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Customer Experience and Design

What Do My Customers Expect? Inside Perficient’s Now/New/Next

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In my earlier post, I shared our motivation for Now/New/Next and why our clients are using it to rapidly make smart decisions to focus their Customer Experience attention. In this post, I’ll share what you need to know to build your Now/New/Next portfolio.

The Approach

At the center of Now/New/Next is knowing where you stand with your customers. In order to do that, you need some insights to help you come to terms with the experiences you deliver, those that your competitors and others bring, and make an honest assessment of how well you’re keeping up. We get here by taking a systematic approach to gathering and measuring those experiences so we can help you build an experience strategy that balances the right amounts of sustaining and disruptive innovation to bring the Now, the New, and the Next together.

What Experiences Are You Delivering?

To get started, we decide where and how much of your business you’re trying to understand. Some clients take on a complete customer lifecycle in order to explore more transformational opportunities and find areas where the organization needs to align and focus. Some clients already have specific areas to optimize. For example, we are working with a client that needs to diversify its customer base. The client needs to develop a narrow strategy for market awareness and customer acquisition, which is where we will focus the effort. In either case, we like to take a customer-journey approach to the inventory, which helps us to systematically identify these experiences, map them to business capabilities, and set up an apples-to-apples comparison against the market.

In the diversification example above, we start taking stock of the awareness and acquisition journey by identifying each interaction across each channel. What kind of content is your website sharing to drive awareness? Maybe you produce a lot of good content, but can you personalize it for specific audiences? Do your product pages include detailed product content like reviews and videos? Do you have a tool to find a dealer? Does it connect to available inventory? Can consumers find you on social media? What kind of email campaigns are you running? The goal is simply to get a current state snapshot so we can find a baseline for comparison.

What Experiences Are Your Customers Expecting

IBM’s Bridget van Kralingen famously stated: “The last best experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.” So what are these expectations? With the same customer journey in mind, we choose a handful competitors and a couple of comparables and leaders to find out. The goal is to build the same snapshot we took of your experiences across the broader market, and along the way discover a few potential experiences that you’ve considered and inspirations for new ones. Some clients conduct this competitive analysis periodically, but Perficient also maintains a research-driven benchmark of journeys and experiences across several categories to accelerate this effort.

With this simple picture in front of us, we can start to approximate where you stand, and the big picture suddenly begins to appear. FOMO begins to set in: “Everyone is doing that except for us.” Ideas begin to take shape: “What if we had a scheduling tool that looked like their reservation tool?” Old ideas begin to fade: “We’re the only ones doing that but it’s not really adding value anymore.”

With a relative measure of customer expectations based on whether the experience exists or not, you may have a good start on a new experience strategy. But chances are you’ll need to look a little more closely to find more measurable differences to guide your decision-making.

Do Your Experiences Go Far Enough?

The first dimension to consider is the degree of achievement you’re providing in each experience. By achievement, we are looking at the depth and breadth of that experience: how fully featured it is, how many options you provide, how rich the content is, and generally how far it goes to deliver the most robust experience possible. By measuring and comparing your level of achievement for a given experience, we can start to fine tune how far you really need to go with it. New experiences can get away with a very small and simple set of features. Sometimes a little can go a long way. But as experiences mature, they become more complex and differentiating, and what was exciting last year is just basic and un-differentiating today, which is why the price of a great customer experience is constant vigilance.

Back to our manufacturer example. Let’s say they’ve provided a dealer locator. The most simplistic form of a dealer locator may be a simple list of dealers by city, along with a phone number and a link to their website. Most dealer locators today might offer a more sophisticated locator by zip code. Even more advanced experiences may include views into specific inventory for products or services you’ve been looking for. Even more advanced locators may give you real-time access to schedule an appointment (especially important under social distancing). Now imagine using these ideas, from finding a doctor, setting up a contractor, or making a restaurant reservation, and you start to see the power of cross-category inspiration.

Do Your Experiences Work as Promised?

Now that we’ve sorted out how much we’re delivering, we need to take a hard look at how well we’re doing it. The second dimension to consider is our level of performance. Performance includes a number of factors that describe the overall quality, reliability, and stability of the experience. Does it crash all the time? Are the search results accurate? Are deliveries made on time? Is our phone menu a complex dead-end maze? Although there is some forgiveness with emerging, untested experiences, there is little patience for table stakes experiences that have a high level of expectation to “just work.” Missing your performance expectation with current customers is an easy way to lose revenue, which is why we typically lean toward the Now when balancing the New and the Next.

The performance measure can be a tough pill to swallow when you have to defer a great innovation in favor of shoring up the foundation. But the cost of keeping a loyal customer is far less than the cost of acquiring a new one and why this measure cannot be overlooked.

The Voice of the Market

With these insights, Now/New/Next opens up a collective voice you may not have considered: The Voice of the Market (VOM). It’s not a substitute for the Voice of the Customer (VOC) and the Voice the Business (VOB), but a valuable consideration in the open transparency of digital business. The VOC is vital to confirming whether or not customers even care about the experiences you’re providing. The experiences may meet all expectations, but are they really making a difference in your customers’ lives? We need to listen to the VOB to make sure you can feasibly deliver this in an economical way that fits your long-term business plan. What we love about the VOM is that we’re moving fast to narrow where to focus your research and deeper analysis when you need it.

In the following post I plan to answer, “So what?”: How to make sense of these insights and get to the decisions you need to make for your customers.


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Jim Hertzfeld, Area Vice President, Strategy

Jim Hertzfeld leads Strategy for Perficient, and works with clients to make their customers and shareholders happy with real world strategies that build their digital depth.

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