Customer Experience is more and more becoming the main decision criterion for customers to turn to or to stay with a business. Yet most brands approach Customer Experience with the goal to design experiences that are easy and frictionless. This results in a sameness of experiences, counteracting the efforts by Marketing to create a unique brand that differentiates to competitors. Applied strategically, creatively and in collaboration with Brand Management, Customer experience can live up to its full potential and position and differentiate brands effectively. We show 6+1 approaches to differentiate with Customer Experience.
Customer experience is what people experience when dealing with companies. Experiences, encountered one after the other result in the Customer Journey. In corporations, Customer Experience Design describes the area of responsibility that directs the customer journey with all its touchpoints and interactions. Various design management methods are used here, e.g. Design Thinking, Human Centered Design, Service Design or UX Design. The goal of the discipline is to improve processes for customers, make interactions more enjoyable and, in the end, to have more satisfied, loyal customers who recommend the service to others. Recently, however, the discipline of customer experience design has made a name for itself with another corporate contribution: as a differentiating competitive advantage. Digital companies such as Amazon or Netflix, which offer particularly easy and smooth interaction, are the pioneers in this area. This makes them role models for both digital, but also classic players.
So far, differentiation and positioning have been classic marketing tasks. The first tool for this is the USP, which is very closely tied to the product in the actual sense. Today, however, the entire customer journey is important to customers, not just the product itself. A second tool for differentiation is price. However, the continuum price vs. premium traditionally offers only limited possibilities of differentiation. As a third way, differentiation can be played communicatively via the brand. It is a vehicle for unique values and attitudes, delivering meaning to customers and prospects. Today, however, this path also reaches its limits: due to the oversupply of communication and the increasing literacy of customers with it, the traditional way of conveying brand through advertising and corporate communication loses its original effectiveness.
This is where customer experience design comes in. Because it can do much more than just “easier” and “more frictionless”: it can offer customers a tangible benefit – and thus create immediate relevance. A symbol for not using its potential is the widespread use of the NPS in companies which only distinguishes between good and bad experiences. When marketing and customer experience design work more closely together, they can jointly use this new opportunity to position the brand and differentiate from the competition. The result is a new set of instruments that goes beyond what has been possible so far: to differentiate with Customer Experience.
In the field of experience design, practice is ahead of theory. In our search for approaches to the strategic use of customer experience, we therefore turned to leading minds in the areas of customer experience design and brand. In joint discussions we talked about how customer experience can have a strategic effect. My special thanks for the open discussions and inspiring thoughts that led to the development of the 6+1 strategies go to Konstantina Bata (Deutsche Telekom), Claire Davidson (GetYourGuide), Carme Prats Sandiumenge (MediaMarktSaturn), Katrin Rieger (formerly at Eurowings) and Guido Woska (formerly at Lufthansa Group).
The first six strategies to differentiate with Customer Experience show specific ways how the offer can be made unique with CX. Each of the strategies supports a particular initial situation: e.g. a product category or a price positioning. The seventh strategy has above all an internal task: it aims to guide the company as such to a more customer-centric working mode, using methods and thinking of customer experience design as springboard. This modus operandi, Customer Centricity, is, figuratively speaking, the backend, while customer experience design would be the frontend in this comparison. (More about Customer Centricity and how it can be applied within organizations here.)
The strategies are not exclusive and can complement each other. For example, the strategy Frictionlessness fits the strategy Value, but not Brand Personality, because particularly simple, smooth processes determine the personality to a certain extent.
For each strategy, customer experience design sets a slightly different focus, for example by selecting and prioritizing the touchpoints to be worked on or by setting different goals for the respective revision.
Based on the interviews, four steps are central to differentiate with Customer Experience, using customer experience design strategically for positioning and differentiation:
The first and most important step, however, is to better synchronize marketing and design, and thus promise and experience. After all, today more than ever, brands are measured by whether they keep their promises.