The Customer Experience: What You Need to Know

Every business says it is committed to meeting the needs of its customers. But most do a poor job of that because they are not in touch with what the customer experiences.

            That is the position of Chris Meyer, Ph.D., chairman of the Strategic Alignment Group, a consulting firm. I heard Meyer speak at the recent Customer Needs Discovery & Innovation Congress sponsored by the Management Roundtable.

            Meyer argues that there are many factors contributing to the customer experience, including the logical, the emotional and more. Customer satisfaction, he says, is equal to customer experience divided by customer expectations.

            One problem, he said, is that while many companies collect feedback from their customers, too few do anything meaningful with it. A survey conducted by his firm of European companies found the following list of declining numbers:


  • 95% of enterprises collect feedback

  • 50% alert staff of the findings

  • 30% make decisions using this insight

  • 10% deploy and improve

  • 5% inform customers of the change


            Too often, there is a wide disparity between the company’s view of whether a compelling customer experience was discovered, and the customer’s view. This results, Meyer says, from confusion, arrogance, no accountable owner, an internal focus, no persistent data or metric, and other factors.

            He described several examples of companies discovering they were out of touch with customers.

            One was McDonald’s. They wanted to increase milkshake sales, so they developed some new, sweeter flavors they thought kids would like. Sales went down.

            Research into the problem revealed that a significant percentage of milkshakes were purchased not by kids, but by adults in the morning for breakfast. (Seems odd to me, but apparently a lot of people like something slightly sweet that is filling enough to last until lunch.) So they went back to the old flavors and re-tooled the marketing to target adults.

            Another was Gilead, a pharmaceutical company that began selling a new anti-viral AIDS medication, promoting its life-saving effects. Sales were good to new AIDS patients, but not to existing patients.

            Research revealed that existing patients were convinced that their current medications were saving their lives, and didn’t want to risk switching. Gilead re-tooled the marketing, promoting the fact that their new drug had fewer side effects.

            Marketing is not the only issue here. Having a strong understanding of customer value – a lean fundamental – strengthens product design, customer service and more.

            None of this is new, but Meyer was an engaging, down-to-earth speaker who helped remind those of us listening of fundamental realities we sometimes forget.

            Has your company ever found it was out of sync with its customers? Were you able to solve the problem? Tell us about it by posting your comments below.


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