Essentials for Entrepreneurs by Keno Ogbo

An essay on Customer Experience

Preamble

I am a fan of the film trilogy, The Matrix, and one of my favourite scenes is when Neo goes to visit the Oracle and sees a sign in Latin above the door, which translates in English to ‘Know thyself’. This particular section of the scene stayed with me a long time, and continues to be a key motivation in my journey of self-actualisation. It is a journey that most entrepreneurs go through.

They buy personal development books, read and practise success principles, mindfulness, meditation and reflections, self-help books, podcasts, TED Talks and a host of other resources to help them become the best version of self they could ever be.

This is a good thing, and the entrepreneurial mindset is a key factor for business success. However, it is not the most important.

If you asked a founder or entrepreneur about the key to successful sales, I expect they would give one or more of the following answers:

  • Hard work and persistence/confidence
  • Know your niche and area of expertise
  • Know your product or service

Do you have any other answers? I bet you do, but I would like to suggest an answer that may not be too popular.

Introduction

The answers above are all correct, but in the Digital Age, the most important key to successful sales is ‘Know your customer’. This essay addresses the central role that knowing your customers plays in Digital Transformation. It highlights an example of a brand that strategised profits over value elements, then goes on to focus on customer experience before proposing a way forward for businesses to think about their customers.

The secret behind digital disruption

In the past few years, we have seen some of the biggest brands on the planet disappear. Remember Blockbuster? This high street brand was disrupted by Netflix, but how did this happen? Didn’t Blockbuster have access to the same technology ‘Netflix’ had? Yes, it did. In fact, Hastings, founder of Netflix, had a meeting with Blockbuster’s CEO to discuss how the technology would work with Blockbuster.

The failure of Blockbuster was not a technology failure; it was a failure to put the customer first in its business model. You see, Blockbuster made most of its money from charging its customers late fees. So it wasn’t going to risk that massive customer base by offering customers a subscription service, where the customer paid a monthly fee and would never, ever pay any late fees.

The rest of the story is easy. Netflix made everything easy for the customer: it made video rentals easier via a subscription model; customers browsed videos online, and selected which movie they wanted to watch; it got sent out to their homes by mail and, once returned, customers could simply order another movie with no extra costs and no late fees. Their users loved it, and told others – the power of networks kicked in, and Blockbuster’s fate was sealed even before video streaming became mainstream.

Get a taxi

In the same way, the traditional taxi system has not been disrupted by technology. The fact is, it is easier and a much more enjoyable and shared experience to book a taxi with the disrupter company than the incumbent. Think about any other area of disruption, including FinTech: the experience of the vendor and the purchaser is much more enjoyable than with the incumbent.

Digital Transformation and customer experience

Having worked with small- to medium-sized businesses, I can say that the term ‘digital transformation’ is one of the most misunderstood. For some, it meant selling online, or building a more visible and credible online process, or delivering some of its services online. But none of those are correct. To answer the question: ‘What is digital transformation?’ we have to ask a different question.

What is customer experience?

If I asked you to describe Customer Experience in one word, what would you answer?

Service? Smile? Efficiency? You may go on to say ‘Being treated nicely’, ‘Knowledgeable sales staff’, but if we asked Gen X or Gen Y/millennials the same question, they would wrap up their answers in one word: digital.

  • on demand
  • accessible 24/7
  • accessible anywhere (where they are)
  • collaborative, where customers are key influencers
  • quick

This is no surprise. Our life experience is now mostly digital. We do not need statistics to tell us that people now spend an incredible number of hours on their mobile phones daily. People have twice as many interactions with a brand on mobile than anywhere else, including TV, in-store, etc (Google 2017). Our playtime is now digital, social interactions are digital, research is digital, communication is digital, shopping is digital.

Our experience is digital

Our experience of life is so digital, it seems we take time out of the digital world to enjoy a real-world experience, rather than the other way round. If you don’t believe this, track your activities over the next five days. See how you communicate with family and friends. See how you consume entertainment; how you search for items to shop; how you get information. Now look at your tracking results. How much of this was enabled by digital resources?

So if your customers have such an intensely digital lifestyle already, how does your business match up? This is the question you have to ask of your business. Start with the obvious questions. Can you imagine a business without an email address or phone number? Neither can I. We even expect small businesses to have an internet presence. If not a website, then at least a Facebook page or Instagram profile.

Conclusion

Delighting your customers is the secret ingredient of succeeding in tomorrow’s digital world. Everything else is secondary, including the technology. To remain relevant, SMEs should dedicate their time to developing a strategy which encompasses understanding your customers and changing the way you think about them.

Three things to learn from your customers:

  1. How they use their products or services
  2. The pain points of customers
  3. The related, unmet needs of customers

Three ways to think about your customers

Think again. Customers are not just purchasers or end users, but influencers and shapers of your business, so invite your customers to be part of your success, your processes or your changes.

Think again. Customers do not just come as a single purchaser, but as a connected network. Be a source of content, and become part of their digital conversations. Empower your customers.

Think again. Customers have high expectations; they want you to be present, faster, always on, everywhere, and anticipating their next requirements.

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