas video calls can be made at virtually zero cost, if you know the right app (also free).

Does anyone charge you for making movies of your children with your smartphone?

Just a few years ago you would have had to own a camera costing hundreds of dollars, and record the movies on separate videotapes costing upwards of $5 each (while editing required a whole different set of equipment!).

Declining costs are an inevitable result of entrepreneurial innovation, a fact that has been known for many decades.

In the 1930’s John Maynard Keynes and other economists clearly foresaw that the entrepreneurial dynamism of free-market competition would inevitably continue to drive productivity higher and marginal costs lower, across the entire economy.

And now, with the latest advances in technology, free markets are giving us markets of free.

The ultimate implication of all these plummeting costs, however, is that sooner or later the viability of the capitalist system itself may be called into question.

Costs of production are declining because the economic cost of the work required to turn out products and provide services is declining, with better automation and higher levels of productivity.

So while a completely frictionless, cost-free society may sound heavenly for consumers, it can prove hellish for workers. And we have been witnessing the political repercussions of this all year.

Donald Trump’s nomination, the surprisingly robust campaign of Bernie Sanders, and the British vote for Brexit have all been helped along by the disillusionment and bitterness of workers who are now being devalued and displaced faster than new work can be found or new skills acquired.

There is, however, one area of economic activity where values are actually increasing. As Kevin Kelly points out in his book The Inevitable, in an age of “cheap plenitude,” the one activity that seems to be increasing in relative economic value more than any other has to do not with commodity products and services but with the human experience.

“The only things that are increasing in cost while everything else heads to zero are human experiences—which cannot be copied,” Kelly says. “Everything else becomes commoditized…”

Martha Rogers and I have argued in our books for years that as the economy becomes ever more efficient, the scarcest resource of all is the human attention span.

Rather than focusing on creating value from individual products or services, we suggest, success in today’s economy requires a company to create the most possible value from every customer and prospective customer available to it.

And as our abundance of free and inexpensive products grows, this resource, the human attention span, is becoming ever more valuable.

Delivering the right experience to a human being is a pathway to generating immense economic value – far more value today than can be generated simply by fixing computers on the assembly line.

Kelly documents the trend well:

  • “The value of experience is rising. Luxury entertainment is increasing by 6.5 per cent annually. Spending at restaurants and bars increased by 9 per cent in 2015 alone.
  • The price of the average concert ticket has increased by nearly 400 per cent from 1981 to 2012.

Ditto for the price of health care in the United States.

It rose 400 per cent from 1982 to 2014.

The average U.S. rate for babysitting is $15 per hour, twice the minimum wage.

In big U.S. cities it is not unusual for parents to spend $100 for child care during an evening out.

Personal coaches dispensing intensely personal attention for a very bodily experience are among the fastest-growing occupations.

In hospice care, the cost of drugs and treatments is in decline, but the cost of home visits—experiential—is rising.

The cost of weddings has no limit.

These are not commodities.

They are experiences.

We give them our precious, scarce, fully unalloyed attention.”

So as the costs and prices of things continue to plummet, upending industry after industry, the relative value of delivering a great customer experience will soon become the mainstay of the modern economic system.

Whether you’re looking for a growth career for yourself, or trying to gain traction for your company, focus on delivering experiences that the human attention span finds compelling.

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Don Peppers
About Don Peppers 2 Articles
Don Peppers is recognised as a global authority on marketing and business competition. His first book, The One to One Future, written with Martha Rogers in 1993, is widely credited with having launched the CRM revolution.